Posts Tagged ‘love’

It is very popular to talk about the Love of God, the Grace of God and the Mercy of God but we tend to sweep the Wrath of God under the proverbial carpet.  Is that because it doesn’t exist or we are ashamed of it or is it because it’s unpopular or just that we don’t understand it?  Well, it may well be for a mixture of reasons and although I don’t entirely understand it and will probably make a ham-fisted job of it I’m going to have a look at it now!

 

So, what is wrath?  If you look at a dictionary definition it will say something along the lines of…

strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.

vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.

 

So we can see that God’s wrath is his strong, stern and fierce anger resulting in his vengeance and punishment!  Oh, if only it was as simple as that!!!  However, this is how many people see God!  They see him as this great God sitting in heaven just waiting for us to do something wrong so that he can smite us dead!! Now the problem with this view is that, and let’s be honest about it, none of us would have made it past nursery school!  So why isn’t this the case? Well, for start God cannot always be judged by our standards. It stands to reason that God’s wrath would be different to our wrath just as God’s love and mercy are different to ours.  God’s character is flawless, He does nothing out of selfishness, pride, envy etc. Much of our anger is fuelled by our faults – this is not the case with God. God’s wrath must be seen in relation to His love, mercy and grace.

 

Within the Christian faith, therefore, there is a great tension. We have a God of love, grace and mercy but we also have a God of Wrath. Now, many people are happy to accept the God of Love, Grace and Mercy and forget about the fact that he will also show His wrath. However, can you really have one without the other? Can you really have a God who loves you but doesn’t get angry when things happen that hurt you? Can you have a God of justice who just sweeps under the carpet all wrongdoing? We cry out for justice, we want the guilty punished. Do we really want to believe in a God who is going to let all wrong-doing go un-punished and the guilty set free?  Well, of course we do, when it comes to us at least – but when it comes to others that’s a different story!!

 

Let me explain here that there is a difference between anger and wrath. Anger in many ways is an emotional, human response to a situation. Wrath on the other hand is a well thought out, carefully planned response to the wrong doing that goes on. Love, grace and mercy are part of who God is, wrath is something that is not part of God but only a response to the wrong doings of man.

 

C. S. Lewis summed up this tension we find between a God of love and a God who shows wrath by saying…

God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies

Many people find this idea of God very uncomfortable, but for me it makes much sense. You can’t have a God of love and justice without Him displaying wrath. God’s wrath is not some out of control anger that lashes out. God’s wrath is very controlled, so controlled in fact that it is restrained by His grace and mercy. As we looked at before God is not sitting there with a big grin on his face just waiting to punish any wrongdoing. We read in Ezekiel…

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?… Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.

God’s wrath had not been revealed yet as he is waiting for all to turn away and turn to Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love, grace and mercy. Jesus came to take the wrath of God away from all who believe in Him. I guess this is why it is easier for us to focus on the love, grace and mercy of God – we have been shown those attributes in human form.  We have read the prophesies and seen them come true in the person of Jesus.  However, God’s wrath is something that is still to come!

So what might this wrath be like!! The Bible gives us quite a good idea, and it’s not good! Zephaniah tells us that…

The great day of the Lord is near–near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter… That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish

Revelations tells us…

 

Out of his mouth there comes a sharp sword with which to strike the nations… He will tread the winepress of the furious wrath of God the Almighty

John explains that we will all undergo God’s judgement but only those not covered by Jesus’ saving power will experience God’s wrath…

 

Whoever puts his faith in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see that life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

And Nahum adds…

 

The Lord is a jealous God and avenging, the Lord avenges and He is full of wrath; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and reserves wrath for his enemies.

In Romans we also read that…

 

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–even us, whom he also called…

And

 

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you…

Just to press home the point in Thessalonians we read …

 

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

So, God’s wrath is something to be feared. It is real and it is coming. However, for those who believe and accept Christ as Lord there is nothing to worry about. God protects those whose heart is set on Him. God keeps His great wrath in check in order to show His glory through His great mercy! To me that is quite amazing!

What about Homosexuality?

Posted: June 29, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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Now here’s a subject not many people are brave enough to tackle. Not sure whether I’m brave enough or just stupid enough? Let me say from the outset that whatever I say on the subject there will be other Christians (even good friends of mine) who are bound to disagree with me. That’s OK! I’d like to say that the whole homosexual issue is very clear cut, very black and white – but unfortunately that is simply not true – there is so much grey – which is why it is such a difficult subject to tackle. So, let me start with what I do know.

