How Can God Be Angry and Loving?
What comes to mind when you think of the word “love?”
Your first thought when you think of love is probably not anger. The two terms seem in complete opposition to one another, yet the Bible describes God as a jealous and angry God, while also describing him as loving and comforting.
The entire story of the gospel is centered around God’s unconditional love for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world…”
So, how do we reconcile the love of God in the New Testament with the wrath of God of the Old Testament?
First of all, there is nothing to reconcile. It’s important to note that God does not have a character change between the Old and New Testaments. The Bible clearly states that God is consistent and never-changing. “For I the Lord do not change…” (Malachi 3:6).
In a world that puts a lot of emphasis on love, it’s easy and comforting to think of God’s love for us. But when we think of his anger, it doesn’t always make sense. That’s because the world we live in often thinks of “love” as a synonym to “support” and “agreement.”
That’s not what God’s love is at all.
God sent Jesus to be with us because our sin separated us from God. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we couldn’t have a relationship with God. Because God is all good, He hates sin, and when we sin, he becomes angry. He becomes angry because of how much he loves us. When we sin, he doesn’t agree with our sin yet he still loves us in his anger. That’s what real love is.
Imagine it like this. Your best friend, whom you love, is practicing things that are detrimental to their health. They’re getting drunk every night, doing drugs, and skipping work. While you love them, you may feel angry toward their choices and actions because that’s not the kind of life you want for your best friend. I imagine that’s probably what God feels every time we choose to sin.
In his book, Jesus the King, Timothy Keller describes love as something that requires sacrifice. God loved us so much that he sent his only son Jesus to die on the cross for us so that we can have a relationship with him. That takes sacrifice.
If God was not a God of wrath, there would be no need for him to send Jesus to earth. He would not feel anger toward sin which would cause him to not act on or sacrifice anything.
Keller writes, “If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil—angry enough to do something about it” (Keller, 194)
Imagine a loving God who sacrificed nothing. Thankfully, we have a loving and angry God who sacrificed everything. We never have to doubt his love for us because he proved it and continues to do so time and time again. God’s love, and wrath don’t live in opposition to one another; they actually complement one another.
If you want an all-loving God, you have to have an angry one as well—he loves us so much that he has to be angry at our sin.
In his book, Free of Change, Miroslav Volf, who is a pacifist, talks about his internal struggle with God’s wrath:
God is love, and God loves every person and every creature… though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love. (Volf 139)
If God is loving and just, his righteous anger sets the world right and teaches us not only about his sacrificial love for us but also how we should love one another.
Today, whether you buy flowers or balloons for Valentine’s Day, prefer Galentine’s Day, or hate the sight of hearts of cards, remind yourself of God’s love, and also his anger. Remember his ultimate sacrifice of sending Jesus to die on the cross. Remind yourself that he not only says that he loves you, but he loves you enough to do something about it.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Kali Gibson is the editor-in-chief for So We Speak and a copywriter for the Youversion Bible App.