Friday 23 August 2013

Love and Death

There's been a bit of a spat in the Church Times lately about the words of one of my favourite hymns. In Christ Alone contains the following lines:

Till on that cross, as Jesus died,
the wrath of God was satisfied...

A lot of people want to change it to "The love of God was satisfied." They are very uncomfortable with the idea of God being angry and even label it "bad theology."

But what kind of love is it that never gets angry? Does God not get angry when chemical weapons are launched on innocent children? When loan companies destroy desperate families through loans at one thousand percent interest, if not even more? When wicked men groom vulnerable girls for exploitation? When half the world starves while a small minority wonders which Ferrari to take out for a spin today?

If these things don't make God's blood boil, how can He be a God of love in any sense that is meaningful to us? In what way does He love His children if He feels no anger about the bullying, persecution and injustice heaped on them? What sort of namby-pamby love would stand by unmoved and unconcerned while watching people being abused and humiliated? And how can the atonement won for us at such great cost on the cross possibly reconcile anything to anybody if it fails to deal with the deep offence that people give to his love?

The critics are right about one thing: it certainly is uncomfortable. Suppose God is angry - not because He doesn't love enough, but because we don't. It was our hardness of heart that got Jesus roused - see Mark 3 v.5 - our ability to be blithely unconcerned with the needs and sufferings of others. It wasn't because He didn't love enough, but because love turned out to be far deeper and fiercer than we thought.

So give thanks that there is a way out. God's anger and love do meet on the cross - and make way for us to enter into that fiercer, deeper love forever.


Benta AtSLIKstitches said...

I guess at first glance the wrath could seem to be aimed at Jesus, and he did nothing wrong, which gives an image that could be out of an NSPCC advert

Anonymous said...

The trouble is, a lot of people (and probably a party of all of us) want it to be comfortable. It seems to be an idea that is very raw and hard to understand. So much so that a slight change of wording makes all the difference. Compare "God was so angry with us that he had his own son tortured and killed" to "God loves us so much that he sacrificed his own son for our sake".

When I consider our Lord's fate and that it was done because of my imperfection, or to save me from similar, I am moved to tears. The fact that Jesus had done no wrong, and his love was repaid in this way just pushes me over the edge. Trying to understand it rationally is impossible.