Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Wrath that is God's Love

Speaking about God is in itself an Irony. To say God is X or God is Y automatically puts God within the confines of our puny language. If God is Infinite than we are always going to grasping after something so profoundly Other that we will fail over and over and over again to describe it. In scripture we have various images of God. God as the father, God as the King, God as protector and redeemer. Each of them is not able to hold a candle to our God, yet in their multiplicity we are able to gleam some sort of collage that draws us towards who God is.

In this Blog I am going to toy with an Idea about the Wrath of God. It is going to sound foreign and maybe even heretical, but I would ask that as a reader you see it as a member of the afore mentioned collage of images.

What if the Wrath of God, as depicted in the Old Testament is not looked at as an attribute of God's character but rather as a description of what happens to those who do not walk humble with God.

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote:
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched."

In this verse as with many, the Wrath of God takes the image of fire, one that lays the unfaithful people of Israel to waste. Yet the images of Fire in the Old Testament are not all equated to Wrath. When God comes to Moses he uses a "burning bush."

The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. - Exodus 3

Here the Flames represent the presence of God. Likewise when God takes Elijah up to heaven in 2 Kings, it is described as "a chariot of fire with horses of fire." God's presence is depicted as flame, yet God's wrath is not being invoked against Elijah, on the contrary he is being brought up into the heavens. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is often given a very similar description, such as the tongues of flame that descended upon the disciples in Acts.

What if the Wrath of God is simply the presence of God? If the nature of God is such that all that do not find their sustenance in God are destroyed by the very nature of God's incredible presence. And at the same time that Presence that was destruction to one, is paradise to another.

The Wages of sin is death; because the Love of God is so fierce that anyone who comes before God, with their own Mortal fragility ceases to be. Darkness is not something, it is a lack. Namely the lack of light. Sin is a discontinuity with God, a separation from God who is Life. This lack of Life results in death. When a light is turned on in a room, darkness is dispersed, not because the light must "punish" the darkness, but simply because in filling the room with light there is not more room for darkness.

The same may be said of God's perfect Love. That when encountering the Love of God one either burns with the joy of redemption or is consumed by the their own darkness being filled with light.

As I said in the beginning none of these words could ever contain the Truth of God fully, but I believe this image helps us reconcile the God of Love we see in Christ with the God of Wrath we see in the Old Testament. These different views do not speak of a different God, but rather of two different experiences of God's powerful presence.

I go by the name Bathed in Grace because of this Idea. That like the bush that was engulfed in flame and not consumed, so God has covered us with his Love that slays everything within us. Yet this baptism is not our end, but rather by Grace is our beginning.