This morning I was listening to a podcast from Liquid Church (in New Jersey, USA). It was the first in their 'iGod' sermon series from a couple of months ago. One of the main passages that was quoted in this sermon was Romans 1.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
I have heard this passage preached upon before. I have read it several times. And yet I saw something new in there today.
How is the wrath of God revealed?
You see, I come to this passage with a preconceived picture of what 'wrath' means. It involves anger, it suggests violence, it certainly implies punishment. But that is the wrath of man, not the wrath of God! We can't see what any characteristic of God is like unless he reveals it to us. His love is different from our love, his kindness is different from our kindness, his mercy is different from our mercy and his wrath is different from our wrath. We cannot know anything about his wrath unless it is revealed to us.And how is this wrath revealed?
With anger? No. With violence? No. Smiting? Nope. Destruction? No. Punishment? No.
God reveals his wrath by withdrawing himself from people and giving them over to do what they want to do. That is the wrath of God. That is so unlike our wrath that I'm actually surprised that the concept is translated using the same word.
God's wrath is the loving Father regretfully turning his back and saying 'well, if that's the way you want to live, I'm not going to stop you...'