Forgiveness and Wrath

I woke up early this morning and found myself immersed in an old familiar emotion – intense anger over a blatant injustice. Yesterday a friend of mine relayed a story of being defeated in court, not because it was unclear whether he was in the right or not but on a technicality. It was clear that the court and his opponent knew ahead of time how it would turn out, but they used that system to 'put him in his place' and let him know who had the power.

For most of my life these kinds of stories have infuriated me. I have long assumed this was because I had a keen sense of justice as some other people often feel. The way we think of justice is based however, on a faulty foundation, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, i.e. reward and punishment as the symbol of the scales represents. But what God has been showing me for a number of years is that His justice is very different from the balancing sort of justice we are used to and as a result God's justice sometimes makes us angry because He refuses to do things according to our standards.

As I lay there fully aware of my anger and resentment from thinking about that story, I was suddenly confronted by the Holy Spirit who convicted me that my lifelong addiction to such self-justification was a sin. I knew that my feelings were opposite to what I have learned were the attitudes of Jesus. Yet it is very hard to allow God to change me from things that make me appear righteous even though He is making it more and more clear that they are in fact not according to His kind of righteousness.

As I listened to what the Spirit was saying to me, I heard something that caused me to be wide awake and propelled me to get up and begin writing out what I was hearing which is this study. And the core of what I realized was a fascinating and tight connection between forgiveness and God's wrath, as strange as that may seem at first. So let me explain.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. (Matthew 18:35)

When I did an intensive and extended study of Matthew 18 a number of years ago, I discovered early on that stumbling blocks, trespasses and sin are all pretty much interchangeable. Some translate the Greek word in any one of these ways as well as occasion to sin. The definition of the word says that an offense is, according to the Greek, the bait stick for a trap. An offense therefore is an enticement to fall into a trap of sin and so is closely related to sin itself. And really, to entice someone to sin is really a greater sin in itself, is it not? According to Revelation 2:14 Jesus is not at all pleased that Balaam taught king Balak how to entice the people of God to fall into sin after failing to curse them directly. He did this by instructing Balak to use seductive women to tempt the men of Israel to engage in sexual immorality with them and turn their hearts away from following God. This deliberate act of tempting God's children to sin is seen by God as an even more reprehensible sin than what the Israelites did in falling for the seduction.

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

We generally view abusers, child molesters, pimps and drug lords more responsible for sin than the people they seduce into becoming their victims. Such people blatantly and knowingly cause other people to sin while many times their victims who are drawn into sin initially resist participating in such evil schemes. So I think it is safe to say that sins of this type may even be more closely linked to the words offense and stumbling block than the actions of those who are caught in such traps.

This brings me to a very sobering conclusion. If holding onto an offense, of any kind, is equivalent to acting like a seducer or an abuser of innocent victims, where does that put me when I resist forgiving someone for an offense they have committed against me? This is in fact, precisely the subject of the entire chapter of Matthew 18 from the very beginning. Jesus begins by talking about people who are causing others to fall.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! (Matthew 18:6-7)

Occasions for stumbling. That is really along the line of deliberate intent to cause someone else to sin or even make them an unwillingly victim. This same word in other translations is rendered offense. This means that for me to hold onto an offense is to deliberately create an occasion to cause others to sin. So when I refuse to let go of an offense, when I take offense and hold onto that offense, refusing to let it go for any reason, I place myself in a far more sinful position from heaven's perspective than those who fall into a trap of sin because of the bait I used to entice them there.

God despises this reprehensible activity. Any deliberate tempting, seducing of His children to distrust His heart and fall into sin from heaven's viewpoint is high treason against God, for God is love, the very opposite of what we are doing when we take offense. This is why God despises it, not because He hates those doing this but because He hates the activity of anyone causing others to turn away from the only Source of life and destroying their trust in God's heart. Such activity rips people away from God's heart, turns them against trust in Him and therefore wounds the tender heart of the One who loves them the most. No wonder God despises such things. And why shouldn't He, for anyone trying to win the trust and affection of a doubting child would rightly be enraged if someone else came along and convinced that child that their parent could not be trusted and they should stay far away from them.