God loves homosexuals. No matter what impression individual Christians give or what whole churches say – God unconditionally loves homosexuals. He loves those who refrain from sexual acts and those that partake. To go one step further if someone truly follows the teaching of Jesus they too will love anyone who is a homosexual, practising as well as non practising. I’d like to think that this is always the case and that the church has been very much misunderstood, but I know that this is simply not true. Christians all over the world have misinterpreted, misunderstood and completely gone against the teachings of the Bible, following their own agendas and using the Bible to try and justify their sinful words and actions. As Christians (as a whole) we get things massively wrong. We judge, we condemn, we hate, we sin and we are no better than anyone else. We let the passion that we have regarding our faith spill out in the wrong ways. We are, in many respects, human first and Christian second. We let our human emotions rule and things become twisted. So when it comes to the issue of homosexuality we see it as not being God’s ideal and end up giving the impression that God hates homosexuals. Fact: this is simply not the case!! God has many ideals, ideals that we as Christians fail to live up to every single day!

I can only give my opinion of what I believe that the Bible teaches and how we should live out that teaching in our lives. My understanding of the subject is open to change. If you disagree with what I say I don’t believe that that puts us at odds with each other. Each of us are on our own journey towards understanding and truth. I am always willing to learn from others and am hopefully open minded to the points of view of others. I urge you therefore to bear with me and dialogue with me instead of becoming annoyed or angry.

It is my experience that the major influence on a Christian’s theology of homosexuality is people they know well who are gay. It seems to me that a Christian who has a relative or close friend who practices homosexual acts is prone to change their theology to make sense of that relationship. Not many Christians would like to think of their child or sibling living a lifestyle contrary to that which God would desire. Therefore many Christians seem to change their theology to make things simpler, less awkward, less contradictory. It is very easily done, after all we live in an age where tolerance is at an all time high, belief is sidelined and everything is OK as long as it doesn’t impinge on someone else. However, does the church now believe that homosexual relations are OK in the sight of God or are Christians just falling in line behind a societal shift of homosexual acceptance? I believe it is the latter? I believe that the teaching of the Bible in not only what it says about homosexuality (not too much actually), but also its emphasis on family, marriage before God and man/woman relationships remains the same. Now I do believe that the church has gotten things wrong for hundreds of years in the way it has treated homosexuals. In my mind and I believe in God’s mind to, sin is sin. Why the church decided to single out the homosexual issue for more condemnation than any other sin is beyond me. I am as sinful as the next man. You are as sinful as me and I am as sinful as you. When it comes to sin, in God’s eyes we are all as sinful as each other.

So should a church welcome practising homosexuals? Of course they should! Should the church condemn homosexuals? Of course not? My view in a nutshell is this. I welcome homosexuals to my church, I love them and support them. However, if they were to ask me what they could do to draw nearer to God they wouldn’t like what they hear. I do believe that the practise of homosexuality is not what God would want for a person. I know of many people who would vehemently disagree and that is fine. I also believe though that the most important thing in the world to God is a person’s relationship with Him. I believe God would prefer someone to be a practising Christian and a practising homosexual than someone with homosexual tendencies to abstain from sex and not be a Christian. Practising homosexuals should be warmly welcomed into our churches. They are deeply loved by God and should be deeply loved by us as well. In my life I have been friends with a whole range of Christian and non-Christian people with homosexual tendencies. Of those who were Christians some having been practising, some celibate and some have pursued a heterosexual life. I hope that I have treated them all the same. When asked I have made my views clear, but I hope I have shown them that I love them whatever they do. It is easy to love and support those that agree with us and heed our advice, but we need to love people whatever! We are not here to judge, we are here to love, encourage, support, care and witness.”

Now, I know I’ve opened up a whole can of worms here, but I look forward to hearing from you. I know people will have differing opinions and as I said before that is fine, however please can we keep any discussions civil, polite and let’s understand that we are all coming from different backgrounds with different struggles and and are all on differing journeys. I will not remove differing opinions but I reserve the right to remove posts that I feel may be intended to be hurtful. That said, debate away!!!

What About Suffering?

Posted: May 4, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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People ask about suffering all the time. How can a God of love, a God who cares allow people to suffer? Either God doesn’t care and therefore allows suffering or God is not all powerful and therefore can’t do anything about it. I believe there is a third way!! Now, before we get too far into this let’s remember that people have been struggling with this question for thousands of years. So, let’s face it, no answer that I come up with is going to satisfy you. You’re not suddenly going to discover the complete answer and tick the box having dealt with the problem of suffering. However, hopefully I can give you a few things to think about.

When I consider suffering I look at it in three ways…

1. Suffering isn’t all bad.

OK it’s easy for me, who is not in pain, to say that. However, I believe it’s true in two areas. Firstly suffering can bring out the best in people, you refine who you are through suffering, it brings you to a better understanding of the human experience, it helps you understand others better, it is a major learning process and on a spiritual level it helps us to identify with the sufferings of Christ (not that I claim to really understand that – answers on a postcard please!).

