Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Abi and the Wrath of God....

Well, all the buzz about Rob Bell's not-yet-released book, and his video (look at this article to catch the drift and see the video) brought me sharply back to something I have been pondering from The Shack as well as from Wayne Jacobsen's amazing book, He Loves Me:  have we totally missed the meaning of God's wrath?

I'm thinking that we have ... and that too often we have sided with wrath/justice over against love/grace/mercy as the big defining concept of God in our presentation of the Gospel.  And like so many, including Rob Bell, say ... that is not such good news, is it?

One of my new favorite books, The Hawk and the Dove, has an amazing chapter covering a debate by 13th century abbots (fiction) on whether God's justice or his love is the most important ... and I agree wholeheartedly that it is God's love that wins.  Hmmm, that sounds like what Rob Bell is saying?  We'll all just have to wait and read the book, now, won't we?!?

Anyway, the abbot arguing for love said something along the lines (I don't have the book handy) of justice being a branch, but love being the root ... and justice being the setting in which the jewel of love is set.

I have been pondering Wayne's way of describing the wrath of God for almost two years now, and it seems to be settling down to this:

God loves us, his Eikons.  Anything that hurts us incurs his wrath.  God's wrath is aimed to destroy whatever keeps us away from his love and life.  (It is really very deep, this topic.)  Those of you who are parents or first aid/medical responders know that it is very difficult for those who are injured to separate the pain of the injury from the pain of the remedy.  Sigh.  But this gives me great insight to the issue here....

Wayne describes sin and death as the main targets of God's wrath ... going to far as to describe them an a kind of cancer -- an illness that Jesus came to provide the cure for on the cross.  Jesus, as the God-man representative of humanity, was the only human capable of enduring the "treatment" and eradicating the disease.  Yes, the treatment was so severe it took his life in only six hours or so.  But once the "cancer" was gone, sin and Death were defeated and could no longer hold Jesus -- and God raised him from the dead.  And in the blood of Jesus we receive the antibodies that make us immune to the cancer of sin and Death ... and we have new Life in Jesus.  This Life is in the Spirit and is the "already" part of the already/not yet reality of Kingdom Life.  Already Jesus has cleansed us from sin and defeated Death ... but we are not yet delivered from the human struggle in our mortal bodies.  We must persevere in Papa's love for us.

Wrath came because the Law shone its light on sin ... and its consequence:  Death.  Love and grace and mercy came to the fore when, in the fullness of time, Jesus came to show us what the Father is like ... and triumphed when love transcended wrath on the Cross.  For those who walk in the Light of Love there is no Wrath.  Read John chapter 3 ... all of it.  The wrath was appeased because that which enslaved his Eikons was dealt with.  Finally.  No more blood spilled over terms of the Law.  Ever. 

...some narrow presentations of the Gospel, it has been postulated, act as a kind of immunization against the real power of the Good News for the current generation.  I have seen this at work ... and I prefer my children come down with a full-blown case of the Good News, eh?  That is the only way that the immunity-rich blood of Jesus can remove the cancer and bring them Real Life.

We do not know all the ways the Father has chosen to apply the remedy Christ provided on the cross.  It is advisable to do the best we can with what we do know and be humble enough to leave room for the Spirit to work in ways that we cannot understand.

Really I think it comes down to the story of the two sons and their prodigal (extravagant) father.  The father loved both of his sons equally.  The problem came when the younger brother who was "lost" returned to his senses and came home ... and the elder brother resented that the father received him gladly. 

Give Luke 15 a read ... and the rest of the parables of Jesus, while you're at it.  I see threads of a common theme....

Lots of issues in Jesus' day were elder brother problems ... and I think it is the same today.

Brothers (and sisters!), love one another!