I know you’ve heard that God is love. You’ve heard it hundreds of times. You’ve seen those three words on billboards, on bumper stickers and probably tattooed on someone’s arm. They are three of the most wonderful words available in the English language. But those three words may also reveal a distorted view of God. God is indeed love but God cannot be God if he were not also a God of wrath.
Walk the aisles of the local Bible Book Store and discover a plethora of books about how loving God is. It’s a popular topic. It is a topic preachers love to preach about because it brings warm ‘fuzzies’ to their congregants. There are but a few books about God’s wrath. Loves sells, wrath does not.
To get a balanced view of who God really is we must also admit his wrath. God has many attributes and they must all be perfectly balanced. Many refuse to see the other side of God’s love. God not only loves, he hates. He only hates one thing, sin. His hatred for sin was expressed in a most amazing way. That most common verse we all learned as children says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” but it could have very well said, “For God so hated sin that he gave his only begotten son…”
Thomas Watson said, “Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is. Sin is an unclean thing. It is called an abomination. God has no mixture of evil in Him; sin has no mixture of good. It is the spirit in quintessence of evil, it turns good into evil, it has deflowered the virgin soul, made it red with guilt and black with filth. It is called the accursed thing. No wonder therefore that God hates sin.”
God’s wrath is demonstrated throughout scripture. He revealed his wrath when he rescued the Israelites from an Egyptian culture that was saturated with idolatry and disobedience to the true God. God revealed his wrath when he decided to destroy most of mankind in the flood because of the pollution of sin. God expressed his wrath by dropping fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah because of their vile sin.
We have little problem understanding the wrath of God and that he continually hates sin. Our problem is that we humanize God by comparing his wrath and anger to that of man. When we get angry there are elements of selfishness and pride intermingled in our passion. When God gets angry there is no pride, there are no hurt feelings. His anger is a response to his perfect justice. He is holy and sin is an attempt to destroy his holiness. He ceases to be holy if he doesn’t get angry at sin. So, to maintain his very ‘Godness’ he must hate sin wholly and entirely.
The first public act of Jesus when he began his ministry in Jerusalem was to form a whip and drive the moneychangers out of the temple. I’m sure his followers thought, “It’s on, now. He’ll swing that whip all the way to Rome.” Jesus wasn’t trying to establish himself as a leader. He wasn’t trying to build a macho reputation. Jesus was furious because God was being dishonored. It wasn’t about him. It was about defending the holiness of his Father.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We all have sinned and we all deserve nothing less than eternal punishment in a fiery hell. John also reveals the truth about God’s wrath, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36) “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.”
A loving and holy God reveals his love by his hatred for sin.
I rejoice every time I read in our local paper that the police have nabbed another rapist or murderer or thief. We have a jail filled with people who deserve to be there. If they were released they would be a danger to our community. Christians will one day inhabit heaven and be very grateful that there is a hell. God reveals his love for his own children by casting those who would do us harm into an eternal prison where they will receive a just penalty for their crimes.
God protects his holy nature by giving man free will. Those who dwell in hell are there, not because of a God whose heart is full of vengeance and retribution, but because of their own decision to refuse the invitation to be adopted into the family of God.
I am grateful that God hates evil because it proves so strongly his love for mankind.
One of my co-workers was recently received bad news from his doctor. He had been diagnosed with cancer. The doctor immediately followed the bad news with good news, “we have a cure.” The bad news is that a holy God must demonstrate hatred for sin and he must display his wrath toward those who are sinful. The good news is that he has devised a cure for his own wrath. The only way to save us from the wrath of a just God was for his sinless Son to present himself a sacrifice for our sins. The ultimate penalty for sin is death. God poured out his wrath for sin on his only Son. Christ, in response to the father’s love for man and his hatred for sin, died for all.