Have you ever been bothered by the idea of God’s wrath? You’re not alone. Many people don’t want to believe in the God of Christianity because he sometimes appears dangerously angry in the pages of the Bible. Many people who are completely devoted to God still struggle with understanding this notion. Sometimes we avoid thinking about it or we make apologies for it. For skeptics and believers alike God’s wrath seems to contradict God’s love. Isn’t God supposed to be loving? How can Someone who supposedly ‘is love‘, be also full of wrath?
These are good questions to wrestle with. They need to be seriously chewed upon and not placated with pat answers. One of the most helpful voices on this for me has been the theologian Miroslav Volf. He sees God’s wrath and His love as two sides of the same coin. It is because God is loving that He must be wrathful, and His wrath is a corollary of His love. Perhaps this comes into focus when we learn a little of Volf’s biography. He is from Croatia and has seen his share of bloodshed in his homeland. With that in mind, see how he twins God’s attributes of love and wrath:
I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? 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.
-Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, page 138.
This by no means answers every question about God’s wrath and anger towards sin. But it helps us to begin to see that wrath and love are not necessarily opposed. There is good news about God’s wrath even for those most deserving of it. *we all deserve wrath in some measure* It is that there has come One who has borne wrath for us, saving us from it. That is the greatest love there is.
How does God’s wrath help us to be free of it? Check out this post from the vaults: