Category Archives: Peter Kreeft
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Then he went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. 42 “Father,” he said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
Luke 22:41-43 (TEV) .
Imploring God in his own words, sending up to his ears the prayer of Christ, is a friendly and familiar manner of praying. When we make our prayer let the Father recognize the words of his own Son. May he who lives inside our heart be also in our voice, and since, when as sinners we ask forgiveness of our failings we have him as an advocate for our sins in the presence of the Father (1 Jn 2:1), let us set forth the words of our advocate.
The New Testament and the lives of the saints are chock-full of the joy in suffering. How can this be explained? Only by love. Only love willingly endures suffering
Thought the words in purple are about the Lord’s prayer, my mind went to Jesus’ other prayer, in the gospel of Luke. A prayer Jesus must have shared with them later, even taught them, because we know the apostles were all asleep when Jesus was praying.
I had already read Kreeft’s words, the ones highlighted in green when I read these. So perhaps that is what set me thinking this way. Or perhaps it is having another 8 major prayers added to my list this week. People who have lost loved ones, people who are worried about friends and relatives with COVID, people who are struggling with work loss, people struggling with family issues, people who…can’t even explain what is troubling them, but they know life just isn’t right.
In the midst of this, we learn to pray as He did. We have to if we are going to survive. We need to admit that we don’t like what is going on, that it is crushing us, even begging God to take it away. Paul did, as he experienced his own “thorn in the flesh”, and yet, we need to realize God can make it work for good – for we love Him, and we are called by His name.
Knowing His love, and depending on Him because we do, we can learn to embrace the pain, the stress, the anxiety. For we know He will fulfill His promises.
More than that perhaps, in the moment
Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 66.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 196.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. 26 From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be. Acts 17:25-26 CEV
We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei contantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.
How can I know God loves me? I believe it, or I want to believe it. But how can I know it for sure? How can I get assurance of the most important thing in the world?
The question is an excellent one. It demands something more than the mere mental acceptance of the three-word proposition “God loves me.” It demands three greater forms of intimacy or closeness.
First, I want to know that God loves me, not just everyone. Me, with all my very specific and very real sins and uglinesses and unlovablenesses. Does God really love me just as I am? Am I really completely forgiven? All my sufferings and failures seem to me to be a just punishment that proves that God does not and should not love me completely because I do not deserve it. I need to know instead that my very sufferings and failures are the caress of his personal, individual love-plan for me, not the inevitable result of His impersonal justice.
The title of my blog post this morning is not a rhetorical question.
It is a question I struggle with, and have struggled with often in my life. Apparently I am not the only one, as the notes in the introduction to the Forge indicate.
We are going to have days when we struggle, when we face discouragement because our spiritual life, our “interior life” seems poor, lifeless, oppressed. We bay seem beaten and rundown. In the midst of physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, I don’t have to wonder what I’ve done wrong. Satan is there to remind me of my sins, and of my failures. He will throw it all at me, for that is what Devil means in the original language.
And my cry out to Jesus, do you still love me, do you still care is actually a cry of the soul engaged in spiritual warfare. It is not just a cry of despair, for this cry will be answered. It is the cry, as Peter Kreeft notes, that betrays an intimacy with God that requires trust.
Trust that He will answer. Trust to even dare ask, trust to realize He is listening and will answer.
He always does.
Look at the cross, there is your answer. Let the Holy Spirit comfort you, and be the assurance, the guarantee that Paul described.
21 It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart, 22 who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (TEV)
God guarantees that He loves us, for we are His, and we need to hear this often, especially in this midst of despair, or depression, or whatever struggle we are facing.
Remind each of this, often!
The Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 194.
Devotional Thought of the Day!
31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all. 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:3 (NLT)
999 And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.
We must see things in their proper and real perspective if we are to live well. But the key to this seeing, in turn, is loving things rightly. If we over-love things, we tend to over-value them in our minds in order to rationalize our over-valuing of them in our lives. If we under-love God and people, we tend to undervalue them in our mind to rationalize our undervaluing of them in our lives. If I love money more than God, I tend to think of money as an absolute need and God as a mere extra. Thus loving and seeing depend on each other. If I do not love properly, this clouds my vision. And if my vision is clouded, I will not love aright.
This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it. Say I want to take revenge on someone. God forbids this. Therefore I see God as a bother. But if I first loved God, I would then see that revenge was the bother. When I am in the grip of a lust, God appears as a puritanical interferer. But when I am in the grip of God’s love, lust appears as it truly is: a pale perversion of true love and joy.