Secondly, some areas of suffering are preserving and informing. When I lay my hand on the fully on hotplate and I experience suffering it informs me to remove my hand. When I fall and break something it is the suffering that tells me to go and get it treated. So, suffering plays a part in preserving our lives by informing us of potential dangers. The sufferings of others, for example hunger or war, informs us that all is not right with our world. It reminds us of our greed and our anger and our selfishness.

2. Would we allow it?

If you are, or were, a parent would you allow your child to play football? I’m assuming the vast majority of people would say yes. Does that make you a bad parent ? I imagine the vast majority of parents would answer resolutely NO! So as a parent you are happy for, if not encouraging, your child to participate in an activity that may cause him fairly serious injury? A sport where broken bones are not unheard of. Where dead legs, bruised arms, pulled muscles, strains, cuts and concussion are commonplace. An activity where not only they may get hurt they may also cause serious hurt to others. Yet with all that considered we would still say that as parents we are happy for our children to participate in it and hundreds of similar, if not more dangerous, activities. We even allow our children to partake in things that could result in major injury or death. For we know that with enjoyment comes risk and with some risk comes enjoyment. We can’t let our children live a full life without exposing them to some suffering. We would of course prefer them not to suffer but we understand the risk. We can’t smother our kids in cotton wool, after all they may choke on it!!

3. What causes suffering?

Well, in short, our wrongdoing!! Suffering is a result of men and women doing wrong things, making wrong choices or making mistakes. Our wrongdoings cause suffering to ourselves and others. Some of this is plain to see. If my anger overspills and I punch you the result of my wrongdoing is your blooded nose. However, that is just one side to it, the seen result of my wrongdoing. What is not seen usually has more far reaching consequences. The bloody nose that we can see may hide a broken bone or other internal injuries. You may have suffered a twist in your neck. In hitting you I may have strained a muscle or broken my hand. There is the fear I may have instilled in you or others that hear about my actions. There is the guilt that I may feel and your bitterness, hatred or a struggle with forgiveness. There’s the breakdown in relationship between us and so it goes on. The bloody nose is the observable, immediate consequence but the unseen ripples, perhaps, cause more suffering. So it is with much of people’s wrongdoing. The consequences of our actions ripple underneath the surface in the created seen world and the spiritual realm. We don’t know how it works but we understand that our wrongdoings cause suffering, directly and indirectly. The ripple from our actions continue to grow and have effects on those throughout this world. When Adam and Eve committed the very first act of wrongdoing something in the natural world broke as well. Man’s wrongdoing had a huge effect on the created world and our continuing sin now also has a huge effect.

Much of the suffering we see in the world today is a direct consequence of the wrongdoing of others. The hunger we see in the world is due to greed and selfishness of those that have plenty. There is more than enough food to go around, but billions of us choose to have far more of our fair share. God, in giving us freewill, in not creating us as robots, allows this. It doesn’t mean He likes the wrong doings that we do but just as we allow our children to make their own decisions so does God allow us to make our own choices and inevitably our own mistakes.

So, when we ask of God why he allows suffering we can also ask ourselves the very same question. In fact we not only allow suffering we are the cause of suffering. In some ways we need to take more responsibility for our actions. It is easy to point the finger at God when in reality it us us as individuals, communities, counties and indeed as a world who cause suffering and have the power to stop so much of it. Wars, famine, floods, deforestation, loneliness, alienation, racism, abuse, pollution, murder, rape, fear and the list goes on, are all man-made sufferings that we have the power to stop.

So, as you can see it’s nowhere near a complete answer but hopefully it may help us see that there is a third way. I believe in a God that does care and is all-powerful. However, I also believe in a God who allows in His wisdom that which he could prevent by His power.

Many people are happy with their lives. They may like to change one or two things but on the whole they are content with their lot. They have their routines and they like them it gives them security and structure to their lives. They know they are not perfect but they’ve never killed anyone and anyway they like their little forays into the world of doing wrong. It can be exciting, freeing and helps them to fit in to a world where, let’s face it, nobody is perfect. We’re not talking major crimes here just the odd time of drinking a little too much, the late night puff of weed, the bit of bitchiness at the school gate or flirting just a little too much at the office party – you know the kind of thing. These things can be fun, no-one gets hurt and they add a little bit of vitality to life. Why should they change? In fact they don’t want to change? However, if they became a Christian they would have to change!! Become all straight laced and high and mighty! They would have to change the things in their lives that they like doing and that is just not going to happen!! They may believe there is a God; they may even believe in Jesus and what he taught; they may even go to church once in a blue moon; but diving headlong into this thing they call Christianity? No! Too much would have to change.

