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God's Wrath

Jesse Birkey's picture

In the past my wife and I often struggled with finding intimacy with God.  One of the biggest reasons for this was the fear that when we spent time alone with Him all He was going to do was point out everything in us that was wrong. 


We know that intimacy is born from spending time together so you can imagine why intimacy with God was hard.  Nobody really wants to spend time with someone who is just going to point out our failures.  That’s not my idea of a good time.


I think this is something many of us struggle with.  Sinners in the hands of an angry God  right?  I think that’s how many of us feel when we come before Him.  We have become convinced that when He looks at us He is frowning rather than smiling. 


How can we pursue intimacy with God under that kind of perception?  I think the answer is that we don’t.  We kind of run in the opposite direction and though we don’t leave our faith, we certainly don’t pursue anything deeper or greater.  We become stalled.


You know what?  It’s hard to blame anyone for coming to the understanding of God being perpetually angry.  It can sometimes be difficult to think anything else when we find passages from Paul that tell us the wrath of God comes on us through our sinful choices (Eph 5:6). 


That word wrath is so hard.  “I’m going to pour out my wrath on you!”  Nobody wants that especially from God.  But what if we’re just misunderstanding passages like this?  I am confident in the centrality of Christ, that is Jesus is the center of everything.  My understanding is that all interpretations of scripture (especially those speaking about the Father) should flow through Jesus instead of only coming up beside Jesus.


So when I read Paul’s words to the Ephesians I find myself having a very difficult time reconciling a God of love with a God of wrath.  So I asked a couple of questions:


1.     What is wrath?

2.     Where is it demonstrated in the life of Jesus?


The answer to the first question led me to discover the Greek word for wrath in this case.  It’s ORGE and it signifies anger.  It’s just anger guys.  It’s not hell, fire and brimstone.


The answer to the second questions led me to Mark 3:5 when Jesus healed the withered hand despite being judged because it was the Sabbath.  The word “anger” used in that passage is the same Greek word used for wrath in Eph 5:6.  I think the context in the Mark passage clearly shows us that Jesus was experiencing the emotion of anger.  It’s an emotional response based on the attitudes of the people.  He was grieved and He was angry. 


BUT…He didn’t condemn them.  He didn’t judge them.  He didn’t stop loving them or desiring that they change.  He didn’t write them off.  He continued to love them.


I think that many of us have a tough time with the idea of God being angry with us.  Quite frankly, I think it’s pretty silly to think He doesn’t get angry with us.  He is a God of emotions and those emotions are displayed in the life of Christ, including anger, more than once.  He is not an emotionless robot and we do things that do and should make Him angry. 

The critical difference is (and I think this is why many have a hard time pursuing a God who could be angry with them) is that His anger doesn’t look like the anger many of us grow up with.


His anger does not include abuse.  It does not include emotionally damaging words or spiteful punishments.  It does not include abandonment.  It does not include many of the things we’ve associated with anger because of what we’ve seen and/or experienced.


He sees us through a lens of love despite being angry with our actions.  He never ceases to be love.  He is full of love and quick to forgive.  He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.  He will put His arm around us instead of crossing them at us.  He will gently correct instead of ignore. 


We must recognize that though God is emotional emotions don’t EVER control Him.  That in itself is quite the opposite of what we’ve seen of anger. 


It’s okay for God to be angry.  We should be confident that He’s waiting to love us and not condemn us even if He happens to be angry with us for something we did.  Loving Him back means we recognize what we did and apologize.  Then we move on in intimacy and relationship. 



Jesse and Kara Birkey

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