This is all very disturbing to me right now, yet I cannot deny the strong conviction I am feeling as I see more clearly what God is saying to me and to all of us. God is saying He hates holding offenses because it leads to causing others to turn away from believing in the trustworthiness of God. By such actions we give the message that God holds offenses against us which is one of the worst lies of the enemy. And the ultimate outcome of that path is death, not because God will punish us but because He is the only source of life, healing and love, so to distrust His heart is to chose destruction.

God has not the faintest desire for anyone to die, contrary to the many lies circulating about Him in the world today. Rather God is doing everything possible to expose and refute the lies about Him that alienate His children from coming to Him for life. So it should be no surprise that He would be very upset when anyone comes along to reinforce the very lies in people's minds that He is working so hard to displace.

That word despise actually is how Jesus describes the nature of offense in this passage. When I take offense over what someone says or does and hold onto that offense, I am introducing into my mind and body a deadly infection like a cancer that works to take over my entire body to destroy me. We do not usually think of offenses from this perspective, but Jesus makes it very plain that this is just the reality we face from heaven's point of view. To hold on to an offense and resist forgiving (letting go of an offense and our right for revenge) is to embrace a disease that will work to destroy my own soul as well as tempt others to become infected with the same deadly disease.

Let me take a closer look at how Jesus describes how to deal with this dangerous infection that threatens our present and eternal life.

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:8-11 NAS95)

What is clearly coming into focus here is that the attitude of Jesus and His Father who sent Him to us is quite opposite of offense/stumbling blocks. In fact, to take offense equates with despising someone according to Jesus, for when we refuse to forgive either a real or perceived offense against us, Jesus says we are despising them. And isn't that an accurate description of our gut-level feelings towards someone who has offended us? If we are honest do we not have to admit that we despise them? Yet Jesus strongly warns us that to despise someone is dangerous as in the end we will be found to be the ones who are more at fault for causing others to stumble by our unforgiveness than those we resent.

Does God despise sin? Absolutely! But God never despises and of His children, for He knows we have been deceived by lies about Him that have led us to distrust and hide from Him. God is love and longs to restore all of His children to a condition of trust in Him. He is eager to remove the lies from our hearts and minds that block us from being able to trust Him. And even those who place those stumbling blocks that inhibit others from trusting God's heart, He wants to save just as much. But He passionately despises the lies themselves that inhibit His children from being willing to give Him access to their hearts so as to rescue them from the fear caused by believing slander about Him.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:2 NAS95)

When Jesus came to this earth He never despised anyone, for He saw every person as a precious child of His that He longed to restore to wholeness and draw into intimate trust with His own heart. Even the worst abusers and most wicked, untrustworthy sinners were objects of His deepest affection. But He could not force Himself on anyone but could only display the passion of God and do everything possible to convince all of the saving truth that could break the spell that such lies hold over our minds. But Jesus very much despised the shame, the notions that cause us to feel worthless and unloved inside. Jesus never despised victims of shame but rather despised the shame messages themselves that lead people to distrust the heart of the One who loves them the most.

Jesus deeply despises lies that block us from letting Him love us unconditionally which leads us to malfunction apart from Him. And some of the very worst, most contagious lies are those that we tend to view with the least suspicion – those involved in holding onto offenses. We think very little of how holding onto an offense and refusing to forgive someone misrepresents God to other people and causes them to distrust His heart. Yet unforgiveness may possibly be the most damning sin, not because God despises it so much but because of its subtle power to deceive us and others into thinking that God holds onto offenses against us. This is the kind of activity that hardens our heart in unbelief.

Religion promotes the notion that God is offended by our sins and holds those offenses/sins against us until we repent and ask Him to forgive us. Only after properly performing prerequisite acts of repenting, confessing and seeking forgiveness do we think He will relent and finally let go of the offense He has taken against us. This is a common theme embedded in many explanations of salvation. Yet nothing could be further from the truth according to Jesus.

