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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Wrath of God

This blog applies not just to Mormons, but to many kinds of people with many kinds of beliefs. I’ve been thinking about the wrath of God a lot lately. It’s not a popular doctrine in America anymore, and those who do know much about it largely don’t understand it.

A lot of people think that God is completely full of wrath, anger, and destruction in the Old Testament but not at all in the New Testament. This is simply wrong. We do see the love of God in the Old Testament, and if you don’t believe me, read Psalms, or even read the Old Testament with an eye to what he does for those who believe in and rely on him. In the New Testament, Jesus himself talks about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, and the New Testament makes it obvious that Jesus took on the wrath of God for the sins of humanity and then closes with a book that details the wrath of God pouring out his wrath as Jesus comes tattooed and furious as he makes the blood of the wicked run like rivers.

We protest this as if it’s unjust and without logic. Then we turn around and want justice for wrongs done to us. What good father would not seek justice for his daughter if she is raped? If you haven’t watched the movie “Taken,” do so. It’s about a father going after his daughter when she’s kidnapped and sold for sex trafficking on her trip to Europe. Her father hunts her down like an avenging angel, and woe betide any and all who stand in his way. Watching the final scenes, as he kills those who are trying to snatch his daughter away, and if I remember right that includes the man who was only minutes away from raping her, I know I didn’t sit there and think, “Well that’s not fair of him to do that to those people.” I was cheering him on, sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for justice to be served and for him to take his daughter from those who would hurt her, knowing he did it all out of love.

I have heard so many times that Jesus was loving to everyone—that he never got angry or condemned people. People these days have this idea of Jesus as a tolerant and indulgent person, speaking only loving things and never harshly. These people need to sit down and read the gospels a little more closely, because they’re so wrong it’s not even funny. As I already said, Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else. He got angry. He threw tables and kicked people out of their own shops in anger. He warned of false prophets and false righteousness. He called people hypocrites and vipers. If you can get the subtlety while reading, he even mocked self-righteous people, though he always did so with truth and with the intent of causing repentance in those he mocked and causing those who were not self-righteous to avoid becoming so.

Can you honestly say you’re a good person in every way, inside and out? If you say yes, you’re prideful and self righteous, which are some of the worst sins because they keep us from seeing other sins. Everyone should say no. You have lied. You have cheated. You have probably stolen. You’ve raised your voice in unrighteous anger. You’ve done something illegal. You’ve probably committed adultery, either literally or by lusting after someone who wasn’t your spouse. The Bible says that God hates sin. How could he not hate sin, and still be just and perfect and right? We hate sin, although we often do so imperfectly. He hates it perfectly. He will not abide sin to live with him. That means that we all don’t deserve to live with him, and we all have his wrath upon us. None of us can fix that ourselves, because we will continue to sin our whole lives in one way or another. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go before God and say, “Look how good I am,” and have him say, “Well, no, look how bad you are. You broke this commandment this time, and this one that time, and really you broke the first two every time you broke the other ones…”
There’s only one way to fix this, and God did it for us because he loves us even as he hates the sin and wickedness in us. 

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Martin Luther calls this the “Great Exchange” because our wickedness was given to the only righteous person who ever lived—and only God is completely righteous, remember—so that our sin could be put to death and Christ’s righteousness could become our own. This is why we are saved from hell, to sin.
All this is also why there are huge problems with the teachings of Mormonism. They don’t really have a hell. They don’t really acknowledge the wrath of God. They don’t even like the term “fear of God,” which is kind of ironic because Proverbs says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In Mormon theology, even the worst sinners get a level of heaven. While it’s not the sort of place you’d want to make your goal in their theology, it’s still heaven. It’s still paradise. All these unrepentant murderers and rapist get to enjoy, to at least some degree, the rest of eternity. I don’t think it’s even taught that they’re fully excluded from the presence of the Godhead, although I believe it’s thought to be limited. Even their “outer darkness” is not really a place of eternal torment, which is why they tend to call it outer darkness instead of hell. And perhaps worst of all, even those who are good people, who fear God, who had faith their whole lives, who pursued righteousness through Christ, are not good enough if they weren’t or don’t become Mormon and if they didn’t do or accept the works required. They just get stuck in paradise just like all the unrepentant rapists and murderers; their paradise is just a little nicer.

How is that justice on God’s part? How is that love?

We do need to have a fear of God. Not a fear that makes us want nothing to do with him, but the sort of fear where you respect and are in awe of the power he commands and what he could do to you, personally, with it if you remain an unrepentant sinner. You will be to him like a daughter’s rapist would be to the father, because you hurt and are in opposition to what he loves and what is good. I know, most of us aren’t rapists. But every kind of sin is a sin against God, and all are sinners regardless of the degree of sin. We will be punished according to the degree of our sinfulness—an unrepentant murderer will be punished far worse than an unrepentant generally good person—but we are all guilty.

The question is not whether a good God will punish the unrepentant sinner. The answer is obvious when we consider the nature of justice and wrongdoing. The real question is whether you will accept the gift he gives you out of love, the promise to impart perfect righteousness upon you through your faith in the greatest sacrifice this world has ever seen.

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