J. Marshall Jenkins

Author, Therapist, Spiritual Director

God’s Love and Anger

5805944964_a42a0427fb_bBlessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

What shall we make of the Bible’s angry God whose prophets threatened disaster unless the people repent?

Many who believe in a dualistic, us-versus-them world enlist God’s wrath to keep “us” safe and punish “them.”

Many who believe in enlightened striving for utopian peace reject the harsh parts of the Bible or throw it away altogether to dismiss such a rude Lord from the parlor.

Many who seek therapeutic religion to bring them calm and fulfillment turn to nontheistic eastern religions and humanist philosophies to move on from the guilt trips of earlier days.

All of these hold pebbles of truth in their well-meaning hands. Yet, in their various ways, they lose boulders of truth and even compromise kindness by rejecting the angry God.

When I read divine rage in the biblical prophets’ pronouncements, I see little if any disapproval of dancing, playing cards, drinking beer, homosexual unions, food stamps, or socialized medicine. Many people find such practices threatening to civilization, so they invoke God’s wrath to scare us into our places. But the God of the prophets places greater weight on something more fundamental, something without which social order means nothing.

That God cares about love. Anger is not the opposite of love. Indifference is. Anger and love both require passionate engagement with the other. God’s anger is an extension of love.

What incites that anger? The spurning of love. God’s anger emanates from the wounded heart of a loving Spouse who gave a gift, made at great time and expense especially for the beloved, only to spy it in a pawn shop window shortly thereafter.

The refusal of what gift angers God most? The gift of each other, the opportunity to live among God’s children and love them as brothers and sisters. This God invites us to love each other as if to say, “If you love my children, you love me.”

Moreover, this God holds most precious the poor, the lowly, the stranger, the widow and orphan who utterly depend on the handouts of others to survive, and our refusal to love and care for them wounds God most. You know how mother bears get when wounded.

The last prophet in Christian scriptures offered this mission statement:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).

We call that prophet, Jesus Christ, and there he quoted Isaiah repeating a refrain that pervades the prophetic books: The God who heard the groans of the slave people Israel and wreaked havoc to set them free hears the groans of the poor and marginalized and sends a Son to deliver them and to save their oppressors from themselves.

If you don’t think the God of Jesus is angry, you don’t take seriously that God is love.  But if you fear that God’s anger eclipses compassion, you need to meditate on the next Beatitude.  The prophets offer plenty of help with that too. We’ll look more closely in the next post.

 

Photo By Chris Shervey via http://public-domain.pictures/

J. Marshall Jenkins

About J. Marshall Jenkins

J. Marshall Jenkins is an author, psychotherapist, teacher, and spiritual director. For several years he has been writing on the Beatitudes for people in emotional pain, publishing biweekly here on his Beatitudes Blog at http://www.jmarshalljenkins.com. His newest book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Hope with the Beatitudes, is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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3 Replies

  1. Michael Parnell

    The wrath of God is not about “dogs and cats living together.” (With apologies to Bill Murray) The wrath of God is rejection of God’s design for life. God’s design for life is this: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When we fail to love one another we move out of God’s way for us and when we move out of that way we come in contact the third rail of life, which is God’s push back. God’s anger is God’s way of pushing back to move us back to loving one another. When we fail to love, God acts to bring us back. What we have created today is a “kicking against the pricks” mindset that would rather hold animosity towards those we think “less than” and not love people where they are. That is when we run the risk of encountering the wrath of God.

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      I agree. Yes, love can be soothing, but it can be rough as well. God’s love does not only soothe, it disciplines, cajoling and interrupting and sometimes smarting. But it comes down to God’s insistence on inviting us to the highest joy of love. Also, I like your point about “kicking against the pricks” to hold on to animosity. I don’t know if you mean this, but often the objection against the image of God’s wrath inadvertently preserves an oppressive mentality. I can say God loves the marginalized, but if I don’t join God in reaching out with love, I can take refuge in a fantasy of God’s indulgence and deny God’s real hurt and anger on behalf those whom I neglect.

  2. Nope. It does not. It reminds me to tighten up. G-d has lots of patience but even His is not infinite. Shalom aleichem.

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