Over the past couple of years of Cor Deo I have noticed one particular theological observation hitting home (one among many, but I’m thinking of one in particular): we are not Jesus’ plus one. To put it another way, God is not divided between prosecuting Father and lawyer Son.
Maybe it comes from well meaning evangelistic presentations? We need to convey the sense of God’s wrath against sin, as well as God’s love demonstrated in Christ, and we inadvertently set them off against each other. So we present an angry and wrathful Father, and a kind and amiable Son.
Consequently many conceive of the Father as a displeased tyrant with lightning flashing forth toward us, but constantly held back by Jesus’, “It’s okay, Father, they’re with me!” Or perhaps Jesus is the great umbrella under whom we hide when we get to heaven. Or perhaps salvation is seen as some sort of cosmic ruse in which the Father looks at us and only sees the Son. I could go on.
Well meaning evangelistic presentations, reinforced in the local church setting, can lead to people living their Christian lives with a deep sense of distance between them and the Father. Many are convinced He doesn’t like them and would prefer to smite them if it weren’t for Jesus.
So it comes as a surprise to read Jesus’ words in John 16:26-27 – “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you.” Or in John 17:23 – “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Many Christians don’t even know that the Father loves them even as he loves the Son, let alone the watching world!
The amazing thing is that these aren’t obscure corners of the canon. Actually, let’s not miss evangelistic ground zero, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son!”
Could this be a case of theological override, where we read the Scriptures, but we only see what we think we know? This isn’t just a faux pas committed by unbelieving scholars out there somewhere. This is a tendency for everybody. Even before the term theology is known, new believers can be overriding the Scriptures they read with a vision of God they have been given in their conversion.
What a joy to discover that we are loved by the Father! Suddenly the promise of access to the Father by the Son seems like a positive, rather than a theological truth best left on the shelf of theory.
Does this mean that God is not angry toward sin? Does this mean we have imbalanced our view of God and lost sight of his wrath? Not at all. Have you? Surely the best thing to do is dive back into the Bible and read it again for the first time. Maybe in doing so the reality of sin and God’s wrath toward it will be clearer than ever before.
Perhaps sin is minimised not by grasping the extent of God’s love, but by dividing God between attributes (wrath and love in a 50:50 balance like two sides of a coin), or by dividing God between persons of the Trinity (angry Father and loving Jesus). Maybe it is only in grasping that God is love that the full extent of his wrath toward sin can be known, all the while discovering that the Father really loves me.