Love is probably one of the most used and sometimes misapplied word in our language.
The same is true when we think of the word love in relationship to God.
Depending on which version of the Bible you read the use of the word love ranges from 83 times to 613.
All versions however agree that John 3:16, is love in action, God stepping into human history to provide the solution to our problem in the form of His Son.
The apostle Paul writing in Romans 1 tells us this
” For I am not the least bit embarrassed about the gospel. I won’t shy away from it, because it is God’s power to save every person who believes: first the Jew, and then the non-Jew. You see, in the good news, God’s restorative justice is revealed.” Romans 1:16-17
Then we read the words that follow:
For the wrath of God is breaking through from heaven, opposing all manifestations of ungodliness and wickedness by the people who do wrong to keep God’s truth in check. Romans 1:18
We readily accept God’s demonstration of love in John 3:16 a Father giving His Son who will die a horrible death, to rescue those who are without hope. The apostle Paul writing in Romans 1 presents a non-discriminating God who invites all to come regardless of their sin, their social station, nationality, or race. The only qualification is to believe John 3:16. But it is difficult to see love in God who admittedly is pouring out wrath on the the very ones His Son died for.
At Christmas we are drawn to God who loves, through the baby in the manger, yet we also see the violence and wrath surrounding the event.
The oppression of the Romans and a census designed to collect more taxes, that drew Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Fulfilling a prophecy by Micah over 400 years before.
Herod who in his desire to destroy this little one, the King revealed to the wise men, sends out the order to kill every baby boy two years of age or younger.
So how do we reconcile God who loves but allows terrible things to happen?
A God of love, a God of wrath?
We can find part of the answer in the parable told by Jesus of the Prodigal.
A friend and I were recently discussing how to navigate the difficulty in dealing with their own prodigal. How far to go in helping them, what they should or should not do. If you have experienced this with a child you know how difficult this can be
My friend said “the father of the prodigal knew where his son was, it probably wasn’t far away. But he didn’t go get him. It is so hard to not run to their rescue, try to pull them out of the situation they are in.”
Some would say “I hope they learn their lesson, serves them right, they shouldn’t have left. No one to blame but themselves. They made their bed let them sleep in it”.It is easy to say all of these things when it is someone else.
But not your child.
When it is someone you love, your child, it is not that easy.
God has many children and loves them all, and thankfully He doesn’t think the way we do.
Sometimes though it feels like He has left us in our mess.
This year we have witnessed terrible human suffering and tragedy here and all over the world. And being honest I feel sometimes God is not involved. That maybe He has left us on our own.
But in my rational moments, when I can think beyond the emotion, I know that is not true.
I have no doubt that it causes Him pain when He watches all the prodigals over the centuries choose a distant land far from Him.
The Bible tells us this is so
“I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. Proverbs 1:24
” I have longed to gather your children the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you refuse to be gathered. Surely you can see that God has already removed His blessing from the house of Israel.”
In all that God endured with a people He blessed, but soon forgot all He had done time after time, His love for them never changed.
And it hasn’t for us
God had a plan all along.
Romans 1 helps us to see that the loving God and the wrathful God are the same.
The following is from The Voice commentary Romans 1
Paul sounds a sober warning. God’s wrath is here; it is not some far-off future event. Paul says that God’s wrath is already at work in the world in what is effectively God’s “hands-off” policy. God, he says, steps aside and gives us over to idolatry, sexual sins, and depraved minds. Human sin and depravity are both its cause and effect. You see, we are not only punished for our sins, but we are punished by our sins. If God’s salvation consists essentially of His presence with us, then His wrath consists of His absence or separation from us. The bad news is this: God’s wrath is real. Without the good news of Jesus, no hope exists.
God’s wrath is real and for those who choose to refuse His offer of forgiveness, choose to continue in sin will be punished not just by their sin but for their sin.
The absence of God and His separation from the world is designed to show us He is missing from it.
Love in disguise.
And we are not without Jesus
The way has been made for all of us who are in the distant land blinded by sin, and the deceitfulness and desires of this world to return to the Father.
Sometimes we have to experience the wrath of lack, and pain and suffering to find it.The father could have gone and brought the prodigal back but he had to return on his own, an act of his will. And so do we.
God who wants nothing more than our heart is willing to welcome us back.
Home where we belong, where we find grace and forgiveness
The good news of the Christmas season is the love expressed through the birth of His Son over 2000 years ago,the wrath of God satisfied through the Cross.
Hope, peace and joy and love for all who believe.
No matter how far you may have traveled there is a way back, and a Father who is waiting.