JESUS ONLY: Part 2 (Day 9)
“On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.”-Colossians 3:6 (NRSV)
This verse frightens me! How am I supposed to reconcile it with all those other verses that extol God’s everlasting love and compassion?
Allow me to share a personal story that might give a small glimpse into the interplay of God’s wrath with His love for us.
Our dog, Cali, is the best dog we have ever owned. Chosen from a large litter of 11 pups, she is a mixed breed mutt. From day one until now (8 years later) she has become a beloved member of the family. Cute and affectionate, it is hard to imagine life without her.
However, Cali has one flaw. She likes to go AWOL.
Even though we provide a safe home, plenty of water, a plush dog bed, adequate food, and a large lot to romp in, her voracious appetite to find something else to eat makes her go rogue. She has been found along a busy road nearly a mile away. She incenses our neighbors as she empties herself on their lawns.
Every time we discover that she is missing or a disgruntled neighbor calls, we hop on bikes or in the car to go search for her. During the latest episode, I found her and called out to her to come to me (which she usually does). This time, she ran away. My frustration escalated into wrath as I chased her home.
Guess what. A few hours later Cali was nuzzled up against me on the sofa and life was good as I stroked her head. Although I knew she could encounter harm by following her appetite and going AWOL (which led to my wrath), what truly mattered is that she was safe and back in my arms.
We all know the parable about the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). I am certain the sheepherder was angry to discover one sheep had disappeared. He could have chosen to let that one sheep go and tend to the other ninety-nine. But, out of great concern, he pursued the lost sheep until he joyfully brought it home.
Animals, driven by their natural appetites, really don’t know any better. However, humans, created by God to be in relationship, were given higher abilities to emote, to reason, and to choose. We call it free will. God has given us everything we truly need and longs to be in relationship with us.
When we choose to follow our appetites and go AWOL, God’s wrath is directed at our choice to sin. Just as Cali’s “sin” of going AWOL can lead to her getting sick from overeating or eating something bad, or being harmed by other critters, cars, or neighbors; our sin of separation from God and His life-giving principles can result in natural consequences that will harm us. That brings out His anger because He does not want to lose us.
God loves us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38). As Paul asks, what then shall we say in response to this?
What are the appetites that I struggle the most with managing? Invite God into that struggle to understand its root cause.
When I have gone AWOL, what consequences have I naturally experienced? Was anyone else harmed by it?
Knowing that nothing can separate me from the love of God produces what response in me?
Abba/Father, Your word tells me that You can be both wrathful and loving. Help me to understand how and when both occur in you. Forgive me when I allow my appetites to make me go AWOL. Please help me to resist temptation. Help me see and understand that the natural desires You have given me can only be satisfied when I turn my heart to You. Thank You for your concern over the impact and consequences of sin in my life. Thank You for sending Jesus to show me your everlasting and never-ending love. Thank You for your readiness to welcome me home when I go AWOL. Amen.