In Colossians 3:6, we run across the theologically volatile phrase ‘the wrath of God’. We usually use the word wrath to describe intense anger. Many people think this therefore means that God is sitting up in the heavens glaring down at people, filled with rage. And how does this reconcile with the big story of the gospel: ‘For God so loved the world…’ Unless we can find a way to understand how both can be true of God, we end up with a Jekyll and Hyde kind of God.
I do not believe that God’s wrath is the same as human anger. Wrath is not God’s disposition towards us; wrath is God’s arrangement regarding sin. God isn’t in the punishment business on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis, like some divine karma. Sin is its own punishment. We experience the inevitable consequences of our own free choice.
Can you imagine if sin carried no consequence? Sadly, many Christians think sin is something that is pleasurable for us, but unfortunately makes God mad at us. They don’t see that sin is deadly.
God set up an order, a good order, and if we rebel from that order we suffer. That is what the wrath of God is.
God is love. God’s disposition towards us is, and forever remains, love. God is for us – that is why he hates sin. Sin brings with it the wrath of its own punishment. The emptiness found in sin is often the only way people will, like the prodigal son, come to their right minds and come home.
My biggest concern is not that God expresses wrath toward sin but that I do not. God’s people are being harmed by one another, and that alone ought to cause me to feel something of the same wrath God feels, and to ask God to help me to see sin as he does – a force of destruction.
God has ordered this world so that sin will naturally harm me. This is not because God is mean, but because God loves me. I am therefore thankful for the wrath of God toward sin.
Gracious Abba, I find sin tempting, and I find myself jaded at times. But you are teaching me that sin has natural and un-avoidable consequences. Help me not only to tire of sin but to hate it as you do. Teach me how to say no to it and yes to you, which is my only hope of a good and beautiful life. Amen.
How does this idea that the wrath of God is the attitude of God toward sin (and not toward us) help us love him even more?