God never takes offense! If God ever took offense about anything, that very act would make Him a sinner Himself – something not even possible. To portray God as acting in such a way then, is to make Him out to be little different than how we treat each other. That is exactly the kind of fallacy that Jesus is exposing here in Matthew 18, how we horrifically misrepresent the kind of God He is in the ways we treat those who offend us. When we resist forgiving someone until they sufficiently repent, confess (think grovel) and apologize to us, we may feel justified in holding onto our grudge, the offense, and even desire for them to experience some sort of punishment for what they have done to hurt us.

Yet if this is how we relate those who offend us, we are saying by such action that the God we think is in charge acts the same way towards those who commit offenses against Him. Nothing could be further from the truth! This is why Jesus says here that if any part of our body becomes infected with this deadly infection beyond cure, it would be better to cut that body part out entirely and get it as far away from us as possible if we would have any hope of escaping its deadly infection. We do that in the medical world, so it makes sense that God advises us to do the same thing in our spiritual world.

Holding onto any offense then is a greater sin than whatever another person has done to offend us, no matter how obscenely evil it may seem to us. This sounds like very strong language, but I cannot help but see this inherent in these words of Jesus to His disciples. These very disciples by the way, at the beginning of this teaching were being reprimanded for their clamoring to be thought of as the most important, the most valuable to Jesus above the others. This spirit of trying to be seen as more important than other people is one of the most pervasive faults that tempts all of us, yet it is the very opposite of the spirit that Jesus displayed His entire life and desires for us to embrace.

Jesus despised the spirit of self-exaltation, for this spirit is what caused sin in the first place in the mind of Lucifer. Yet while despising the sin that has alienated so many of His children, God never despises any of His children who have become infected with this virus. God is love, and love keeps no accounting of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). On the other hand, taking offense and holding onto it is the very opposite of love. It means keeping a ledger of wrongs committed against us and hoping to find a way to demand repayment of that debt at some point. This was the attitude of the debtor in the story at the end of this chapter, but the outcome of his choice was very painful for him in the end.

And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. (Matthew 18:34-35)

When we refuse to let go of any offense, no matter how large or small, we are defacing the image of God in our soul and misrepresent Him to the world as being harsh, demanding, only forgiving after having His terms of reconciliation met fully just like we do. This is not the truth about our loving heavenly Father but is rather a caricature of Him circulated by the great accuser. God never holds a grudge, never takes offense and always loves unconditionally and forgives in real time. God is not like us and we must beware of trying to make Him out to reflect our image. The only correct version of God is seen in the pure life, teachings and example of Jesus who never for a moment took offense, even when the world threw all the evil they could at Him to entice Him to react otherwise.

In fact this is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and gave you an example, so you should follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Although he was abused, he never tried to get even, when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but left everything to the one who judges fairly. (1 Peter 2:21-23 multiple versions)

Talk about stumbling blocks to invite taking offense, Jesus experienced all the stumbling blocks possible to experience hurled at Him by demonic forces united with enraged humans trying to get Him to take offense. Stripping Him naked they publicly beat, whipped, taunted, slandered and tortured Him to the extreme. Jesus experienced the full force of humanity's attempts to destroy all his sense of worth and identity. This is what shame is all about, for shame is the attempt to strip away a person's sense of worth, value and identity.

Throughout His entire life Jesus was assaulted by temptations to doubt His identity as the Son of God. Yet He clung to His Father's love all the time and refused to ever take offense. When He finally died after accomplishing this, the enemy knew he was in big trouble, for he had failed spectacularly to get God to react with resentment or to take offense no matter how shamefully He had been treated. Satan had based his credibility on his claims that God would crack if only He could be caused to suffer enough. But Jesus proved him wrong and demonstrated that love is far more powerful than fear, suffering or any other power. This victory by Jesus over shame became the signal victory that exposed the devil as the great fraud and liar that he is and vindicated the truth that God really is love and can never be changed from that.

