I’m more comfortable with a holy God than one described as wrathful. Holy is descriptive of his status as being both pure and separated from the common and unclean. Our fixation on his wrath only describes a partial impact of being outside his state of holiness. Noting the effects and not the reason for them makes his holiness seem shallow. His holiness invades our entire psyche as humans, in all walks of life, being created in his image, because we all seek wholeness, contentment, purity, good, righteousness… But all strive for it with a sense of loss. This is why it is so easy for us to grab onto and trumpet small pieces of holiness, as though we have caught God by the tail. We struggle with holiness because we see how it is defiled every day, especially in our own actions.
“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:17)
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
God begins with his love and describes himself as such. This is the essence of his creation and bringing humanity into being. We are his pinnacle of creation because we were designed for fellowship with him. Those who are his are told to be described in the same way first. Only true love can be described as him, as he is the fullness of being loved. The effects of his love are visible, but are easily worshipped as love. Blessings, gifts, care… All aspects of love, but love digs deeper and requires greater investment than its effects. It is a decision and a feeling based on action. But if the first does not happen, no amount of actions can sustain it. The actions and effects only validate what is already at the foundation of these things.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10)
God is just, but I am infatuated with the activity of being recompensed. It is the simplest form of moral development, and very few seem to move past it. I want to be repaid, and someone needs to pay. We know that wrong has been done, that evil took place, but have not the wherewithal or the wisdom to know what to do about it. I love the effects of justice, but I only know it partially. A completely just individual is impossible to find in an imperfect world, yet we so desperately desire them every time we struggle with the pain of injustice. This is where our fallen humanity fights with the image of God.
“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7)
I strive to know God and make him known. But it means growing beyond the infatuation stage of the relationship, that place where I no longer seek only the most basic elements of God’s character and nature. Rather, to stop wishing upon and worshipping those partial pieces of the whole. Those things are always going to be amazing, and they should be. Why? Because as Paul said to the Corinthians, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) This in turn brings about the best possible response to not knowing fully what God is doing: Faith, hope, and love remain. These are our starting point to seeing God’s character. As those become our desires to grow in our walk with Christ, our understanding of the Father will develop.
It is then that we can learn to truly desire holiness, learn to be loving, and seek to understand justice.