The wrath of a loving God

I was speaking to a lady some time ago about the gospel and I quoted a verse that speaks about the wrath of God (John 3:36). She said, “Oh, my God’s not a God of wrath. My God is a God of love.”

The wrath of a loving God

I tried to point out that it didn’t really matter what “her God” or “my God” is like; all that matters is what God is like, and God has revealed Himself as, among other things, a God of wrath. But I also wanted to point out that God being a God of wrath doesn’t mean He's not a God of love – love and wrath aren't opposites.

The opposite of wrath isn’t love; it is indifference.

Suppose you were watching the news with your friend and there was a report about a horrendous crime that had been committed. It angered and disgusted you, and you turned to your friend and said, “Isn’t that outrageous?” And your friend looked at you and said, “What are you getting so angry about? Calm down.” Would you think such an attitude in your friend was a virtue or a vice? Do you think it's a commendable thing to look on evil without it bothering you? Is your friend being more loving than you?

There is nothing loving about looking on evil without anger. It isn’t loving to the victim of the evil, and it isn’t even loving to the perpetrator of the evil. It is right for us to be outraged by wickedness.

And if we are outraged by it, how much more must the infinitely holy, absolutely righteous, intrinsically good God be outraged as He looks on all the harm that evil has done to the creatures He loves. Of course God’s wrath is “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18).

So, I think we should be glad God is a God of wrath. It would be awful to think of God being indifferent to the evil in the world. But before we get too comfortable, remember that God’s wrath doesn’t stop where ours does. There are many sins that make us angry, but we have to admit that there are also many sins that don’t make us angry at all. We can look on them with pleasure. God is not like that. Every sin is an outrage to His holiness, an offence against His righteousness, an insult to His goodness. And God isn’t passively disappointed, He is actively angry and is going to ensure that all sin meets with His displeasure.

But as I said, God being a God of wrath doesn’t mean He’s not a God of love. Because He is a God of wrath He demands that the penalty for sin be paid. Because He is a God of love He sent His Son to pay it (John 3:16). The Son of God experienced the wrath of God at Calvary and was treated as sin deserved to be treated (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and all who repent and trust in Christ, are “saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9).