 

But now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Many people are unhappy with their lives. Life has not been good to them. Perhaps that late night puff of weed developed into a full blown addiction and not just to weed but to much harder drugs. Perhaps in the struggle to make ends meet they felt like they had no option but to turn to crime. They might be trapped by all sorts of other addictions that have such a grip on their lives that the idea of change just can’t be comprehended. Their lives started on a slippery slope and the downward spiral has taken them to a place of seemingly no return. It seems to them that it would be impossible to change and become a Christian. They simply wouldn’t be able to. It would take too much and they don’t even have anything. Again too much would have to change and this time it’s not that they don;t want to it’s just that they don’t believe that they can!

 

Now, of course, none of this applies to us, because our lives are perfect! We are all sorted – we never do anything wrong – we have no addictions – we are happy all the time – our lives need no extra excitement – we are the all singing all dancing perfect person. We come from a perfect family and we have a perfect family. In fact we have no need whatsoever to change because we have it all! It’s about now that I wake up, the dream is over, the bubble has burst and I come well and truly back to reality!! When it comes to being perfect we are all in the same boat!! Some of us might like think that we’re in the first class cabins and some of us may feel we’ve stowed away and don’t even deserve to be there – but let’s face it when the boat goes down we’re all in the water. When it come to being perfect we are all a long way off. Whether someone has been a Christian for 70 years or one day – whether they’re from middle class respectability or gang culture – whether they have a criminal record as long as your arm or none whatsoever they all need to change. We all need to change.

 

Now, nobody likes change. It is seen as unsettling, awkward, a hassle, difficult, uncomfortable, abnormal, you name it, it never seems good. Change is big business. People are paid big bucks to “manage” change. However, let’s not blow “change” out of proportion. We change and adapt every hour we’re awake. It really is no big deal. When we first fell in love did we focus on the changes that we may have had to make? When we got rid of our old banger and bought a brand new car did we constantly bemoan the fact that lots of things were different? When we moved out of the slum and into a house did the change seem bad then? How we look at change depends on how we cope with change. Do we look at all the negatives or do we focus on the positives? When we go on holiday do we look at the hassle of packing, the nervousness of getting a plane, the uncomfortableness of the first night in a new bed, the pain of having to put on suntan lotion, the removal of sand from between our toes after a swim in the sea etc. etc. No we look at all the wonderful aspects of the holiday – the fresh air, time with family, the sun on our skin, the beauty around us, the wonderful food, the cultural spectaculars, the rest if gives us, the places of interest, the break from work and the list could go on and on. When it comes to Christianity the benefits far outweigh the changes that need to be made. More than that – in Christ we have the greatest manager of change that there ever has been. Why? Because Jesus loves you just the way you are! You don’t have to change to merit his love. It is 100% unconditional! Even though we might detest God, hold things against Him, curse Him – he still loves us! Now, that doesn’t mean that he wants us to stay that way. He wants the best for us – just as we want the best for our children, family, friends. Do we want those who we love to do things that hurt us, no! Do we stop loving them until they stop doing things that hurt us, no! The same is true with God. I love this phrase that holds a lot of truth – “There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing that we can do that can make God love us less.” God’s love for us is constant – never changing – unconditional. He accepts us exactly as we are.

 

When you start a relationship with someone they love you for who you are. In many ways there is no need for you to change your ways, your habits or your activities. However, in time the likelihood is that you will want to change. You will find out more about each other, what each other likes and dislikes. You will want to spend more time with each other – so you’ll willingly give up that Monday evening art class to spend the time with each other. You may discover that your smoking sets off their asthma and will see that as a great incentive to give up. All the freedoms you enjoyed as a single person suddenly don’t seem so important any more and you’ll gladly give them up. The same is true with becoming a Christian. God will not force you to change in any way at all. However, it is likely that you will find, as you get to know Him more, that you will want to change. You will see some things in your life as more important and some things as less. Jesus will only help you change your life for the better, on your terms, at your pace, on your say so. Let’s face it there aren’t many people who give up smoking and wish they hadn’t or kicked an addiction and long to go back to it. All change with Christianity is change for the good – no pressure – no arm twisting – and also no regrets.

 

Change doesn’t have to be bad, daunting and difficult. If it is managed well it can be freeing, liberating, exhilarating, life enhancing, fulfilling and affirming. Don’t let anyone look down on you because they think they’re in first class and you’re in cattle class – remind them we’re all in the same boat and that Jesus loves us all, just the way we are!! Then gently remind them that Jesus doesn’t necessarily want them to remain that way!!