Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Wrath of God

How should a Christian handle the subject of the wrath of God? How should we view it, even in light of the cross? Pastor Peterson on his blog site CyberStones has posted a sermon he preached at Kramer Chapel in Ft. Wayne on the Lenten text from Luke 13:1-9. It is entitled "A Little Lenten Vinegar." In this sermon he addresses the role of the wrath of God and its connection to natural disasters and other tragedies. I agree with his assessment that one should always view such events as salutary warnings not to take for granted the grace of God, but to live a life of ongoing repentance, as Christ encourages. Our Lord, in the text from Luke 13 does not address the place of God's wrath in the tragedies of the Pilate massacre or the Siloam tower collapse. He simply calls on his hearers to repent, lest they perish, and in their case eternally. But again, how should we view these catastrophes in light of God's wrath?

Pastor Peterson makes an interesting note on the response many Christian chaplains have in the light of natural catastrophes when he writes:

"This is why the world's chaplains are so worthless. A hurricane strikes decadent New Orleans and everyone races to say that God had nothing to do with it, that of all the things that God might ever be or do, and to which ever name He might answer, He could never be angry with us because of sin, that wouldn't be nice. There can never be any consequences and everyone who dies must go to heaven just because he died and that is what all decent dead people do."

I will admit that this is an area that I struggle with. The effects of sin are still with us, that cannot be denied. We know that all suffering and death itself is a result of sin. The wrath of God, such as it detests sin and every evil, certainly is not silent. But how do we interpret it? Or should we? To what degree can we see it in the disasters of this life?

Obviously not all who die go to heaven. Some chose not to believe and thereby face the unveiled wrath of God on their own. This is the justice of God. But when we talk about God's anger against sin, we usually talk also of that wrath being vented against his own Son on the cross.

Thus, do we interpret the wrath of God in this world against sin in terms of Romans 1, where God often allows the unbeliever to suffer the consequence of his own willing rejection? And as for the Christian - is our suffering in this world both a warning that we fall not into their sin of unbelief and that we heed his call always to repent that we not perish? It would seem that this is a good approach. Going further than this could be complicated.

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