The wrath of God

Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.                    You withdrew all your wrath;                   you turned from your hot anger.          Restore us again, O God of our salvation,                   and put away your indignation toward us.          Will you be angry with us forever?                   Will you prolong your anger to all generations?                            â€”Psalm 85.3-5

The wrath of God is not like ours. When eros, love that is attraction, is frustrated, it turns to violence, a desire to destroy. When philios, love that is kinship, is frustrated, it turns to indifference and dismissal, a desire to separate. But when agape, love that is self-giving, is frustrated, it is still self-giving.

The wrath of God is born of love, made of love, and for the sake of love. God’s anger is anger at the disturbance of wholeness, so God responds not with the will toward brokenness?to destroy, condemn or expel? but with the will toward wholeness. Wrath born of agape is not anger at people, but anger at evil and injustice and the suffering it causes. It’s burning passion to heal things. God’s wrath is not punishment; it’s an invitation to feel. God holds our feet to the fire of our own making, allows us to feel the agony we cause, feel God’s own anguish for us. We experience it as an inner disturbance that makes us uneasy, a desire for justice that hurts until we act. Injustice endures because we don’t mind it.  God’s wrath is the rage that says “I do mind.  I can’t stand this, and I won’t: I will do something about it.” We feel the heat until we change.

The challenge is to channel that heat into love. Our natural tendency is to protect ourselves, so the temptation is to turn even righteous anger at injustice into mere anger, judgment or violence. But violence is not an act of love. Violence is an outburst of powerlessness. It only adds to the brokenness. And the anger still remains.  It still burns.  Holy rage is not against others, it is against evil– and I myself harbor evil.  God’s wrath is not mine to use to punish people I don’t like; it’s upon me to move me to do my part to heal the world, by making me hurt until I do something about it. 

In love, not self-protection, not self-justification, but self-giving, the wrath of God issues in love, in acts of healing and justice. To bear the cross is to rage against evil with love and gentleness. To rage against injustice without falling into judgment or violence is a hard calling. But because God’s wrath is loving, to bear that rage is to bear love, if we will open our hearts to it.

         My heart recoils within me;                   my compassion grows warm and tender.          I will not execute my fierce anger;                   I will not again destroy Ephraim;          for I am God and no mortal,                   the Holy One in your midst,                   and I will not come in wrath.                             –Hosea 11.8-9               Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light

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