In this week’s Old Testament reading (Amos 7: 7–15), we have a prophet pronouncing God’s judgement on Israel. Sometimes the books of the prophets make Christians uncomfortable or confused. Isn’t God loving and merciful? What do we make of the wrath of God? Two things can be helpful in understanding this part of God revealed in Scripture:
First, God does not change. The theological term for this is that he is immutable There isn’t an “angry Old Testament God” and then a “nice, and loving New Testament God.” It is not as if God patiently loves us as long as he can bear it and then finally once we have gone one step too far he explodes in a wrathful mood swing. Divine wrath, love, and mercy all work together.
Second, we also need to remember, that these things are not true about us. We are prone to mood swings, and our wrath is often not – if ever – aligned with love and mercy. The scriptures are filled with warnings against human anger. God controls His wrath. We tend to become controlled by it.
As I scroll through my Facebook news feed, I see a lot of angry posts. We have become guilty of dehumanizing our neighbors—even our family members—through back-and-forth comments in the digital world. We may feel a sense of righteous anger, like the prophets expressing wrath toward the unjust and reprehensible. But is that really what is in our hearts? Do we echo the divine wrath that the prophets witness to, or are we better to heed the Scriptures:
Anger produces strife, exalts folly, and a man given to anger causes much transgression. For anger rests in the bosom of fools. Cease from anger and forsake wrath (Proverbs 30:33; 14:29, 29:22; Eccles. 7:9; Ps. 37:8).
There certainly are news articles floating around that offer sound analysis and argument – a hallmark of our culture at its best. Public debate is crucial for truth to shape society, for each of us to grow intellectually, and for the orphan and the widow to be protected. But, angry memes on social media rarely accomplish these things.
The next time you are tempted to click Share on a righteously indignant social media post, ask yourself if it is rooted in divine love for the other—or simply a vehicle of contempt. Contempt is the very object of divine wrath when Jesus tells us that “anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” and “anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ Will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Mt. 5:22). For even truth spoken without love is meaningless (1 Cor 13:1).