Listening to the nightly news can be pretty depressing. We are confronted by shootings, murders, immorality, greed, arson, theft, and assault. I’m not without sin, as though I’m holier-than-thou, but I wonder how God responds to this? On the one hand, He loves the perpetrators and wants to change them by drawing them into a love-relationship with Himself. But is He upset, like I am, by what He observes?
The Bible tells us in the third chapter of John, “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” However, a few verses later we are told, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s WRATH remains on him.” (John 3:16, 36) How are we to merge the two? Love and wrath seem to be conflicting principles.
As God has watched the rioting, vandalism, and looting that fills our streets, some have described Him in one of the following INACCURATE ways.
- God sits in Heaven, red-faced and enraged, with veins popping out of His neck, ready to explode and punish the evil doers, squishing them like a bug.
- God is like a bystander on the sidewalk, watching a parade go by. When one of the floats catches fire, he stands idly by and makes no attempt to put out the flames.
- God is emotionally needy, pleading that they would love Him, much like an infatuated teenage boy fantasizes about the girl of his dreams.
- God is like the parent who doesn’t discipline their child to teach them self-control and respect for others, for fear the child won’t like them.
There is always the danger that if I write about God’s wrath, some will accuse me of being hateful or legalistic. That’s not the case. Like our previous pastor pointed out, love and wrath are two sides of the same coin. When you love someone, your wrath and desire for justice rises when anyone hurts them.
For the Christ-follower, wrath is not the EMPHASIS of our message, but it can’t be completely avoided. God’s wrath is His stance against sin. Sin must be judged, just as a society judges murder and other crimes. Fortunately for you and I, Jesus intervened and took the brunt of God’s wrath against our sin. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) If you haven’t done so yet, I hope you’ll ask Christ to forgive you and be the Lord of your life.
Jesus’ death does not mean that God will overlook the sin of those who reject Christ. Look at how Jesus interacted with people while on the earth. He was called “a friend of sinners,” but He stood toe-to-toe against the proud, religious elite of His day. He said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24) He died for them, too, but He announced, “The kingdom of God is near. REPENT and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) A love-relationship with God can only be established if we acknowledge our sin before Him. Repentance is a central theme of the message we bear.
To sum up, the Bible teaches that God deals with sin. It may appear that wickedness is winning the day, but God will have the last word. Because of Christ, those who repent will enjoy a love-relationship with God forever. For those who refuse to repent, they will suffer His wrath for all eternity.