God’s Gonna Kick Your Ass

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.


It has always been hard for me to hear about God’s wrath and condemnation and not hear it like, “You miserable sinner, God is so gonna kick your ass.” The picture I have is of a mythological deity who in a fit of rage has departed from self control, and who thereby unleashes wave upon wave of crushing blows to sadistically inflict pain and finally ruin upon the object of his ire and frustration. I know my picture is a distortion of God’s character, and yet there are images and stories in the Scriptures that seem to support it.

Awhile ago, I read a work by theologian Donald Bloesch who stated that God’s wrath is the strange work of his love. I did not quite get the significance of his statement but I certainly found it provocative. Later, I read a novel by Ted Dekker, in which one of the characters said that God’s wrath is his reaction toward anything that inhibits or prevents his love. This seemed to provide insight into Bloesch’s expression, and it certainly ameliorated the image of a moral bully looking to trounce wrongdoers. Still, something negative lingered.

Yesterday, as I was reading the above verse from the third chapter of John’s gospel I was struck by a different notion of God’s wrath. As the verse indicates, God’s action is to deliver us from the default state of the human condition: condemnation. In the context of the whole Gospel we see that this deliverance was enacted through his self-giving, and it is this self-giving that most clearly expresses who God is. So, where does God’s wrath fit into this? I am not sure except to say that it must be consistent with his self-sacrificing nature.

While I was reading the above verse, I sensed God presented me with a question: “How would you have me respond to those who in refusing me refuse the foundation of reality and the source of all goodness? What kind of beauty, love, and goodness can be established through those who ultimately must bring everything into conformity with their fallen will and desire?” In response, I saw a picture of unending conflict, ugliness and destruction. From this, it seemed to me that God’s wrath must be his response toward that which brings destruction and ugliness. God’s wrath is his destruction of destruction.

None of this completely alleviates the discomfort or perhaps fear that I have regarding his wrath, but it certainly makes me see it as necessary and even desirable if the world is ever going to be permeated by love. As I see it, we can’t have the good we want apart from God. Both goodness and love are like an energy that flows from God and through hearts that are open to him. Thus, in refusing God a person kills the circuit, and in that place where the circuit ceases ugliness and destruction naturally emerges. In this light, condemnation is God merely identifying the ugliness of what is. Moreover, wrath is the strange movement of his love to restore all things to their original beauty and goodness.

5 Responses to “God’s Gonna Kick Your Ass”

  1. Simon Jones  

    Ah well, God is going to willingly kill 2/3 of the people in the world today over a technicality. Stuff like this makes it very easy to disbelieve the so called ‘word of God’ in my opinion. God is bigger than that, and if he isn’t then he isn’t the God anyone has ever told me about.

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Simon – I am not quite sure what part of my post you are responding to. Is it the verse itself that talks about condemnation remaining upon those who don’t believe in the name of Jesus? I can see why this would be daunting, but I don’t see it as expressing the idea that some (or many) might go to hell because of a technicality.

    As I tried to communicate, hell is not about a deity sadistically venting his frustrations upon people who piss him off due to their moral imperfection. God is not itching to damn anyone, and no one in hell will be there because they forgot to put their moral commas in the right place. I once read that hell will be populated by people who subscribe to the philosophy “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.” Borrowing an idea from C.S. Lewis, I would say that the doors of hell are locked from the inside.

    I can see why the verse can be read as some will go to hell because of a technicality: “Oooops, you didn’t say Jesus. Too bad. I gotta damn you.” Yes, I do think that Jesus is critical and central to the destiny of humankind and the whole of creation. And, I do think that our response to him (both individually and collectively) matters. However, I also think that God’s judgment will be perfect, that it will not be subject to any limitations; it won’t miss any nuance or subtlety, and it will take into account all contextual factors. He will know if our resistance to him is due to ignorance, confusion, deception, lack of genuine opportunity, or if it is because in the end we have decided to be our own gods, and thereby stubbornly refuse to acknowledge him.

  3. Simon Jones  

    I was responding to the Bible verse that said (as I understood it) that if you don’t believe in Jesus (the majority of the world) then bad luck, God’s gonna make sure you go to hell.

    I simply cannot believe that a God who is capable of such creative thinking that he could make an entire world would choose to disown people over what amount to a minor technicality surrounding his son.

    This has been the major stumbling block in my belief in the Christian religion, and in fact it is the major stumbling block of all religions. God said those who seek me will find me. That seems more real to me. So a Muslim born into that faith and culture and living in Indonesia will find God if they seek him, and of course, being a devout Muslim they are seeking him.

    Perhaps Jesus greets them at the door of heaven and explains that he in fact God’s son (and God too), so maybe everyone is afforded that opportunity. If not then God, or at least the men who wrote words in his name, would therefore be lying when it was said “those who seek me will find me.”

  4. Roger Green  

    Indeed, Simon’s point in his second message is why I fell away from the church from the time I was 18 to the time I was 29. As for how I deal with it now, I don’t. I believe for me; it is not my place to judge others, as God will do that in His/Her own way.

  5. K.L.B.  

    “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

    I recall the remarks of a woman whom shared with me about her young daughter witnessing her grandfather being hit by a dump truck as he crossed the road.

    She shared how she had dreamed about her daughter being hit by a dump truck while visiting her grandfather, and for some time, the mother had not taken her daughter to visit him because of her fear at that dream.

    That woman, as we all have in various forms, been visited by the Almighty for many years in the form of dreams. She shared about how she would see specific people dying in house fires, and warned them about it, only to have them scoff at her… and later see their house burn.

    She shared about a bad feeling about a certain car she and her husband bought, and how she sensed death in the car. He sold it at her behest, and later learned how the young man whom bought it was killed in it shortly afterwards.

    Relenting to her daughter’s request, she took her for a visit one day, and recalls how her daughter went into psychogenic shock after witnessing her grandfather cross the road to get the mail and get hit by a dump truck.

    It happened almost exactly as she had seen it in her dreams.

    Her daughter was so immediately and forcefully traumatized by the event that the mother had to literally slap her face very hard to bring her to her senses.

    It worked.

    Had she not done that, her daughter would have been incapable of being consoled or comforted by her mother, or others, and perhaps thusly incapable of processing the emotions she needed to have access to, in order to work through the traumatic event.

    C.S. Lewis wrote that “Pain, as God’s megaphone, gives us the only opportunity we may have for amendment. It plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. All of us are aware that it is very hard to turn our thoughts to God when things are going well.”

    It is wrath? Is it simply a cause-and-effect? Who cares? The point is that “God’s [desired] action is to deliver us from the default state of the human condition: condemnation.” To argue about wrath is a bit like arguing over whether or not more water is pouring in the mammoth-sized gouge on the starboard side, or port side of the Titanic… as it sinks.

    Get into action, do something useful!

    Don’t just stand there like damn fools, save yourselves (or others).

    “There is therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”