A parent’s anger at their child's behavior can be driven by love for the child or love of self. For instance, when a child defies a parent’s authority, talks back or refuses to obey, a loving parent would act to correct the child because they know allowing this behavior to develop will cause much pain and suffering to their child later in adult life. However, a prideful, self-centered parent could take the same action to correct the child because they feel loss of respect, wounded pride and anger due to loss of respect. One is angry at the behavior that will eventually do great harm to their child, while the other is angry at their child for defying their authority. The anger and actions taken by these two differently motivated parents will, over time, typically end in two very different children.
If we look at God as the Parent and ourselves as the children, what motivation can we detect in His anger, “wrath” and corrective actions toward us? Since God designed the family and the parent/child relationship for the human race, it would make sense that it was modeled after the God/human family relationship. Are their clues in the Book about God—the Bible—that clarify His motives?
In his book, Searching for a God to Love, Chris Blake looks at an example of God’s wrath in the New Testament of the Bible.
When we read in the Bible of God's wrath, we must put it into context as well. There is a righteous wrath of God.
God gets wrathful over what angers all rational beings—dying children, selfish cruelty, hopeless injustice. The difference with God is that He knows the underlying cause: separation from Him. God longs to heal us, and like any competent doctor, He refuses to treat solely the symptoms. A heart attack isn't treated with antiseptic spray and bandages. When a heart is consumed by disease—arteries blocked, atrium leaking, valves corroded—a complete heart transplant is needed.
The first chapter of Romans explains what God does when He is wrathful, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth." How is the wrath revealed?
"God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity" (verse 24).
"God gave them up to dishonorable passions" (verse 26).
"God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit ... foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (verse 28).
The wrath of God the Father is seen most clearly against His Son on the cross, where Jesus carried the sins of the world. How did God treat the Sin Bearer? God gave Him up. God, the ultimate and only Realist, allows "natural consequences" to run their course. Because freedom is sacred to God, He permits nature—even evil nature—to carry on. God doesn't miraculously keep people alive forever to torture them. The worst thing and the best thing God can do to us is to let us have our way. After teaching us, disciplining us, warning us, pleading with us, and continuing to love us ("How can I give you up?" He says), God allows us to "sleep in the beds we've made." Any good parent would do the same.
This picture of God’s wrath is one of a parent who, after teaching, training, disciplining and pleading as He did with His "children of Israel," must finally “let them go” because love demands they must be given the freedom to choose. God’s wrath is seen to be finally just allowing His wayward children to go the way of their own choice and to suffer their own consequences—to leave parental shielding from the full “wages of sin.”
Does this picture hold up in the many stories of God’s wrath in the Old Testament? Click MORE to continue.