In order to communicate the character of our Lord, the Scripture uses words with which we are familiar. It says that He is jealous, for example. But that hardly communicates the same thing as the teenage girl feels when she sees her boyfriend talking with the cheerleader. It actually means much more. It means that He recognizes the danger for us in any relationship that pulls us away from Him. He acts with passion toward those who would deceive us and He acts with passion toward us.
There is some discussion today about the wrath of God. Some people make a big deal out of the anger God feels toward those who reject Him. Some even speak of God’s anger toward us when we sin. But is that really what God communicates to us? Doesn’t He love us and didn’t He deal with our sins by His own sacrifice?
God is passionate toward us. He hates the effect sin has on us because He loves us. He strongly desires to remove sin from us, but gives us the freedom to choose or reject His offer of salvation. This passion, called “wrath” in the Scripture, is much more than anger.
Would you be passionate about your child playing in the middle of a busy street? Would it look like anger if you warned your child and pleaded with your neighbors to drive more carefully? Would you experience passionate grief when your child was hit by a car? Of course! This is the passion God has concerning sin. It is grief beyond measure, loss of great magnitude, frustration over inability to control the situation, and, yes, anger without direction or focus.
God has chosen to allow us to go our own way. We are, and always have been, free to play in the street. But when we get hurt, He grieves. He is passionate about us. So that passion against sin and that passion for us led Him to provide the way of salvation.
Think of Jesus as the lightning rod that absorbs that incredible passion God has stored in His heart. Yes, it was anger, but not anger toward us, nor toward Jesus. Anger toward sin, I suppose, but I think that misses the real point. Jesus took our sins, the consequences of those sins, and the penalty for our sins on Himself. Never separate from the Father, Jesus was the outlet for all that passion. With no onus but love, the Father poured out His wrath on Jesus. As He did that, He turned that wrath, that passion, away from us. Those who will come to Jesus will never see God’s wrath. There is no more anger or grief or frustration. Only joy. All because of Jesus.
But what about those who refuse to come to Jesus? What about those who remain in their sins? When God looks on them, His passion remains. The Scripture says that the wrath of God “rests” on them. All that grief, that anger, that love and frustration is still there when God considers them. Does He love them? Of course.
But will He destroy them in His anger? No. Remember the true message. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. Those who end up there were already on their way, just as we were. Sin has condemned all of us to separation from the Lord who loves us. But Jesus is the way back to God.
God’s passion is something beyond our understanding. Wrath is too small a word. Anger is only part of it. Let’s just say this: God is passionate about you and me and He takes our human predicament very seriously. After all, He sent His only Son to the cross for us.