Miroslav Volf is a lecturer, author and theologian from Croatia who at one time altogether rejected any notion of God’s wrath. He found God’s wrath to be incompatible with God’s love. But when war crimes and atrocities came to his country in the ’90s, he began to see things differently. The following excerpt comes from his book Free of Charge:
My last resistance to the idea of God's wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry.
Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators' basic goodness? Wasn't God fiercely angry with them?
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.
This Sunday we’re going to pay further witness to the kinds of injustice and evil that warrant God’s wrath. As these events played out 2000 years ago, they acted as further evidence of the worst that humanity is capable. The wrongful conviction and execution of an innocent man is a tragedy. It’s even more so when the outrage is committed against God’s anointed one, “the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.”
Before we celebrate the astonishing way that this brutality led to our salvation, we would do well to honor the tragedy of it. We truly come to understand God’s mercy when we see the opportunity he had to express his wrath.
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7)