At Christmastime, we all desire to be loving, sweet, caring, generous, and generally nicer versions of ourselves.
That’s one of the things I appreciate so much about this season: everyone seems to be trying to be a little more loving right now. It’s a good thing.
But here’s the kicker: we only notice that people are nicer because most of the time they aren’t. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not being cynical. Instead, I’m trying to help us see that contrast is why we notice the “tenderness” of the season.
It’s like that moment in A Christmas Carol when Scrooge is changed: it’s only because he was such a nasty person that makes the transformation so shocking.
In a similar way, we only can appreciate the love of God by noticing what happens in the absence of His love to us: His wrath.
God is not a human. We don’t talk about “God’s wrath” because He’s having a temper tantrum. We are talking about justice. As humans, we are guilty of violating His standard—that’s called “sin”. We sin and the punishment for sin is God’s wrath.
John 3:36 (NIV) reminds us “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Did you read that? God’s wrath (His judgment) remains on those who reject Jesus.
Sin (our pattern of falling short of God’s standard) is not imposed on us as if we are basically good and suffer from sin like we might suffer from a cold. We won’t “get over” sin no matter how hard we try.
We deserve God’s wrath.
“People loved darkness instead of light,” John 3:19 (NIV) instructs, “because their deeds were evil.” We love darkness.
Sin is fun to us. It’s why we do it. It’s why we keep doing it. It’s why we keep struggling with it.
And it’s why we are helpless and hopeless to reach heaven on our own.
This is why John 3:18 (NIV) reminds us, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
Don’t ignore what that says: humanity is condemned by God by default. Hell is our destination. Sin is more than a disease to us; it’s hard-wired into our DNA.
If a governor or president commuted the death sentence for a criminal as guilty before society as much as we are guilty before Heaven’s Throne, we’d protest.
For the Lord to save us and pardon our death sentence is scandalous.
Yet, that’s what Christmas represents: the scandal of Heaven when the Lord started the process of commuting the sentence of wrath for those who will accept the pardon.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” John 3:16-17 (NIV) joyously tells us, “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.
Now, do you understand what we are apart from the Father’s love?
What we celebrate this last day of Advent is an unfathomable, incredible, lavish love for humanity.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are loved far more than you can imagine. And when you understand God’s wrath, your eternal appreciation of His love is phenomenally deeper.
Want more like this? Consider my book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer.
“Life Meets Theology” will return to its normal Wednesday morning distribution on January 3.