We all get angry, some more than others. Think about the last time you got really, really angry, the kind of angry that makes your whole body shake as you clench your teeth. Chances are the person who made you so angry is someone related to you or someone you otherwise know quite well. Why is that the case? Perhaps because we feel safe to be angry at that person. They can’t make themselves unrelated to us, can they? Perhaps it is because we share a past that is so similar that we do not understand how the person who made us angry could have made decisions so different from what we might have done.
But none of these examples of anger are comparable to the wrath of God. He who made all things is the only One who has the right and full knowledge to be angry. Pride, jealousy, hatred–the human emotions connected to anger have nothing to do with the wrath of God. His wrath is reserved for those who refuse to follow His edicts, no matter how patient He is in explaining them to us. The great essayist Annie Dillard explains it this way:
A high school stage play is more polished than this service we have been rehearsing since the year one. In two thousand years, we have not worked out the kinks. We positively glorify them. Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter. Week after week, we witness the same miracle: that God, for reasons unfathomable, refrains from blowing our dancing bear act to smithereens.
Who can believe it?
The greatest wonder of all is that the same God whose wrath can and has wiped out the entire human race (don’t forget Noah), is tempered by an even greater love. Because of God’s love for us, He sent His one and only Son, who took on the wrath of God unto Himself, the wrath that you and I deserve, so that we would be saved from it.
In his series on the book of Revelations, preacher Rick Atchley spends some time discussing the cup of wrath that is mentioned throughout the book. Rick makes a clear connection between the full, judgmental wrath of God that will be poured out on all who do not repent at the end of times with the cup that Jesus prays to God about in the garden of Gethsemane before He was sacrificed on the cross:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
In dying on the cross for my sin, Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath for me. None of us is perfect. None of us can say we are without blame, without reason for God to be angry or disappointed with us. But because Christ drank from the cup of wrath, we are free to face God and feel the full force of His love for us.
As you take your next Lord’s Supper, think about the cup you drink not only as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, but also as a symbol of the wrath of God you so deserve but from which you have been so lovingly spared. You may, as I, find it hard to actually swallow.
There is no greater knowledge than this: that God’s love for us is such that He gives us what we need and not what we deserve. The cup of wrath is real, but not a thing to fear for those who believe in Christ. Instead, we Christians should use the cup of wrath as a reminder to be more patient, more loving with others, just as Christ is patient and loving with us. We have been saved from God’s wrath. Shouldn’t we long to help Him in His quest to see that all are saved?
Because of Christ, God’s wrath is like words scrawled on the sandy shore, where the waves can wash them out to sea over and over again, holding nothing against us.