The idea of God’s anger or wrath is sure to pop up in religious news and social media circles every time our nation or the world faces a tragedy, natural disaster or violent attack. Invariably, someone will attribute the destruction and pain to God’s anger with some subsection of humanity, or indeed humanity as a whole.
Questions about God’s anger in such a context seems very large. God’s frustration with sin—His divine justice against evil—and His compassion toward humanity have been the matter of debate for centuries. The Bible is clear that God cannot be in the presence of sin.
But how can He be in the presence of the sinner?
When it comes to God’s relationship with us as individuals, whether or not we’ve angered Him seems very personal. Can we know whether we’ve upset Him? Are we at risk of hurting or offending God so badly that He will respond in anger?
Such concerns are grounded in our fundamental concept of God, making them difficult to change. However, the Bible is clear: in Christ, God’s anger is not directed at us individually for any wrong we may have committed.
1. Is God mad at you? No. God is empty of anger toward you.
Yes, God hates sin. In fact, the Psalmist says that God feels indignation and righteous judgment “every day” (Psalm 7:11). But Romans 1:18 makes it clear that God’s wrath is reserved for sin itself, revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” He detests sin, but he does not detest sinners.
This is a critical distinction to make, because if God’s anger was toward us as individuals, we would be powerless to overcome it. Our sinful nature persists, even if we accept Christ’s mercy, and no matter how much we strive for righteousness in life, we’re always going to miss the mark.
Thankfully, God’s gift to fallible humans comes to us through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. When God became human in the form of His son, He emptied Himself of anger. In other words, there’s no anger left somewhere on reserve for Him to take out on us when we disobey.
That’s right. God is never angry with you.
2. God’s memory of sin is mercifully brief.
Most Christians have been taught from an early age that God’s love for the world is offered in salvation through Jesus Christ. What gets obfuscated at times is how His righteousness operates. Brennan Manning once told a tale of a priest who asked an alleged Christian mystic to prove her intimate connection with Christ by asking the details of his last confession. She responded to him some weeks later that she heard back from Jesus, and His words were “I don’t remember.”
This may only be an anecdote, but it illustrates truthfully how God chooses to deal with sin in our lives. It isn’t by punishing us. Rather, it’s by forgiving us of any last vestige of our sins, past, present and future. When we seek God’s forgiveness in Christ, we’re cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Not just some.
Therefore, it’s not just that God withholds judgment of us. He willingly gives up his right to judge on the basis of our sins, or to even recall our instances of injustice. When we accept God’s gift of salvation, our sins are “nailed…to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
3. We must not confuse natural consequences with God’s anger.
In Romans 2, Paul reminds us that “there will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil.” These consequences are not divine punishment from God for having wronged Him or acted against His will. Rather, they’re natural effects of our actions and decisions. While divine punishment is withheld—now and forever—neither do we have an excuse to continue in sin and expect to get away with it. Saint Paul asks in his letter to the Romans whether we should continue sinning in order to see the profound effects of God’s grace over and over (Romans 6:1-2). The question, of course, is rhetorical. He exclaims, “By no means!”
But these consequences aren’t meted out by God like some sort of cosmic scorekeeper when our sins reach a certain number or magnitude. When God allows for us to get caught in sin, He is simply not shielding us from correction and reproach, which allow us to re-enter into a clear and honest relationship with Him.
The medieval concept of God reigning destruction and terror over us is one that’s far removed from God’s character, which is always marked by love, mercy and grace toward us, and never with anger or malice. Through His son’s victory over death, we are marked (and treated) as God views us—sinless.
By Brandon W. Peach for LightWorkers. Lightworkers’ mission is to create engaging, uplifting and inspirational content that breaks through the clutter, building a community of sharing and igniting a movement in the real world that motivates people to celebrate and share the good all around them.