Is God Loving – or Angry?


Which one is the “real” God?

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, Ro 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 

So – which one is it?

To borrow a question from an old game show – ‘Will the “real” God please stand up?’

 

I’m re-writing this now for one person in particular – and for anyone who needs it in general.

 

Since I had a allotted amount of time in the original, it was pretty short.  The parts that I added for the online version are in rust colored italics

I wrote this back in February, 2011 for a talk I was giving.  The topic was “Who gets the credit”.  Maybe that seems like an odd combination – asking “who gets the credit” and “is God living or angry” at the same time.  Hopefully, by the end, it won’t seem so odd.  And even if you can’t answer both questions – hopefully this will cause you to think about them – and will lead you to wanting to answer both of them.

Since it was a live talk – and I used some of the things in the room as “props” – aids for making a couple of the points – I need to set up those things for you before getting into it.

First – there was a piano in the room. I don’t know if it was a grand – baby grand – but it was at least that style. And it was very well kept up.

Second – there were several doors in the room. I was planning on using two of them – and pointing to them to illustrate something. As it turns out, the Pastor’s wife made two really nice cardboard doors – drew in the panels and everything. One said “Angry God” – the other said “Loving God”.

With that information – here it is.

 Is God loving – or angry?

That’s a question that lots of people would like to know the answer to.

Many people have heard of the famous verse from John 3:16. It says

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God loves us so much – if we believe in His Son Jesus, who died on the cross to save us – then we will live with Him forever in Heaven.

That certainly sounds extremely loving.
But then we do often hear about God being angry. Where does that come from?

One example would be from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, in chapter 1, starting at verse 18:

Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
Ro 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Ro 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

So God is angry because He should be obvious to us but many of us don’t see Him or give thanks to Him.
That doesn’t sound so loving.

Maybe we are too busy – maybe we are too interested in ourselves – maybe we just don’t care. There are many reasons why people don’t see God around them, but the result is the same – if we don’t See God – we can’t give Him thanks.

So how can we reconcile these two things? Which one is He – loving, or angry?
Or maybe He’s both?
And how do we know what He really feels towards us?
Can we know?
And what if we could know?

What if we could know how God feels towards us?

Let’s start with – what if we could know.
If we could know that when we leave this room, the angry God is right outside one door, <point to the angry door> and the loving God is outside the other door, <point to the loving door> how many of us would intentionally choose to go out the door with the angry God on the other side?

We’d want to go out the door to the loving God.

But – how can we know which door leads to the loving God?
How do we know whether our lives are on a path to the loving God or the angry God?

Before going too much into this I want to be clear that I believe there is only one God.
It’s just a question of whether we are taking a direction with our lives that will lead to Him being angry with us.
I’m going to talk about a loving God – and an angry God – but it is one God – with two possible reactions to what we do with the life He gave us.

The key here is that God’s qualities – although invisible – can be clearly seen.
That’s what Paul writes in Romans, but how can that be possible?
How can we see the invisible?
Because if we can know what God’s qualities are – if we can begin to know something about Him – we can know which door we are walking towards – the one with the loving God – or the one with the angry God.

That may sound confusing, so let’s look at an example.
Consider the piano behind me.

What can a piano tell us about God?

 If I was to sit down and play it – it wouldn’t sound that good. 

But if a world famous piano player came in here and played we’d all think it sounded incredibly good. We would be impressed with the way it sounded. But – being impressed with their playing could just be about the person, the practice time, all the work they put in.
What about God?
Did God have anything to do with it?
Are we ignoring Him by just focusing on the person?

We need to see if there are some invisible qualities of God related to that person playing the piano.

For instance – the ability to play that well. That’s a gift from God. And, it’s a gift whether the person is a Christian or not. To ignore that the gift is from God is to not give Him glory or thanks.
In simpler terms – it’s not giving God credit.
Without the gift of talent for playing so well no one would have enjoyed listening, because it’s that gift from God which makes the person a world famous pianist – as opposed to sounding just like I would when I played.

Is there more?
Are there more invisible qualities of God that we can see in the piano?

What about the song itself?
The ability to write beautiful music – that’s another gift from God.

Can you think of anything else? Are there even more qualities of God in this piano?

What about the piano itself?
Playing a piano that well is amazing enough. Writing the music that someone else learns to play seems even more amazing. But think about the first person that actually thought of making a piano. What a gift from God is that? What was Bartolomeo Cristofori thinking back in 1698 when he built the very first piano? Imagine being the one to come up with a whole new instrument. Especially one like the piano – so complex.
Most people probably don’t know who invented the piano. I didn’t until I looked it up last week.
How many of us think about giving God credit for it? And yet – the ability to design and build it was a gift from God.

