Reflections on the Wrath of God

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
(Romans 1:18, 19, NASB).

In the last post I said, “When Paul says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18), our first response is ‘huh? really? how is that? I’ve never seen it.’ But we are all intimately acquainted with moral wrath. We live in it. We swim in it. We breathe it and eat it and mull over it and cherish it and loathe it and hold it very close and very dear every moment of every day.”

A Mother’s Love and Wrath

Is it hyperbole to say that we live in and swim in an ocean of wrath? Does it ring true? Let’s take an example where you would really say wrath isn’t happening: a mother’s love. Is your mother’s love really tainted by wrath and judgment and criticism? I mean, really, WRATH? A mother’s love is the very archetype in human relationships of unconditional love. Yet, who knows better and is less forgiving about your personal living style? Who is more watchful concerning the success of your career path? Who do you want to please when it comes to choosing who to marry? More than anyone else, whose opinion do you want to measure up to? Are you really going to argue seriously that your mother’s love for you doesn’t include a significant amount of very justified wrath? You may want to say that your mother’s disapproval of certain aspects of your life doesn’t constitute wrath, but I think that is semantics. In real life, you probably don’t fear anyone the way you fear your mother. You’ll have to personally reflect on that before you get down to the truth of it for your own situation. Ask yourself this: even from your earliest memories, was your mother really an immovable mountain of grace to you? How conditional was her pleasure in you? How much did that drive you? Doesn’t that sound a little bit like wrath?

Wrath is ubiquitous in human relationships

Your job, your schooling, your friendships, your everything, carry the very present threat of wrath. Your neighbors are watching and waiting for you to do something wrong or scandalous or bad for the neighborhood. Is your yard weedy or do you mow a little too infrequently? Wrath. Are you 100% effective and productive at your work? Do you have any room for improvement? Wrath. Did you speed the days you were late to work? Wrath, and then wrath. Did you leave your work at work and listen to your wife’s and your children’s concerns in an emotionally present way? Wrath. How’s your honey-do list? Getting longer? Wrath. Did your kids do anything lately that makes the school or church or neighbors think that you are a bad parent? Wrath! Looked at any web sites you shouldn’t have really looked at lately? Wrath! Are you serving enough at church, or helping the poor or giving enough or whatever? Wrath! Do you have debt? Do you have three months of living expenses saved up? Money for your kids college and your retirement? Are you too worried about money? Wrath all around. You are a selfish irresponsible wretch.

Isn’t calling this “wrath” hyperbole?

But, isn’t saying that these minor irritations are instances of the wrath of God going a little too far? People are patient because in all of these spheres we have adjusted to people’s imperfections. We’re just imperfect humans, it isn’t really WRATH. Isn’t that right? No, I don’t think so. In every case where our conscience informs us of the way to go, and yet we do otherwise, our conscience produces its own little torture for us. As much as we are unable to keep this hidden from others, their very perfect sense of rightness and justice also kicks in and judges us. They may pretend to forgive us with impotent words and attitudes, but we all know We feel the condemnation from within and from without.

Is this all people’s wrath, or God’s wrath?

Here’s another objection: these aren’t instances of God’s wrath. They are instances of people’s wrath. However, people’s wrath is based on their conscience and their innate sense of justice and right and wrong. It is almost eery when you think about it how spot on and perfect even a young child’s sense of justice and conscience is. Where do you think that came from? It isn’t just a person’s random self-serving opinion – our conscience isn’t even usually self-serving anyway. These things really are evidence of the very finger of God writing directly on the canvas of our soul.

The main insight – God’s wrath is revealed through people

So here is the main insight: the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men through people. Our conscience and our innate and perfect sense of justice produces an ongoing and unending sense of impending judgment that we barely hold at bay by many means: keeping things secret, judging back, pretending the judgment is wrong or doesn’t exist, blaming others, etc. The fact that these judgments are almost always true makes them even more stinging. The things we keep secret are still under the revealed wrath because even then our own conscience won’t let us have any peace.

Jesus is our only hope of rescue

This is why belief in Jesus, Christ and Him crucified on our behalf, is so crucial. It is in fact saving, it is a rescue. We are prisoners and slaves of our judgments. We judge others, we judge ourselves, and others judge us. We are swimming in it. The judgments are not wrong, they are generally spot on. We have no one to execute judgment upon except for ourselves and each other. But once Christ steps in, we can be assured that the judgment has been executed in a much worse way. Our conscience can be cleansed (Hebrews 9:14) and so we can honestly forgive each other and walk in the light with each other and stop hiding our true self from each other. The door is finally open to leave the world of judging and enter the world of loving.

23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
(1 John 3:23, NKJV).

Please tell your own story and opinion!

Here is the question for my dear readers: does this ring true? Is it also your experience that wrath is revealed from heaven, and that it is a daily and constant part of our experience? Do you see Christ’s sacrifice as being central to leaving the world of judgment with the people around you, and to entering the world of loving them? How do you think the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness of men?

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