Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Beauty of God's Wrath

Recently, during a sit-down discussion with my senior pastor, the following question came up: How would you explain God's anger and jealousy to a junior high student?

A fair point, since for many youth pastors, teaching these attributes of God’s character can feel like threading a needle at times. Fortunately, there are practical truths and illustrations ministers can use to teach these qualities.

For instance, before tackling God’s wrath and jealousy head on, it’s important to define love and God’s identity as love (1 John 4:8). When one does this, it not only establishes the fact we were made to worship God since He values us and knows we would die otherwise, but it also allows the young person to realize love and wrath are not emotions as much as they are choices! 

Thus, when God gets angry, He gets angry for us, not at us. And since anger and jealousy are choices, then other difficult topics like hell and eternal separation can be linked to God’s respect for human freedom.

So ultimately, explaining anger and jealousy is ideally explained in the context of knowing love by knowing God and our destiny as being conquered by love. Because when youth understand they are objects of God’s love, then they’ll better understand the difference between the “self-ed” individual and the “loved” person. Once a young person discerns the variance, then they’ll further see:
  • The connection between freedom and relationships
  • The connection between freedom and God’s authority
  • How God’s authority is another word for His love
  • The danger of independence
  • The insanity of sin
  • The importance of the cross
  • And how there can be no love without justice since justice validates love

Furthermore, it’s imperative to emphasize the discrepancy between the wrath of God and the wrath of man. Man’s wrath is emotional, but God’s wrath is holy and justifiable. Often times, when men get angry and want justice, it’s because they want to right an offense; however, when God gets angry, it’s because He wants an offense to be righted...and for creation to see existence as an expression of His love. In fact, it could be said that within His wrath, He wants us to be free from His wrath

So for those who don’t know Him, for those who give glory and honor to ‘other gods’, the Bible says He gets jealous for them (2 Corinthians 11:2). Why? Because a) all glory and honor rightfully belongs to God (and God alone) and b) jealousy is sinful when it involves a desire for something that doesn’t belong to you.

Biblical example: Exodus 11 (Moses & the burning bush – when God says, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I?”

Real-life example: A God who is rightfully angry can be compared to an athletic coach who is leading a struggling team loaded with potential. A good coach doesn’t get angry at the players for losing the game. He is jealous for them because he knows they are better than the outcome – that their talent level is better than what’s being realized. Thus, he doesn’t give up on his players, but rather pushes them harder and keeps working with them on an individual/team basis.

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