An Angry God

“We tend to be taken aback by the thought that God could be angry. How can a deity who is perfect and loving ever be angry?…We take pride in our tolerance of the excesses of others. So what is God’s problem? … But love detests what destroys the beloved. Real love stands against the deception, the lie, the sin that destroys. Nearly a century ago the theologian E.H. Glifford wrote: ‘Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor.’… Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference… How can a good God forgive bad people without compromising himself? Does he just play fast and loose with the facts? ‘Oh, never mind…boys will be boys’. Try telling that to a survivor of the Cambodian ‘killing fields’ or to someone who lost an entire family in the Holocaust. No. To be truly good one has to be outraged by evil and implacably hostile to injustice” (Rebecca Pippert).

I do believe that God is love. I also believe that God gets angry. God gets angry whenever people mistreat and abuse anyone who is made in His image. God gets angry when people try to say that what He says is evil is really good and what He says is good is really evil. God gets angry when sin destroys people’s lives.

God got good and angry at the cross, then He proceeded to pour out all that wrath on Jesus. So yes, God is love. But the Bible puts holiness as the main characteristic of God, which means that God’s love is a holy love, not content to put up with anything less than His best for the beloved.

I believe that Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners. That’s true. I also believe that when they had been around Jesus long enough, they were no longer prostitutes or tax collectors or sinners. That was not their identity anymore. The holy love of Jesus didn’t merely tolerate their behavior but transformed them into their best selves — into what God had in mind when He created them.

And yes, Jesus got angry. He got angry when He saw the temple misused and the people in the temple putting up barriers to keep others from getting to God. He got angry when Pharisees saw keeping their rules as more important than the man with a withered hand who needed Jesus to heal Him, regardless of what day of the week it was. He grieved over a city that had rejected Him and didn’t recognize their Messiah when He was staring them in the face.

But it was a holy anger just as much as it was a holy love. On the cross, Jesus forgave those who were in the very act of murdering Him, not because what they were doing was okay or that it didn’t matter, but because God turned that act of hate into the means of salvation for anyone who would believe.

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