Since the 1980’s I have been reading books and articles written by Peter Kreeft, from Socrates meets Jesus and the Best Things in Life, to the classic “Christianity for Modern Pagans” (which is simply a modernized version of Pensees by Pascal) The man is brilliant, as much of a scholar as any I’ve met or worked with over the years. Nothing he has written has hit me as deeply as this.
We see God as a bother, we see His rules to heavy-handed, too restrictive, As Kreeft notes we see him as the puritanical interfered, whose disciples are for the most part hypocrites. If we are honest, we don’t understand the logic in them, simply because we don’t understand that we are truly, deeply, loved by God
And it all boils down to what the Apostle Paul wrote nearly 2000 years ago. It boils down to love. It boils down to what we adore, what we cling to, what we cherish and value, what we try to perfect in life. What we love, we are committed to, what we love, we guard and protect. We persevere to keep it in our own lives.
In Colossians, the apostle Paul talks of circumcision our hearts, cutting away these idols, letting them fade into the distance. In doing so, we can see His love clearly. demonstrated there on the cross. A love for us that no person, nothing could ever have. The more we love God, the more these other things we cling to are revealed to be what they are. The more we don’t need them around. When we realize we can love God, this stuff we have wrongly loved is revealed to be the crap that it is. And its grip on us grows dim, as the hymn noted, in the light of His glory and grace (love).
That is why we preach Christ crucified, the hope of glory, the hope of finding what we can truly love. For He loves us.
I pray we all come to know Him more, that this time leaves us the room to contemplate His love. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 192.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
But they were no match for Stephen, who spoke with the great wisdom that the Spirit gave him. Acts 6:10 CEV
28 When Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were surprised at his teaching. 29 He taught them like someone with authority, and not like their teachers of the Law of Moses. Matthew 7:28-29 (CEV)
In other words, loving neighbor means not only coming under God’s law but coming into God’s life. It also means coming under God’s law but in a deeper sense than obeying the precepts. Law in Scripture sometimes means not just precept or prescription, but also a principle or origin of living.
I have pondered the idea of Jesus teaching with authority often. Indeed, I have often thought it would be a blessing to compare His manuscripts (which we have in the four gospels) to the manuscripts of the teachers of the law. Imagine, being able to sit down and look at some of the greatest teachers in rabbinical history, and compare them to Jesus, to find out what is missing, and then be able ot include that in my preaching, teaching, and writing.
As I’ve grown older, I ‘ve realized that it is not the manuscripts that would hold the answer. I am sure there were men as erudite, that there were those who included more references to back up their teaching, who could also enthrall crowds. So comparing the manuscripts would not lead to an answer.
Jesus gave that ability to His disciples, we see it in the scriptures, for they to taught, empowered by the Holy Spirit. You can see that in their writings, but it is also seen in the way people react to them. Stephen, one of the first deacons, spoke in a way that astounded people. He spoke of Jesus, and as he does, they described his face as like one of the angels.
There was no mistaking it, it was unnerving.
I think Professor Kreeft has an insight into it, that I didn’t think about until my devotions lined up this morning. It is not when we study the law that we can teach it, it is not when we feel its weight, but when we realize we are in Christ, when His logos, His order is rooted in us because He is there. When His love, for He is love, has taken root in us. When we become intimately aware that we are in His presence, and His glory transforms everything.
Including us, and therefore, including our teaching.
Not just the instruction that occurs in a sermon, or a lesson. But the teaching of our lives. The teaching that points people, not to us, but draws them into His glory. It is the impact of knowing you are loved.
As Jesus taught, the Father was revealed, may as we teach, the Spirit reveals Jesus, and the love He has for those who are listening.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 170.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
927 Pray for one another. One is wavering? … And another? … Keep on praying, without losing your peace. Some are leaving? Some are being lost? …Our Lord has you all numbered from eternity!
Can we relate even Hell to God’s love? It is the most unpopular of Christian dogmas and the one most widely disbelieved, even though Jesus clearly taught it on many different occasions. It is disbelieved mainly because it seems to most people to contradict the dogma of God’s love. And if we have to deny one of the two, then of course let’s deny Hell. Hell without God’s love is … well, just Hell. God’s love without Hell is still God’s love.
But in fact the two do not contradict each other. Far from contradicting God’s love, Hell manifests God’s love. It is the other side of the coin of God’s love.
The question exists in many people’s minds.
How could a good loving God create a place like Hell or even the kind of people that would deserve it?
Theologians and Biblical Scholars will tell you the Hell wasn’t created for mankind, and that hell is an effect caused by our decisions to sin, and even more, our decisions to not seek and claim the forgiveness that God promises.
They are right of course, they often are.
But that doesn’t answer the question, why would God create such a place?
