Having been married to my wife Diann for over 50 years, we know each other quite well. One of the aspects of our long-term, close relationship is that, on occasion, we’ve been angry with each other. I know, the expression of anger is not something that quickly comes to mind when we think of love, but it is.
In fact, it could be argued that you really don’t know someone very well and aren’t very close to them until there’s been anger expressed at some time. It’s true for all relationships in this fallen, broken world where everyone is a fallen, broken person. Appropriate anger is a part of any healthy, long-term relationship.
Take parenting as an example. Can parents be good to their children and also be angry at their children? Well, of course they can! When children do what’s wrong it’s good and right for the parents to be angry with them. If a parent was never angry at what the child does the child would be a very spoiled child!
Anger being a part of any healthy, close relationship means that God’s relationship with us, His people, also will include this element of anger. Hear me out on this. Our tendency is to buy into the popular view of God where this side of God is ignored, that God is like a gray-haired, kindly grandfatherly-type being who overlooks the grandchild’s misbehavior. Actually, I’m one of those gray-haired, kindly grandfathers, but I also get angry sometimes with my grandchildren when they misbehave!
So, yes, God, who is perfect in all ways, including being perfectly good, also expresses wrath at that which isn’t good and perfect! The psalmist declared, “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.” (Psalm 7:11) Anyone who ignores the wrathful side of God has not looked seriously at the Biblical text. References to His wrath abound.
I know, some of you have been raised with way too much emphasis on God being wrathful, or have had a church experience where God’s anger was the main focus and drove you from Him. This is, of course, wrong! What you need, if you have been spiritually wounded in this way, is generous input on God’s forgiveness and love to counterbalance the imbalance. In the end, however, there needs to be a comprehensive understanding and experience of all of God’s attributes, and that includes His wrath.
To put it all in perspective it’s important to realize that God’s anger toward us and our sinful nature and behavior is balanced by His love for us. Actually, it’s an anger generated out of a deep love for us. He’s angry at what keeps us from being the people He wants us to be (which is the best of what we can be) and from being close to Him.
The good news that the Christian faith proclaims is that we can be forgiven by God through the amazing action of Jesus, the Son of God, as our savior. Of course, as a forgiven and saved follower of Jesus I still sin. The sobering truth I need to recognize is that this angers God. He’s angry that I would think, say, or do that which is against Him and His perfect will for me.
I seek to do what pleases my wife primarily because I love her, but, in all honesty, sometimes the extra motivation that I don’t want to make her angry is helpful. The same is true with my relationship with God. I want to conform my life to God’s will for me primarily out of the motivation of His love for me and my love for Him, but sometimes it helps to have the extra motivation that I don’t want to make Him angry!
Embracing an accurate, multi-dimensional view of God means recognizing the healthy place for His anger in a relationship with us, and this prompts us to rejoice even more in his goodness and forgiveness!
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime…” (Psalm 30:5)