The Good News about Wrath

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It is no mistake to say that the love of God and the wrath of God amount to the same thing, described from different points of view. Both constitute an emphatic “No!” to that which endangers His creation. God’s evil-eradicating, death-destroying wrath is indispensable to the well-being of the universe. It is not a counterpoint to His love but a vital expression of it.

Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf comments: “Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

“To be truly good one has to be
outraged by evil and implacably
hostile to injustice.”
–Rebecca M. Pippert

The wrath of God is His firm opposition to all that is crooked, broken, oppressive, unjust, and evil. He loves people too much to allow them to be destroyed by sin. His deep hatred of sin is a reflection of the greatness of His love. He will go to any length, pay any price, and make any sacrifice to free people from this toxic poison of the soul.

This is the unmistakable message of the cross. The horrific death of Christ at Calvary reveals the intensity of God’s purpose to annihilate sin and rescue sinners. The Biblical record says that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

In his article “Prayer: Rebellion against the Status Quo,” David Wells contends that we have sadly lost our anger, but fortunately God has not lost His. “The wrath of God is His opposition to what is wrong … [it] seeks the triumph of truth and the banishment of Evil.” It is God declaring: “No, not in my universe!”

It would be appalling if the Divine Lord flew into a rage without warning. But it would be equally appalling if He never got angry. The evil of this world is damnable, sickening, horrendous. Someone needs to put a stop to it.

Someone will.

The wrath of God turns out to be very good news. This love-inspired hostility to all things hateful and harmful gives hope to a world afflicted by the curse of sin.

“It is not evil that will have the last word,
but good; not sorrow, but joy;
not hate, but love.”
–R. J. Campbell

This is cause indeed for celebration.

–Jurgen O. Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

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The final flood of light

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The world is full of dark shadows,
to be sure both the world without
and the world within …
But praise and trust him …
for the knowledge that what’s lost
is nothing to what’s found,
and that all the dark there ever was,
set next to light,
would scarcely fill a cup.

–Frederick Buechner

My Father’s world

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This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

–Maltbie D. Babcock
(1858 – 1901)

Love must triumph

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Christ, the gift of God’s present forgiving love to every man and woman, is the door through which alone we can enter into our provision of hope.

Until we know the love of our Father’s heart to us, 
as manifested in Christ, the future must always be 
to us at best a dark and doubtful wilderness.

But when we know that all that we have conceived of our Father’s love, is as nothing to the reality—that he is indeed love itself—a love passing knowledge—a shoreless, boundless, bottomless ocean-fountain of love, of holy, sin-hating, sin-destroying love, which longs over us that we should be filled with itself—and be by it delivered from the power of evil—then, indeed, we are saved by hope, for we know that love must triumph and fulfill all its counsel.

–Thomas Erskine
(1788 – 1870)

Image: Robert Pejman

Little decisions are big

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Good and evil increase
at compound interest.
That’s why the little decisions
we make every day are
of infinite importance.

–C. S. Lewis

Published in: on 11/21/2013 at 6:17  Leave a Comment  
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Love does not mean approval

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We often confuse unconditional love
with unconditional approval.
God loves us without conditions but does not
approve of every human behavior.

God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God.

God’s unconditional love means that
God continues to love us even when
we say or think evil things.

God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love.

–Henri Nouwen
(emphasis added)

What is holiness?

In the course of a Bible study for college students in Delhi, a Hindu girl asked me what I consider to be a brilliant question: “How can you Christians say God is good? Good is the opposite of evil; evil is not eternal; therefore, good cannot be eternal as well.” . . . The Christian insists that God exists without reference to evil and rejects the dualism of positing good and evil as equal and opposite. But how can the Christian sustain this position philosophically and existentially?

If I were awakened suddenly in the middle of the night and asked this question, “What is holiness?” my instinctive answer would be “Absence of sin!” Although that may be enough of an answer for our understanding of holiness because of our fallenness and familiarity with sin, it would be inadequate as a definition of the holiness of God. He is holy without any reference to sin. How do we define that kind of holiness? We cannot define good with reference to evil because good is the original of which evil is the counterfeit—a problem parallel to defining the infinite in terms of the finite. Evil is an aberration. We need to look for a positive definition of good without reference to evil.

Love is the highest expression of holiness

Very significantly, the answer lies in the trinitarian being of God. Love is the epitome of all virtue and the highest expression of holiness. And God should not have to depend upon his creation to actualize his capacity to love, for that would make creation as important as the Creator because the Creator would be incomplete without his creation. But the Bible introduces love as an interpersonal quality requiring a subject-object relationship that is available in the Trinity because of the Father-Son relationship through the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian God is complete in his love relationship without reference to his creation. The Father loves the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24). The infinite personal medium through whom this love is communicated is the Holy Spirit, and he is the one who pours the love of God in our hearts as well (Romans 5:5). The final answer that I could give to this college girl was to appeal to the Trinity, where good always existed without any reference to, outside of, and before evil…

Holiness is relational

The Ten Commandments that God gave to his people (Exodus 20:1–17) sum up God’s requirement in terms of relationships—with him and with one another. The Old Testament also sums up the commandments as love relationships with God (Deuteronomy 6:4–5) and among his people (Leviticus 19:18). In other words, holiness by God’s own definition (Leviticus 19:2) is seen in the relational commandments that comprise the rest of that chapter. Holiness is therefore not the stand-alone ascetic quality that is the hallmark of some Eastern religions but a community of people in right relationship to one another…

We are born to our parents and we grow in our understanding of ourselves as we learn to relate to parents, siblings, and friends. Simply put, I can’t be me without someone else; you can’t be you without reference to someone else. What makes a person a person is her (or his) capability of interpersonal relationship. In fact, we derive our most fundamental sense of identity by relating to God and other human beings. Moreover, the identity that we seek from impersonal entities such as achievement, fame, pleasure, and possessions—the hallmarks of today’s consumerist, shopping-mall existence—can be extremely inadequate and frustrating. To add to the confusion, we are deep into the use of gadgets and cyber-technology that is accelerating this tendency to depersonalization…

The lack of Trinitarian thinking and preaching has exacerbated the prevailing individualism of our culture and has brought it right into our Christian life and practice. If we do not think of God as a relational being in himself, we cannot appreciate the point that we are made to reflect his image in our relationships with one another…

Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in inter-personal relationships…

Trinitarian holiness

Holiness, in the final analysis, is therefore otherward and thus unselfconscious. I have been fascinated by the trinitarian example from John 5:19-27; 16:13, 14. The Father entrusts all things to the Son: his authority, his power over life and judgment. But the Son will not do anything by himself; he will only do what he sees the Father doing. The Spirit will not speak of himself nor seek his own glory. He will bring glory to Jesus by taking what belongs to Jesus and showing them to us.

Three self-giving, self-effacing persons constitute the amazing God whom we worship! It is this aspect of God’s character that we seek to reflect in our life and walk as the church of Jesus Christ.

–adapted from L.T. Jeyachandran

Better than we dared to hope

When we really look at what the Bible says and grasp the implications of the Gospel according to Jesus then we soon discover that this Good News is better than we could have ever dared to hope. It is a story of recovering something that was once thought to be totally lost, redeeming something that was once thought to be absolutely hopeless.

It is a story of God bringing
something wonderfully good
out of something terribly evil.

It is a story of God bringing Life and Light out of so much death and darkness. It is a story of love, and the incredible lengths to which that Love will go to secure the object of its affection.

–Henri Nouwen
(1932 – 1996)

Published in: on 03/13/2011 at 13:56  Leave a Comment  
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