The simple answer is, – there has to be a place that is an option to being in a place where you are loved.
This means because hell exists, so does a place exist where God’s love, His mercy, His care, His presence sustaining us exists.
The existence of Hell doesn’t mean God would force any human being to go there, that it is a place where a loving God would send someone to punish people who rejected Him, who chose to worship themselves, or inanimate objects.
It is simply the option for those who would not be in an intimate, loving relationship with their Creator. And as horrendous as hell would seem, cut off from everything that is good, everything that is love, that tells us how incredible heaven is, and what those who are in this incredible, intimate, merciful love of God will experience.
Something we have begun to experience now, here, together.
The question then is simple, will we, who know this, reveal to those who have wandered off that God loves them?
This about why I said that is the question, more than the question being why would people choose hell. I don’t think they do, as much as most would think. Think about it, and love them.
Heavenly Father, help us love those around us in such a way, that they know YOU LOVE THEM. Empower us with Your Spirit to show them the care, the mercy, the deepest levels of love, even as we embrace the cost, as Jesus embraced the cost to show us Your love. We pray this in His precious name, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 154.
Devotional thought and Prayer of the Day;
2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT2)
It almost goes without saying that if we realize God’s love and live it, we will heal the divisions and brokenness within Christendom. Only if we realize God’s love is this possible, for no merely theological reconciliation is enough. The tragedy of denominationalism arose through a lack of love, not only a lack of knowledge or theological orthodoxy. Indeed, we cannot even understand what orthodoxy is without love, for orthodoxy means right belief about God. And God is love.
We split God’s visible Church (no one can split the invisible Church) because we were selfish. We decided to be our own conductors rather than all following the divine baton. That has to be the root cause of denominationalism, for God is peace and unity, so if we all loved and obeyed and followed His leading, we would necessarily sing in harmony. We are not singing in harmony, therefore we must have disobeyed Him, disobeyed love. The diagnosis is inescapable.
And so is the prescription. Though a thousand further details need to be addressed, here is the most important ingredient of all in the prescription for reunion. Here is the root of all true ecumenism. All churches and denominations must approach dialogue with purity and simplicity of heart. They must seek not triumph or power or self-justification or conversions but simply to follow God’s will. If that were done, a miracle would happen. Impossible healings of our divisions would become possible. Reunion without compromise would happen. And the world would once again sit up and say, astonished, “See how they love one another!”
The sacrament, Luther says, is not and should not be for those who come solely because they are commanded to do so, but for those who recognize their personal need and are inwardly driven to receive it. Recognition of his sinfulness and unworthiness should not prevent a man’s reception of the sacrament. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ intended his Supper precisely for sinners who trust and believe in the words of institution
In the midst of the present crisis, stress is taking its toll on leadership.
And we begin to see that stress move divide the church even more. Not at the congregational level, I continually hearing of how congregations are doing amazing things. But at denominational levels and in inter-denominational levels.
It is sad and disheartening, and Shakespeare’s words to the Houses of Capulet and Montagu are oddly prophetic, “a pox on both your houses!”
It is in this time that we need to stop the fighting, the backbiting, the games, and strategic sessions. of how we will deal with “them”.
The Apostle Paul is right, the only answer to this is the answer we all need to hear. It is not the best preaching or the best academic theology that will provide unity, that will create the bond we need to heal the brokenness in the Body of Christ. That has not accomplished it in the last 120 years. Kreef is right when he discusses that we cannot truly be orthodox without the experience of love.
I might be naive, but I think that Kreeft is absolutely correct about seeing miracles occur when we seek God together; when we confess our sins and are forgiven; when we share in the feast the is the purest of love, the sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus.
For that is why the altar is there, why the pastor/priest urges us to remember Jesus, brutally crucified, His Body broken, His blood being poured out. Not for the people who have it all together doctrinally, not for those who are without love claiming some form of Orthodoxy. His Body was broken, His blood poured out, and is there on the altar for those who need healing, who need reconciliation, who need a miracle.
That is where unity and revival find are generated, as we pray together, as we we seek His face together, as we experience His love and mercy. That is where the miracles happen.
As we prepare for Pentecost this year, as we look for the regathering of saints, perhaps it is time to allow God to bring us together, to let His love wash us clean, to invite the Holy Spirit to do the miracles that would truly bring us back together.
Lord, help us to love, as you love us!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 151–152.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 169.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)
But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.
The fact that God’s love is unchangeable does not change the fact that it is love. It always wills what is best for us. And
Start Reading Pg 148 Tomorrow ×
prayer is best for us. Therefore, we must pray precisely because God’s love is unchangeable. He is unchangeably loving and commands prayer for us.
