If darkness is the absence of light and death is the absence of life, what if wrath is the absence of lovingkindness? What if wrath is not necessarily anger and punishment?
What if wrath means being brokenhearted, consuming passion, feeling deeply betrayed, or consuming grief (keseph, charah, chemah and aneph in the Hebrew respectively)? Suppose it is human beings that regard the word wrath in terms of anger and punishment and not God?
One of the many lessons I learned in counseling over the years was that anger is a “hard” emotion that covers the “softer” emotions. We get angry for many reasons, but that anger—a superficial reaction—is a cover for other vulnerable and deeper responses.
If God is love as the Bible says He is,
“Beloved friends, let us love one another; because love is from God; and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows God. Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love.” 1 John 4: 7-8
. . . then would not this alternative perspective make God’s lovingkindness clear and obvious? Would it not give a more accurate picture of God as a loving parent as pictured in the parable of the prodigal son or a lover as portrayed in the Song of Solomon or a husband as depicted in Hosea?
“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion.” Hosea 2:19
We are the ones who ran away from home, broke the engagement while running after another lover and divorced ourselves from Him. Adam and Eve chose to believe The Lie—that God’s perfect love was not true; that Atonement (at-one-ment) in Life was an illusion. We traded truth for deception. We chose to believe we were separate from God. We determined to turn away from Light and Life.
Imagine that the mocking, beatings and whippings Christ endured was not God’s anger, but my own, your own, our own anger that we inflicted on Him due to our erroneous beliefs, our mistakes, our missing the mark?
What if Christ’s crucifixion was not a punishment of our sin, but rather evidence of the deprivation of Love? What if the animal sacrificial system of the Old Testament was not about satisfying God’s wrath, but about illustrating there is no separation in an impermanent way—pointing to the permanent way?
Could the crucifixion and resurrection be God sacrificing Himself—His expression of what separateness from Him truly looks like and in His resurrection revealing we are not separate at all?
“As you gaze upon the crucified Christ, the great turnaround happens – it’s not we who have to spill blood to get to God, we have God spilling blood to get to us.” Richard Rohr
What about “spare the rod and spoil the child” as an example of God’s anger? What if our viewpoint was instead “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me?” What if the rod is not used to punish but to protect? The Shepherd used his rod to safeguard the sheep from their enemies and to gently nudge those in his charge in the right direction.
What about “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,” the seeming warring God of the Old Testament, the doom and gloom prophecies of the books of Daniel and Revelation?
Rather than a punitive God, could those teachings possibly point to the picture of God as a parent taking a stance of “tough love?” The parent uses the seeming absence of his or her guidance and love to draw attention to the perils of the child’s choices.
Likewise, God, paradoxically uses the absence of Light to illuminate just how dark is separation from Life, revealing the truth of at-one-ment.
What if we stop beating others over the head with an angry God and truly loved as Jesus taught us to love?
“Here is how love has been brought to maturity with us: as the Messiah is, so are we in the world. This gives us confidence for the Day of Judgment. There is no fear in love. On the contrary, love that has achieved its goal gets rid of fear, because fear has to do with punishment; the person who keeps fearing has not been brought to maturity in regard to love.
We ourselves love now because he loved us first. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Yes, this is the command we have from him: whoever loves God must love his brother too.” 1 John 4: 17-21
Did you notice? Not judgement in the sense of fear and punishment, but one of love that brings about a turning from darkness and death to Light and Life.
Or if you prefer the words of John, Paul, George and Ringo . . .
There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love