Sunday, March 3, 2013

God's Wrath: "Blazing and Radiant" - Martin L. Smith



As part of my 2013 Lenten Journey I'm reading
"Reconciliation: Preparing for Confession in the Episcopal Church" by Martin L. Smith.

Below I've transcribed a section describing 'God's Wrath' as defined by God 
"strategically withdrawing from us, removing our feelings of the divine presence and
'handing us over' (a vivid expression of St. Paul's) to the painful consequences of our sinful habit,
so that we experience its futility and wake up to our need for repentance."

          It would be good to pause here and reflect on this image of estrangement, alienation, separation between us and God - and the corresponding image of reconciliation. Have you sensed any such separation in your life? How is it connected with certain patterns of behavior? Have you ever stopped praying or felt too ill at ease with God to start? Have you felt out of touch, out of reach? Or that there were ways in which you excluded God or kept God out of your mind? […]
          In asking these questions, you may find that you are among those who need to deal with the issue of "God's wrath." Some people think that the distance between them and God is equally due to God recoiling from them in anger. They feel rejected and punished.
          The theme of God's wrath is a dangerous one and misinterpretation is very harmful. In certain religious traditions, on the one hand, God has been horribly misrepresented as a vengeful autocrat eager to inflict retributive misery on those who break the commandments, eager to cow them into obedience. On the other hand the Scriptures that witness to God's tenderness and mercy, with God seeking out sinners to save them, also speak of God's wrath. Is this language an ugly discord, a nasty intrusion of human projection which ought to be repudiated as inconsistent with the gospel of God' loving kindness? No, it is better to grasp the language boldly as dramatic imagery for the passion in God's response to our lives.
Borrowed Copy from St. Stephen's & the Incarnate - Washington, DC
 
          For ours is a passionate God whose holiness is a "consuming fire," blazing and radiant. Holiness is not indifferent or neutral or passive, but strong, intense, infinitely sensitive and responsive. God cannot remain unmoved by our efforts to go it alone, our destructive and futile sins, and resists them by exerting a pressure which we may experience as extremely stressful. God does not treat us indulgently or handle us with kid gloves like a weak parent with spoiled children. That would be to collude with us. But there is no question of God intervening to impose special penalties on sinners; Jesus taught clearly that God causes "the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike." Nevertheless God has disciplinary ways of strategically withdrawing from us, removing our feelings of the divine presence and "handing us over" (a vivid expression of St. Paul's) to the painful consequences of our sinful habit, so that we experience its futility and wake up to our need for repentance. God refuses to soften or neutralize the painful effects of sin, because we need the pain to warn us that our acts are destructive of life. In this sense God's wrath, which allows us to suffer the pain that sin brings, is an instrument of God's love. But there is no delight in our pain; how could there be? God suffers in all that we suffer, out of love for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment