The title of this post certainly wouldn’t get me on Oprah. Why? Because it’s not tolerant and sensitive to talk about the wrath of God these days. We don’t want a wrathful God, we want a purely loving God who will come and tuck us in at night and give us a glass of warm milk. We don’t like wrath. The very concept makes us feel like primitive cavemen (or cavewomen) who eat their meat raw and carry large wooden clubs.
But recently I’ve come to see that there’s something very good and right about the wrath of God. Listen to this quote by J.I. Packer from the book In My Place Condemned He Stood:
And this [the wrath of God] is righteous anger – the right reaction of moral perfection in the Creator toward moral perversity in the creature. So far from the manifestation of God’s wrath in punishing sin being morally doubtful, the thing that would be morally doubtful would be for him not to show his wrath in this way. God is not just – that is he does not act in the way that is right, he does not do what is proper to a judge – unless he inflicts upon all sin and wrongdoing the penalty it deserves.
That, ladies and gentleman, is a deep quote. Let me encourage you to read it again. And maybe a third time. Now for a few thoughts.
Think for a moment about all the perverse, evil deeds committed by men and women. These wicked acts are against each other. Rape, murder, slander, selfishness, racism. They are committed in the privacy of our own hearts. Lust, arrogance, self-sufficiency, grumbling. But ultimately, all these wicked deeds are committed against the Creator himself. Every wicked act I’ve ever done, every perverse thought that has crossed my mind is ultimately rebellion against the very God who made me.
Isn’t it good and right that God punishes sin? How could we love a God who simply overlooked murder? How could we worship a God who didn’t care when we grumbled against him? The wrath of God is the only right response to our wickedness. I couldn’t follow a God who didn’t bring justice upon wickedness.
And all this makes the cross so sweet. I’m wicked and perverted. My thoughts are evil. Without a doubt I deserve wrath. But God’s mercy has made a way for God’s justice to be satisfied and for me to be forgiven. That’s the gospel. The cross makes it possible for me to love the wrath of God.
Originally published April, 2008