There are most likely many more ways to see the hand of God in that piano. But I believe the point is made with those three examples.

What does a piano have to do with Jesus?

So – how do we move from recognizing God in a piano – giving Him credit for it in many different ways – to believing in Jesus and having eternal life?

As Paul writes in Romans – our thinking becomes futile and our hearts become darkened – because we don’t see God around us and therefore don’t give Him credit – don’t give Him the glory that He deserves.

What Paul is saying here – is that because we refuse to see God in everything around us, even things that we see every day – God makes it harder for us to see Him at all.

While the passage in Romans seems very unloving – and is actually titled “God’s wrath against mankind” in the NIV translation of the Bible – it is also very loving.

Free Will

Loving? Really?
How can that be?
It’s loving because It provides us with a map of sorts.
Not an ordinary paper map. And not a Google map. But still a map.

Think back to the two doors – one with the angry God – the other with the loving God.
The question was, how do we know which door is the one we want?
Paul tells us in Romans.
The angry God is outside the door that we choose when we refuse to see God around us. The loving God is outside the door that we choose when we do see God around us – and give Him the glory for what He has done – when we give Him the credit.

For those of us who are Christians – our task is to help those who are not yet believers. To start off with, that may be something as simple as helping others to recognize those invisible qualities of God that Paul writes about. there, as we seek to learn more about God, we all travel on the path to knowing Jesus – towards the eternal life promised in John 3:16.

 

 That was the end of the original talk.  Again – to people who had come to a church.  So there were certain assumptions about the beliefs thay came in with.  And there were time constraints.  Without those two things – there’s more to say.

 

 Which door?  Which God?

 Towards the beginning, i asked –

If we could know that when we leave this room, the angry God is right outside one door, <point to the angry door> and the loving God is outside the other door, <point to the loving door> how many of us would intentionally choose to go out the door with the angry God on the other side?

We’d want to go out the door to the loving God.

Truth is, there’s an assumption built into that statement.  One that’s not necessarily true.  Given that this was a talk given in a church – that assumption was probably true.  Now that it’s out on the web, that assumption is definitely not always valid.  Have you figure out what the assumption is?

The simple fact is – not everyone intentionally chooses the door with the living God on the other side.

Why not?

People always have preconceptions about things.  Up until a couple days ago, I would have added an exception for babies.  After reading Philip Yancey’s Book Where is God when it hurts?, I don’t think I’ll be doing that anymore.  He’s talking about pain and fear.  Imagine a baby – comfortable, safe and warm (usually) in the mother’s womb for about 9 months.  All of a sudden – all the warm fluid is gone – there’s pressure – lot’s of it.  There’s screaming coming from somewhere.  The feeling of going head first (hopefully) down this tiny little tunnel.  Then there’s blindingly bright lights.  Someone’s pulling.  Getting picked up.  Getting slapped.  “Ouch!”  And that’s the baby’s introduction into the world.  I can no longer say that babies don’t have preconceptions about this world they were brought into.

Anyway – we have preconceptions.  We hear things.  We read things (even this thing you’re reading now).  We have friends that tell us things.  We have enemies that tell us things (yes, we “learn” from them too – maybe especially if it’s fear).  We have an accumulation of everything that’s ever happened to us up to this point.  

Some of it we remember.  Some of it we don’t.  But I suspect it all affects us.

The thing is – I believe we have the free will to either accept or reject the impact of the people and things we’ve experienced.  

Maybe they’re overall positive – and we like that, so we stay with it.  

Maybe they’re overall negative.  Now what?  Do we feel like that’s all there is – and we stay with it – because maybe there’s nothing else?  Maybe we’re just destined (or doomed) for a life of misery, so why fight it?  Karma?  Predestiny? Too afraid to go for something better?  There are lots of reasons – but many people do stay here.  Too many stay there by choice.  Too many meet the “angry” God simply because they thinks that’s the way He is.  There’s no effort to even look for the loving God – because the deep seated belief that He’s angry and condemning is just too strong.

I believe this is a problem with the people who present that view of God – not God Himself.  I choose to believe that it’s up to us which view of God we see.  Look at my story.  There have been so many times when I could have turned away from the loving God.  Restate that – there have been so many times when I wanted to turn away from God.  But I kept coming back.  There are so many things from my past that I chose to consciously reject.  Even while yelling at God about “why are you doing this to me?” – I still was rejecting that things had to be that way.  

