Friday, January 14, 2011

Jesus Our Umbrella (?) Reprint III

God reveals to us His principles because they are good for us, because without their guidance (and even with them) we fall headlong into behaviors that tend to ruin our lives and our societies and our civilizations. He gives us His commandments, in other words, for the same reason He created us, for the same reason He does anything in relation to us: because He loves us.

This means that when we violate God’s commandments, we do no harm to God!  He didn't give them to protect Himself, but us.  It’s not as though the commandments existed for His sake. They, like the Sabbath, exist for our sake, and when we sin, we harm ourselves and our fellow man and our world. God's honor has not suffered, His glory remains intact. You and I are simply far too small to have any effect upon the high and holy God. He knew before He created us everything we would do, yet still loved us, still gave us life, and still became Man and died for us, “while we were yet sinners.”

There is no such thing as a God who is literally angry with us, but this doesn’t mean there is no such thing as Divine Wrath. There is, but it is directed at our enemies for our sake, instead of at us for His sake. Our God does nothing from self-interest. Rather, God's wrath is directed against our greed and sloth and lust and pride and so forth, the things that prevent us from becoming fully human, the things that drag us down to a level below the animals. God’s Wrath is exercised on our behalf against all the things that destroy us as bearers of His own Image. (Of course, if God were to destroy my pride, it might indeed feel as though God were against me, but in reality, He would have liberated me.)

And the exercise of God’s Wrath involves not punishment (which is totally useless!) but correction. He is not pleased when sins are avenged, but when they cease.

God exercises His Wrath by destroying evil, displacing it and replacing with the corresponding good. Thus, when He reveals Himself to us and teaches us His ways, He is indulging His fury against ignorance. When He leads us in the paths of lovingkindness, He is pouring out His anger against hatred. When He rises from the tomb, He is displaying His Wrath against death. And so forth.

Now all of this is only a prelude to what I really want to say. The point I’m getting at is that there is this idea in non-Orthodox theologizing that Jesus Christ shields us from God’s Wrath. The truth, of course, is that in Christianity, Christ is God. Thus, if He shields you, so does God the Father and so does the Holy Spirit. Or if God the Father were angry with you, so would God the Son be, and so would Jesus Christ, the Man, whose will is always conformed to His Father’s.

Jesus Christ is indeed our Shield, our Umbrella. But what we all need protection from is not God’s Wrath, but the devil’s. He is the angry one, the furious, the envious one, the one from whom we need rescuing.

God and the devil are NEVER on the same side.

And they don't switch sides or from time to time swap roles, either.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust."
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
(from Psalm 91)

Always remember that our God is “holy, harmless, undefiled”. (Hebrews 7:26)


GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you, Anastasia,
I really needed this reminder. I haven't learned to dwell in that secret place and I am too often under my enemies' spell. Lord, have mercy!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

It's just hard, isn't it, when we've grown up on the Angry God. And the feeling deep inside you persists long after the concept has been debunked. It still catches me, too.