Is God Angry?

Is God Angry? 

The billboard would have been hard to miss. It was strategically placed along a busy section of the Interstate. The white words popped out against a solid black background announcing, “God is not angry.” My first thought was, “Really?”

On one hand, I appreciated a creative attempt to counter the negative images of God that permeate a biblically illiterate culture with a surprising witness to God’s love and grace. The billboard wasn’t cheap. There was something downright Wesleyan about the evangelistic passion behind it. It reminded me of the way John Wesley said, “I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation.”  We United Methodists could use some of that passion.

But my second response led to some hard questions.

  • Is God the passionless “Unmoved Mover” of Aristotle’s metaphysics who looks on the world from a distance but is never engaged in or enraged by what goes on in it?
  • Are they describing the disconnected Deism of “Nature’s God” in the Declaration of Independence who sets “Nature’s Laws” in motion but does not actively intervene in them?
  • Are they affirming the weary idea that the Old Testament reveals a God of wrath while the New Testament reveals a God of love and grace? (That kind of rejection of the Old Testament was rejected as heresy in the teaching of Marcion in 140 AD.)
  • Haven’t they read the Bible?
  • Aren’t there things in this world about which we want God to be angry?

The God revealed in scripture loves this world so deeply and cares about it so passionately that God laughs at our human arrogance (Psalm 2:4), dances with us in our times of joy (Jeremiah 31:13), weeps with us beside the grave (John 11:35), cries over our inability to make peace (Luke 19:41), is angered by our acts of injustice (Luke 19:45-46) and is broken-hearted by the way we reject his love (Hosea 10:8).

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews pointed toward the passionate heart of God in saying, “Our God really is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). He was reclaiming words from the Old Testament: “The Lord your God is an all-consuming fire. He is a passionate God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24)

I take it as good news that God is not a passive observer of the injustice, suffering and pain of a sin-infected, violence-addicted world. God cares passionately about this world. God hurts with the hungry. God is angry when children are abused or neglected. God is passionate about injustice. God is broken-hearted by our rebellion and sin.

I want a God who cares enough about an unarmed Black man who is killed in Ferguson to be angry about the often subtle forms of  racial prejudice and injustice that continue to tear us part from our neighbors.

I want a God who weeps with families whose homes are destroyed and whose lives are uprooted by violence in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.

I want a God whose heart burns with the fire of infinite love for the helpless suffering of fellow Methodists in Liberia who are facing the Ebola epidemic.

I want the passionate God of the bible, not a nice, polite, convenient god who watches from a distance but is unengaged in the real, messy stuff of our messed up world.

To believe in the incarnation — that God became flesh in Jesus Christ – is to know that the infinite God has entered into the finite hurts and hopes, weakness and strength, light and the darkness, joy and the sorrow, sin and death that are a part of our lives in this broken and imperfect creation. That’s why the writer of Hebrews could say, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, The Message)  Praise God!

The challenge comes when I shout at God, “Why don’t you do something about this?”  All too often,  God answers by asking me the same question.

Where God Hangs Out in the Summer 

We’re just back from Lake Junaluska in the mountains of North Carolina, the place were Methodists believe God hangs out in the summer.  We reconnected with old friends and I had the opportunity to share in launching “A Disciple’s Path” as a congregation-wide emphasis at Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church.  I continue to be amazed by the way the Spirit is using this resource to lead people to deeper and more energetic commitment to Christ.  It continues to be Hyde Park’s gift to the whole church.

During the time away, I completed work on “A Disciple’s Heart.”  It’s the follow-up resource that will lead people to the next step in their discipleship by focusing on John Wesley’s understanding of “Christian perfection,” the process by which the Holy Spirit continues to be at work in our lives all the way to Heaven.  It will be released early next year.

Grace and peace,

Jim

 

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10 thoughts on “Is God Angry?

  1. Jim, Thank you for continuing to open our eyes and ears on the many ways God speaks and works in this broken world. Grace and peace to you and Marsha.

    Sherrie Heinz 3208 A. De Leon Street Tampa, Florida 33609 813-244-2602 By grace you have been saved through Faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

    Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:45:01 +0000 To: sherrie.heinz@live.com

  2. Thanks for this, Jim. Interesting timing as today, August 29, many churches remember the execution of John the Baptist. No doubt God and Jesus wept that day!

    Best to you and Marsha.

  3. From our broken places…..all the way to heaven we live and trust in God’s grace, love and forgiveness. Amen to this passionate article! We all need to get busy!

    >

  4. Thanks Jim for your insightful words. I continue to be helped along the pathway because of your pastor leadership of the body of Christ. We are beginning A Disciple’s Path here at Killearn on Sept. 10.

    Enjoy your time and say hello to Marsha.

  5. Thanks Jim for your insightful words. I continue to be helped along the pathway because of your pastoral leadership of the body of Christ. We are beginning A Disciple’s Path here at Killearn on Sept. 10.

    Enjoy your time and say hello to Marsha.

  6. I too believe in the passion of our God, but I have come to see that the God who warns us to live by the commandments of Jesus lest we have our house wrecked by the storms of life, is more sad than mad.

  7. Jim,

    I have so enjoyed your blogs, and especially this one.

    We have been cruising the inland waterways of France and have been on remote but beautiful canals for some time. They have reminded me of the rivers of Western North Carolina, so when you talk about Junaluska, I get homesick but have enjoyed similar scenery. My mom grew up on Wayah Mountain up Nantahalah Gorge on the Nantahalah River – now a lake – with a view of what her family called “Junalusky.”

    Now we are in a marina on the River Saone and can tap into their wifi so I have a chance to reply.

    First of all, the person receiving my mail in Tampa tells me that you wrote a thank-you for our donation to the Duke scholarship fund in your honor. We are thrilled to make such a humble contribution, and honored but not surprised that you took the time to write a personal note.

    And we hope your kidney stones have vanished! My mom suffered with those so I know it was no picnic, to say the least. Her physician recommended that she drink lots of beer to keep them from forming and cut down on anything with calcium. She may have drunk some NC mountain home brew in her time, but she couldn’t stand beer, so she downed a huge bag of Lays ruffled potato chips with each can. It seemed to have worked – she never had another stone.

    And most of all, we hope that you are enjoying this new chapter in your life and are finding it a fascinating, challenging, and grand adventure.

    We are enjoying cruising the inland waterways of France, but are now happy to be on the rivers again and out of the canal system where we cleared low bridges by 1/2″ and the sides of locks (100s of them) by about the same margin.

    Our biggest challenge remains the issue of how to we step up and help solve these horrific world problems while cruising. We pray for each village and town where we moor – that the people there will first and foremost have a closer walk with God or perhaps meet God for the first time. We pray for their health and prosperity. We found Northern France to be dead or dying in this poor economic climate. France is a mess. But the heartening part is that the churches still stand, although most were severely damaged in WWI or WWI. Many were rebuilt but are in disrepair today. Still, they have shockingly large congregations on Sunday mornings. We can pray for so many things in the world, but we want to be more active in making a difference, so we pray passionately for that guidance.

    All the best to you and Marsha and to your entire family, Mary Webb and Howard WALKER Aboard the good ship “Nomade” Auxonne, France – au bord de la River Saone

  8. Pingback: If 'GOD IS NOT ANGRY,' why is the billboard in all caps? - benyola.net

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