The only way I see to change that is to open the door to the loving God.  I’m not strong enough to reject it by myself.  I know that.  I have a tendency to get really depressed when things are going against me.  I know that now as well.  There’s only one way that I can turn that around – and that’s to open the door to the loving God.  Yes – I keep opening it.  We have to.  For some reason – we always seem to be drawn to that other door.  When things don’t go right for us – we blame the angry God.  When we look around and see the state of the world – we blame the angry God.  Maybe He’s looking at us and asking how come we (His church) aren’t doing a better job of representing Him and why we (His church) aren’t doing a better job of taking care of this world?  Maybe it’s not really His fault at all.  Maybe it’s too many of the people who say they love God – but chose the “angry God door”?  Please – don’t let them give God a bad name.  Don’t pick the angry door just because too many other people also picked it.

So yes – just as Adam and Eve had a choice (free will) to go back to God and verify what the snake (Satan) was telling them – was it true or not – so do we have the free will to go to God and ask Him – which one are you – loving or angry.  And what if He says “yes”.  What if He says – “that’s up to you”.  What if He says that His will would be for you to choose the loving one – but you also have the free will to choose the angry one?  Which one will you choose?  

Too many people emphasize the down side of not choosing the loving God.  They say He’s going to send us to Hell if we don’t love Him.  They say He’s going to kill us of we don’t love Him.  They say all sorts of things about Hell-fire and Damnation to scare people into loving God.  But that’s not the full story.  Jesus’ first message is love.  His last is the angry side of God – for those who reject the first message.  The choice is our.  And He knew that many would not accept the message of love.

We see in Luke that Jesus came for everyone –

Lk 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

But at the Last Supper, Jesus Himself says that some reject this offer –

Mk 14:24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.

So what was meant for all – was accepted only by some.  That this was going to happen is foretold at the very beginning of John’s Gospel –

Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
Jn 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Jn 1:6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Jn 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Some choose to believe the rejection is because God made some people that way.  I choose to believe that God knows His children well enough to know that many of us would reject Him.  

Most people know John 3:16.  Many people reject the notion that God loves people that much.  How many realize that there’s also a map that comes after that statement – a map showing the path to both of the doors we’re talking about here?

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

There’s no pre-condemnation here.  There’s no pre-destiny here.  There’s nothing that says just because much of the rest of the world is rejecting God’s offer that any one of us must also do the same.  There’s nothing that says anything in our past must make the decision for us.  Quite the opposite – it’s telling us to be different.  It’s telling us to be the ones to break from the bad things in our past.  It’s telling us that each and every one of us can make a choice – must make a choice.  Which one – that’s entirely up to us.  The consequences that come after that – also entirely up to us.  Just choose the one we want.

 

What if we want to change our minds?

Earlier, I wrote that If I was to sit down and play the piano – it wouldn’t sound that good.  I used to know how to play.  Not a concert pianist by any means.  But pretty good.  Took (was forced to take) lessons for several years.  I had a grandfather who was a professional musician – played in clubs during the big band era.  He was amazing.  Could still play piano in his 90’s.  

But there’s a point here.  I used to play.  I stopped playing.  Now that I’m retired, I actually want to start playing again.  Consider this scenario with the doors.  

What if you had previously chosen (or been forced to “choose”) the loving God door.  Then you rejected it and ended up (by default) at the angry God door?  Can you change your mind and go back to the loving God door?  Absolutely.  Here are the words to Jesus to the Church in Laodicea from Revelation.  A church that had given up their love for God.  A church that didn’t really hate Him.  They were pretty much indifferent.  Very much like someone who had closed the loving God door – hadn’t actually opened the angry God door yet – but were just drifting around outside both doors but opening neither.

Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

That’s Jesus’ message to you, if that’s where you’re at.  He’s standing on the other side of the loving God door.  Waiting for you to open it.  And if you do, He’ll be there with open arms waiting to greet you.

 

What about someone who has never opened up the loving God door?  What if you’ve always felt that God hates you, or God’s out to get you?  What’s there for you?  Remember the two guys hanging on the crosses on either side of Jesus?  

Lk 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
Lk 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Lk 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”
Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

One of them rejects Jesus – and gets nothing.  Not even a response.  That would be the angry door.  The one where God isn’t present.  God’s telling us – if we don’t want Him, that’s what we’ll get.  An existence without Him.  An existence without even a response.

But look at the other one.  All He does is say “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And unlike the first one, this man gets a response – “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It’s that simple.  He opened up the loving God door – and there was Jesus – and an eternity in paradise.

Both men got what they wanted. Both men were in the same situation – dying on a cross.  And yet one chose to insult God, while the other chose to ask to be remember by God.  

Either man could have made either choice.
Both men got what they wanted.

 

Which door did / do / will you choose?

What do you want?  
Which door do you want to open?

 

For the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 

Someone’s at your door.

 

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