God, as well all know, loves everyone — but hates us all too as wicked sinners. (Uhhhh… let’s revisit that idea…)
Many church people are comfortable with praising the love of God on one hand and celebrating His anger and wrath levied against sin (and sinners) on the other hand.
Worse yet are those church people who delightedly declare to whoever will listen that Hell — an everlasting burning lake of fire and brimstone, torturing sinners forever — is actually proof of God’s eternal Love.
Somehow, people who don’t belong to religious cults (such as do the people described above) see neither the Wrath of God nor eternal Hell as demonstrating the Love of God!
Centuries old church teaching undergird this fiction — not teaching from the Bible, but teachings presented as biblical though they’re not. These have taught that God views every sinner with anger and wrath. But — in spite of that! — God descended from Heaven and took upon Himself the form of humanity (Jesus) and eventually died in the place of humankind, thus “turning aside” the wrath of an angry God. So now everyone has a chance of being “saved”.
Saved? Saved from what? Saved from the anger and wrath of a loving God whose judgment on every sinner is death. [Uhhhh… Why should anyone need to be “saved” from a loving God?]
It sounds twisted — because it is twisted. In the Bible, people assume God’s wrath is mentioned a lot — though in the entire, Protestant Bible there are less than 40 verses (out of 31,102) that mention God and His wrath. People who don’t know God very well — including especially the ancient Hebrews who participated in the writing of Scripture — see a certain aspect of God which made sense to them only if it was described as “anger” and “wrath”. Let’s use an example from ordinary life to see that there can be different perspectives on a father’s behavior — including Father God:
A father and son are working in the family garden, doing some weeding so the food crop isn’t choked out by invasive plants. The father shows the son (who doesn’t give a damn) how to hold and use the hoe so as to take out the weeds but leave the food plants unharmed. The father goes to work, but keeps an eye on his son’s work as well. Without any concern for ruining the crop, the son swings his hoe and takes out weeds and bell pepper sprouts at the same time. The father speaks sternly to his son, showing him aggressivly how to weed safely without ruining the family’s eventual harvest. The son’s perspective is that his dad is very angry and wrathful at him rather than kind and loving — but is that the correct perspective? The father would say that he became very stern and forceful, but that he never stopped loving his son with the deepest, most powerful love ever. But understanding long-term priorities, the father knows that an ounce of prevention (a few moments of a fervid outburst) would, in the long run, produce a harvest of food that would eventually carry them through a hard and frozen winter as well as lodge a lesson in farming in his son’s memory and behavior.
So many people, being disciplined and corrected by an utterly passionate Father, choose to believe He’s hard, angry, and unloving… despite the reality that the Father knows that eventually (after the flesh has died and been buried in the earth), those same people will enter into Eternity prepared for an everlasting life of joy and unimaginable value — or some few will enter that new age unprepared… possibly so unprepared that they can’t even enter into everlasting Life and will instead just cease to exist. No everlasting Lake of Fire but instead what the Bible calls simply “The Second Death”.
Another example… Eventually people learn through life’s School of Hard Knocks that “whatever a person plants, they’ll harvest”: you plant cherry tomatoes, you harvest cherry tomatoes; you plant strawberries, you get strawberries; you plant attitudes that are unloving and harsh toward others, you get responses that are unloving and harsh; you plant laziness and a refusal to work, and sooner or later Mom and Dad will kick you out of the basement and you’ll live uncomfortably on the street (no work = no food); if you plant lots of bad grades you flunk out of school; you plant flunking out of school and you can’t legitimately complain when no employer wants to hire you; if you plant a lackadaisical attitude toward balancing your checkbook and keeping track of your credit expenditures, you wind up penniless and probably bankrupt… And so on — whatever a person does will result in consequences, good or bad!
Now, lots of people who are reaping bad consequences for their own, stupid behavior could feel “persecuted”: that damn employer could have hired me but he just had it in for me ‘cause I had too many rings in my nose and ears; one day Mom and Dad will wake up and realize how selfish they were and how much trouble their anger and wrath caused me; that stupid bank hates me ‘cause it has plenty of money but is heartless and won’t help me when things get tight; etc.
But hold it right there: “that stupid bank…”? A bank is just a bank. Steel safes, bricks and mortar, registers full of money, and computers that transfer money back and forth — none of these hate the kid who bounces his checks. He’s only experiencing the consequences of his own bad choices.
Similarly, God doesn’t hate the person who makes foolish, selfish, and destructive choices in life (which includes, you realize, everybody, including me and you!) God loves that person like the father in the family garden passionately loves his son — but despite His Love, what a person chooses to do or how to live receives or harvests unavoidable consequences. When the checks bounce, God doesn’t hate the kid and isn’t even angry — He loves the kid and His heart hurts as much or even more than the boy hurts as he suffers the harsh consequences of his choices. The “wrath of God” doesn’t need to be “appeased” any more than the “wrath of the First Central Bank” needs to be “appeased”.
When Jesus dies on the Cross, if he wasn’t “appeasing” his Father’s wrath for humanity’s sin, then what was he doing on that Cross? Simply put, since God is Life (or, you can say, He’s humanity’s life-force…), when a person rejects God, they’re rejecting their own life-force. And the “consequence” of rejecting Life is — well — death. And since everyone has disobeyed God and in various ways and times turned away from Him as Life — everyone is headed towards death.
But Jesus (who never rejected God, his Father, and never turned away from Him) was NOT headed towards death. The consequence of perfect love and obedience to his Father was that Jesus was the only human being who never had to die. If he hadn’t chosen to die on the Cross, he’d still be walking around this earth even after 2,000 years… He never had to die.
What happened when he did choose to die was that he made humankind an offer they should never have been able to refuse (but they can if they want.) His offer? Since he could not die and stay dead (he wasn’t slated for death) but would be resurrected back to life again, he offered for every human being to become one with him on the Cross.
That’s similar to his driving a car and offering for us to get in with him: wherever he drove, we’d be there with him. So he drove to the Cross and since we were with him, in Him, we went along to the Cross as well; he dies on the Cross and we died with him; he was buried, and we are buried with him; He came to life again on the third day, and we’ve been resurrected with Him. He lives forever, and we now live forever, for we’ve chosen to take up His offer to become one with Him — now everything that is His is now OURS as well. We’re in Him.
There’s no “appeasing an angry God” business here. Again, putting it simply, we were headed to everlasting extinction in death because we were (unintentionally) rejecting God and going our own, separate way — and the consequences of going our own way (away from the life-force of God) was death; so instead, Jesus chose to die, made Himself available for us to join up with Him in Him — and all of us who’ve trusted God to reward us with life are now rewarded with everlasting life, in Him.
SO, instead of reveling and rejoicing in the Wonderful Wrath of a Loving God (gag me with a spoon!), let’s just rest and rejoice in the Love of a God Who became a human being just so He could provide a means for any humans who trust Him to do what He says — to make our current world more joyful and then to live forever in a new world after this life is over!