895 Work tires you physically and leaves you unable to pray. But you’re always in the presence of your Father. If you can’t speak to him, look at him every now and then like a little child … and he’ll smile at you.
Let me be honest, last week was a long, exhausting blessed mess.
It took a while to wake up and get going this morning, and even though I am in my office now, I am still dragging. Dragging enough that I thought I could not pay good enough attention to really make my devotions “worth it.” (Whatever that means!) So I almost moved past them to “get to work” studying scripture and preparing next week’s order of worship.
Logically, at least with what little logic was available, I realized how stupid that sounded. Overlook prayer and time with God to plan… prayer and time with God?
So back to my devotions, and what’s the common topic? Prayer, of course! (God does have a sense of humor!)
And I remembered why I love the practical faith of St. Josemaria! He remembered the ultimate truth about prayer. It is not the flowery words, it is not about the incredible dialogue. It is simply about being in the presence of God, our Father! It is about looking up to Him, unable perhaps to even speak of our need to depend upon Him… and realize He is present – that He is looking at us!
Perhaps that is why the most meaningful time of prayer is when we are simply silent!
From St. Josemaria’s simplicity to Peter Kreeft’s philosophy, where I found the same message. There it takes the essence of why do you pray if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and unchanging? Are you going to change God’s mind? ( As Abraham thought he might be able to with Sodom?)
Ot is it something more than by struggling with prayer, by seeking God out, we begin to understand His love, His passionate care? In our times of prayer, we learn that He does desire the best for us and actively works in our lives to make it so? That even times of bargaining with Abraham, or the Samaritan woman who argued for her daughter’s healing, God is teaching us the lesson of interacting with Him, and not just using Him as a genie from the bottle?
Think through this… I decided to look up the Lord’s prayer… and missed it by a few verses, coming to those above in red. Which says the same thing…
Leave it in God’s hands…
Look at Jesus, look at the Father… seek them first… and see Them smile.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147–148.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
John 9:40–41 (CEV) — When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked, “Are we blind?” 41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”
And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.
At the end, when we look into the eyes of our divine Lover, we shall see ourselves in totality, we shall see ourselves as He saw us and designed us from the beginning. At the end we shall touch the beginning. We shall hear Him sing to us something like the popular songwriter Dan Fogelberg’s lovely song “Longer”:
Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean,
Higher than any tree ever grew,
Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens,
I’ve been in love with you.
Jesus says something very much like this: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Mt 25:34).
Some avoid seeing it by locking onto tradition. Others by keeping busy working in the mission field. Others dive deep into academic approaches to theology. Some dive deep into doing things, into being a workaholic, as if over-using the talents of God is pleasing to Him.
I think all of these pursuits allow us to avoid actually interacting with God, much as Israel did at Sinai when they pleased that God speak through Moses. This is the modern version of Phariseeism – avoiding God.
I am not sure why we are afraid to explore the width and length, the height and depth of the love of God, but we are! We don’t want to know that God passionately loves us, that He desires an intimate relationship with us. We scoff at such, saying it sounds to sexual or even to effeminate. And we are less likely to talk and meditate on this love that 9 guys are to sit down and watch a Hallmark movie together!
So we remain blind to the immense love of God. We know all about Him, we can defend His existence, but like the Pharisees standing in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, we remain blind.
We are unable to sit and meditate on the love of God – because we are afraid of that love.
Read that line again…
Kreeft’s words get to the heart of the matter. They are glorious to read, yet as glorious as they are, they are challenging.
To look into Jesus’ eyes, and see how He sees us?
To see the depth of love that He has for us when we struggle to know who we really are?.
It is time to stop all that…
It is time to be still, and let your eyes be opened and see that He is God – and that he loves YOU! Amen!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2)
What made saints, saints? What makes the cynical, skeptical world turn its head at a Mother Teresa? What made the hard-nosed Roman Empire convert to the religion of a crucified Jewish carpenter? The world did not say: “See how they explain one another!” but “See how they love one another!” The most effective argument for Christianity is Christians who are saints, lovers. The saints are the Spirit’s salesmen. You cannot argue with a saint. He would just kiss you, as Jesus did to Judas and as He did to the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevski’s parable in The Brothers Karamazov. How do you fight love? You don’t. You lose. That is, you win.
Unity does not come about by polemics nor by academic argument but by the radiance of Easter joy; this is what leads to the core of the Christian profession, namely: Jesus is risen. This leads, too, to the core of our humanity, which yearns for this joy with its every fiber. So it is this Easter joy which is fundamental to all ecumenical and missionary activity; this is where Christians should vie with each other; this is what they should show forth to the world.
