I’ve sensed God’s anger. And it’s one of the most empowering, refreshing, encouraging parts of my recent walk with God. It means He cares, and is doing something about it. This is a profound difference from how most people usually think of God’s “wrath.” But to get this, it’s important to understand what makes God angry. And it’s not what you think.
Anger is not the opposite of love; apathy is. Anger is really looking at love from another vantage point. Without anger, love isn’t really love.
Think of something really important to you, perhaps your car, or your home, or your collection of family photos. How do you feel when it’s threatened, or harmed? What would you do if someone keyed your car, or set fire to your home, or dumped your photos in the drainage ditch?
You feel angry when someone threatens those things because of how important they are to you. You can tell what someone really cares about by what makes them angry. And that’s why God’s anger is such wonderful news. It’s a measure of what’s immeasurably important to Him. And here’s what God cares about so much that He gets angry when it’s threatened or harmed:
God hates what harms His children.
He’s not up in heaven looking for some way to “punish” you. He’s not coming up with lists of do’s and don’ts just to mess with you. He created you. He knows what makes you thrive and what withers you, what brings you life and what brings you death. And He’s all about bringing you life. (John 10:10)
Read the prophets in the Old Testament. God’s anger was greatest against the oppression His people suffered, even when that oppression was perpetrated by their own leaders. And that anger stirred God to act. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.” (Isaiah 59:16)
When spiritual leaders exploited and violated people, their religious rituals became nothing more than a stench. “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)
Jesus Himself became angry when He saw the temple leaders abusing their power. They had developed elaborate ways to exploit the poor people who traveled from a distance to worship God, charging exorbitant prices for “temple-approved” sacrificial animals, and inflated rates to exchange foreign currency for coins to pay the temple tax. So Jesus drove them out. (John 2:14-15)
And God is still as angry at what harms His children today, especially when people use His name in harming others.
Things that Make God Angry Today
Some people think God is angry today because He’s selfish, and just wants people to do things His way. But that does not accurately describe the truth.
For example, God hates divorce not because it offends some heavenly sense of propriety, but because it hurts His children. Always! Sometimes divorce is the less painful among options in our sinful world, but it always causes pain. That’s why He hates it.
The enemy has taken God’s good gift of sex/sexual intimacy and twisted it to bring destruction, oppression, addiction, and shame. That’s why God is so against sexual abuse/harassment, pornography, sexual behavior other than between husband and wife, or sexual exploitation even within marriage. Those distortions of sex bring death. And that’s why He feels so strongly about it.
The abuse of power, especially by those with spiritual authority, makes God angry. When a church system leverages volunteers to the point of exhaustion, God is not pleased. When a religious leader uses his/her position to extort financial or sexual favors, it makes God angry. Or when dysfunctional systems excuse or cover up the sins of certain people while making it unsafe for those being harmed to speak up, God’s displeasure is aroused.
Wielding Scripture as a weapon is no excuse for bad behavior. And we are right to be upset by what makes God upset.
What We Are Called To
Some have taken these Biblical truths and distorted even this. This is NOT a social gospel. It’s NOT liberation theology, or radical feminism, or any similar variation of how evil has hijacked even this part of God’s heart.
But for those of us who follow Jesus we must take this seriously.
If you have been harmed in the name of God, feel how deeply God weeps for you. Feel His gentle invitation to healing, and how He fights for you. Be gentle with yourself. Realize the god you believed in may well not be the true God; it’s OK to start fresh. You have agency. You are a child of the King!
If you have been part of harming others, know that only God can bring you the heart transformation you need if you are ever to be set right. You may have been harmed yourself in the past. Fall on your face before Him. Your only chance is to commit unreservedly to deep heart-wrenching radical change that may take years. But there is no other way.
For all of us, remember that by speaking the truth and fighting for those who have been harmed we are doing God’s work. We must be His hands, feet, and voice. We must hate what God hates. And we must feel His heart, and care about what He cares about.
My heart is stirred to step up in a larger way, helping those who have been harmed and refusing to be silent when harm is going on. I hope you feel the same.
And if you have been harmed, my heart bleeds for you. And I’d be honored to hear from you.
Your Turn: Can you sense God’s anger at what harms His children? What role do you see yourself playing in this story? Leave a comment below.
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- What makes God angry is not some slight against His authority. God’s love means He is angry when He Beloved is threatened or harmed. And that means He’s angry when YOU are harmed. Tweet that.
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