Westboro Baptist Church

October 8th, 2010 § 0 comments

Perhaps, if you’ve been following the news, you’ve heard about the Supreme Court case concerning Westboro Baptist Church. In case you’re not familiar, Westboro Baptist Church goes around picketing at soldier’s funerals, talking about God’s wrath against America. This got me thinking: if I were delivering a eulogy at a funeral and they showed up protesting, what would I say? I’d take a deep breath, gather my thoughts, and then…

Let’s be clear: God is a God of wrath. He hates sin more passionately and violently than we could imagine. Though we all quit our jobs and march the world over preaching and protesting, screaming and yelling, we could not come close to demonstrating the hatred that a holy God has for sin. Though we march the world over not merely protesting, but in fits of violence rendering justice to those who so obviously trash the name of God, to those who sin against their fellow man, who brutalize nations and peoples, still, we could not show even a fraction of the wrath that God has for sin. We cannot show even the smallest iota of the wrath stored up for those whom God will punish fully at the day of judgment. Our wrath, in all its show, is nothing compared to the wrath of God.

The same is true of God’s love. It is beyond our capacity to express. It is beyond our faculties to understand it. It is as full and rich and verdant as God’s wrath is powerful and violent and final.

But though God’s wrath be beyond us, we do have some means of understanding it. If we want, as best we can, to understand God’s wrath, we must go to the place where he showed it most clearly and finally. This is not in the Garden, where Adam’s sin demanded exile. This is not Sodom and Gomorra; even their annihilation was a trivial display of displeasure. Even in Hell we do not see the depth and the breadth of God’s wrath. We see it only at the cross. There, God’s wrath shone so brightly as to blot out the sun, even as it blotted out sin. There, God poured out his wrath on God: there was no sufficient target for so great a wrath but the divine. All of mankind could not withstand it. The temple veil did not withstand it. In all our anger, does the earth shake? Are the very rocks so frightened that they tremble in fear? Does the Sun flee from the face of the earth? Is our wrath against sin so great that it can kill the Son of God, very God of very God, the Word of God made flesh, God made man? Our wrath is so paltry and trivial that its effects even can be ignored by those humans at whom we are angry, if they so decide. God’s wrath is so full and potent that inanimate objects tremble and a member of the divine and holy Trinity is sent to the grave.

But if we consider the complete and utter finality of God’s wrath, if we pause to think about its power and passion, we find the strangest coincidence in all of creation, even beyond creation: that God’s greatest act of violence in anger is God’s greatest act of Love.

For, though we see wrath poured out from God to God, in a display that transcends the power of words to communicate or minds to understand, we find that it is inextricably bound up in God’s consummate act of kindness toward all men. For we are all, every one of us, deserving of God’s wrath; we are the ones who have sinned, every one of us. Jesus rightfully deserved none of that grand display. We deserved to be the recipients of everything done to Jesus. We deserved his tortures, his pain, and his agony. We deserved to have God’s wrath against us so hotly as to burn the sun, so powerfully as to shake the mountains on which we stand, so finally as to condemn us eternally to Hell. Indeed, we are or were the enemies of God. We have hated and despised him. Our desires are not for his glory but for our own, for our happiness instead of his blessing. We have found other gods and declared them to be the most high; we have worshipped his created order. We have found things other than the good and declared that it is The Good. We have sinned. Any wrath deserved by sin is deserved by us.

So God’s wrath at Calvary is not only God’s greatest display of his hatred for his, but of his love for his followers. It makes possible a reconciliation. Because God’s wrath is no longer against me, I can be with him and know him, and love him, a position which was not possible before. For what father, existing every day in a state of anger towards his children can have friendship with them? But we, though God’s enemies, now can be his friends, being delivered by God from wrath to love. Here at the cross, God’s wrath puts us in awe and wonder, but that awe and wonder crescendoes still higher when we consider that it is all within the confines of his even more expansive love. Oh, how great is his love!

So if we consider it important to share God’s wrath, if it is a priority to show God’s hatred for sin, his vitriolic repulsion for what is wrong, then we must, like God, show people the cross. If we want people to know and understand the wrath of God as fully as the human mind can comprehend, then we must go that place where the outpouring of God’s wrath is most immense, where, like a mountain, God’s anger towers above men’s, where God was so angry at sin as to aim his hatred at very God. Here is wrath.

But if we stop our story there, we leave out the whole point of God’s wrath! We cannot tell a half-truth as though it were the whole truth. In doing so, we ignore what God accomplished in his wrath, a thing I think he would not have us ignore. We miss the fact that the greatest show of God’s wrath is simultaneously the greatest show of God’s love. If we are to have the fullest possible idea of God’s wrath, it must be from within the fullness of God’s love.

In simplest terms: if we want people to understand the totality of God’s wrath against sin, we must share with them the whole gospel. To yell about wrath, to march about God’s wrath, and to protest someone’s funeral in the name of God’s wrath and eternal punishment is not to have too big a view of God’s wrath, but too small a view. God’s wrath is bound up in the good news of the Gospel! At the cross we find love, yes, but we find it tangled up in wrath, the two strands of an immense rope reaching from the Hill of the Skull to the Throne of Heaven. Let us have this full view of God’s hatred for sin.

Again, if we want others to know of God’s wrath, let us share the gospel. Love without wrath means that no one needs help. Wrath without love means that there is no help. Love and wrath mean that we are in desperate need, but there is deliverance for any who come to the cross. There is the wrath of God satisfied, which satisfaction is shown at the resurrection. To know God’s wrath we must go to the cross, and we must bring others to the cross. But if we have seen the fullness of God’s wrath, we cannot but see the immensity of God’s love. Let him see who has eyes to see.

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