I encountered the reading from Kreeft first this morning and knew it would be part of these thoughts. It hits the basic thought I have about ministry and evangelism – it is not about appealing to logic and reason – it is about loving people.
Kreeft mentions Jesus allowing Judas to embrace him, and one can think of the deacon Stephen, loving the people who were torturing and stoning him. The stories of such saints are easy to find, even if they are hard to understand how people can love so completely!
Loving like this is hard, it requires sacrifice, It requires humility, it requires all the things that 1 Corinthians 13 discusses.
But then I came across Pope Benedict’s (aka Joseph Ratzinger) words, and the idea of how we can love others appears – we love them because we are united in Jesus. The death and resurrection of Christ, the purest love ever seen in history, unites us in a way that nothing else can. At the cross, we all have died to sin and been raised, without that sins eternal stain. All that was there to not love about another person has been done away with, all that remains of it is a shadow.
In the resurrection, we not only see the power of love, we are enveloped by it, transformed by it, we are united to it, united to the God who is love.
And therefore, unity is possible.
Therefore, there is hope.
You want to know how to remain strong in this time, know God loves you, then ask Him to help you love others.
It makes all the difference.
Lord, help us revel in Your love, help us soak it in, to the extent that loving others is a natural inclination. † Amen!
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 131.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 133.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT2)
But the Old Testament speaks of God’s wrath as well as God’s love. So does the New. What is the wrath of God then? Is it real or not?
It is real, but it is not part of God Himself. God is not half love and half wrath, or 99 percent love and 1 percent wrath. God is love. Wrath is how His love appears to us when we sin or rebel or run away from Him. The very light that is meant to help us appears to us as our enemy when we seek the darkness. The mother’s embrace can appear as the worst imaginable torture to the angry child who wants only to fight. Thus some of the saints say the very fires of Hell are made of the love of God but experienced as wrath by the spiritually insane.
Over the years, I’ve encountered two primary attitudes toward the idea of God’s wrath.
Neither is accurate.
The first is to ignore or deny that God can and will pour out His wrath on those who choose to dwell in sin. This usually goes along with the fact that we disagree with what sin is, as we defend those we love engaged in it, or we rejoice in that form of sin ourselves. Because of this, we simply can fathom how God could be so mad at the sin as to condemn us for it.
The second used to be more prevalent in the church, and that is to see wrath as purely an action that is driven by God’s righteous anger. Those lousy people (and sometimes including us) deserve to get punished, and God gets painted as a sadist who enjoys watching them suffer. In reality, the sadist (or masochist if we think we deserve the wrath) is us. We see a lot of this in those people who have wanted to portray this virus (and the ones before it like AIDS) as a form of God’s almighty anger, and a foretaste of the wrath to come at the judgment.
Both are wrong, and in my opinion, so change the image of God that they are heretical.
Ezekiel tells us several times that God does not take joy in the death of the wicked. he also divinely shares that repentance by those who are evil will see them forgiven, not punished, restored, not condemned. Let me say it again, God doesn’t take joy in the wicked. Never has, never will.
Similarly, the Apostle Peter tells us that God is patient with us because He doesn’t want any of us to perish. The apocryphal picture of Peter at the gate of heaven allowing some and barring others is misleading – Peter and the church being given the keys is about freeing people from bondage – allowing them to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 16) even as the church rocks the gates of hell to free people from its embrace.
Are there good people that will reject God that Ezekiel mentions? Yes
Are there people who will choose the bondage of sin, despite the availability of grace and forgiveness, surely.
And this is where God’s wrath comes in, not from a sense of anger, but the sense of love. While we may see it as punitive, the goal for God is restorative. It is not contrary to His nature of love, but love requires it. Kreeft makes this point clear above in the words shared purple – a point that C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book (the Great Divorce) to demonstrate. Simply put, those who end up suffering in Hell would choose their idol and their sin, they would embrace its cost, rather than enjoy the presence of God.
Only once has it pleased God to pour out His wrath, and that was on Jesus.
It was God’s good plan this translation says, others say it gave God pleasure, it pleased Him, to pour out that wrath on Jesus.
No one else.
And the satisfaction of restoring people to God is all worth it. The satisfaction for restoring you to God was why Jesus endured the cross – that is the glory was Hebrews 12 describes.
All other times God disciplines and pours out His wrath is the hardest act of love, the ay to embracing an angry child, for, in that embrace, Jesus takes into Himself our sin, and pays the price.
With that understanding of God’s wrath, we no longer have to deny it, we no longer have to project it on others. We now longer have to judge and condemn, we can simply urge people to let God love them and to rejoice as He does, and they change, relaxing and knowing His peace.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 128.