Here is something else to consider about offenses, forgiveness and shame. We have seen how unforgiveness, the holding onto an offense and refusing to let it go until our conditions are met, is a sin of treason against the government of heaven. We have seen that Jesus despises such sin and despises all attempts to shame anyone, for it was the whole system of shaming that Jesus despised on the cross. But He never despised the people doing the shaming.

But what about us? How does this all apply to our relationship to this same God? How will we escape the grip of shame in our lives, both incoming and outgoing?

If I resist disconnecting from this habit of holding onto offenses and retain the deadly virus of this sin in my heart, the shame inherent in it that is very cancer of sin will eat away at my soul until eventually there will be no life left in me. If I allow this disease to go uncured I will die as a result of rejecting the remedy Jesus offers to me. The antidote for this deadly disease of shame is only found by embracing the truth about God and believing in His kind of forgiveness. Because we are reflectors by design, if we believe God resists forgiving, we too will resist letting go of offenses and will lock out our own hearts from being able to accept the forgiveness of God for us. ...if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. This was the condition of the debtor in Jesus' story, for as long as he rejected the forgiveness given to him he could not experience it even though it was still a reality.

You see, it is not God who holds onto an offense and refuses to forgive as we have already explained. Rather, it is our perceptions of God that distort our thinking and lead us to act in ways we imagine God acts towards us. So long as we cling to beliefs that God must be placated in some way before He will be willing to let go of His offenses, we make God out to be no better than the way we treat people. This is the temptation we all face, for the enemy will keep us in his prison of unforgiveness, resentment and self-justification through thinking God is doing the same thing to us.

God despises such lies about Him, for it is these kinds of lies that cause the most harm to His children. When He sees us holding onto grudges and thus despising someone, He knows we are setting an example of unforgiveness that will become a stumbling block to lead others to view Him in the same light as we do. So the virus of lies about His character are spread even farther as we reinforce the slander of the enemy against Him. Yet even so, God is not a man and will never stoop to taking offense no matter how we treat Him, for God is love and free of all offenses.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

What is going to happen to us in the end if we have repeatedly refused to follow the example and teaching of Jesus to let go of all offenses? How will Jesus relate to us when it becomes clear that we have chosen to stick with the currency of shame to manipulate others while justifying ourselves? In the day of full revelation the same shame that we have used to try to get others to stop offending us will be discovered as taking up residence in our own hearts. The offenses we have held against others will in the light of judgment be seen as far greater offenses of our own putting us out of harmony with the principles of selfless love and forgiveness that makes up the society of heaven.

When Jesus comes (unchanged by the way, from how He lived here on earth), He will not come to execute the sort of vengeance we usually crave when we hold an offense against someone. No, God's kind of vengeance is very different from ours, which is exactly why He tells us not to attempt to practice vengeance, for we have little to no clue as to what that even means.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads."
(Romans 12:19-20)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

What is the wrath of God? Amazingly I am now realizing even more clearly that it is in fact, very similar to forgiveness. You see, heaven's way of viewing things is almost always backwards to how we understand things. Jesus made this clear many times with statements such as these:

The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:35)

But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest." (Luke 9:47-48)

But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 14:10-11)

When we hold onto an offense, in our minds we are effectively placing ourselves in a position above another person in importance or moral integrity. We believe that because they have offended us that they owe us a debt and we are now their creditor. That may be supportable by the facts. However, by imagining ourselves as better than someone else we have vacated the principles of the kingdom of God that Jesus gave us and are relying on the ways of this world designed by Satan. We are also filling our own lives with shame even though we often fail to recognize what we are doing.

By viewing others through a disposition of shame, viewing them as less valuable than ourselves, that pattern of shame thinking actually reacts in our own soul as well as our body to produce the effects of shame in ourselves. We infect our heart with the very shame that we project on others because we are acting out a faulty image of how we imagine God relates to us. God is doing everything to save us from this messed up thinking, but He will not force us to change if we stubbornly refuse and resist His convictions. But He will be relentless in His attempts to keep drawing us away from that deadly cycle of thinking in our persistence we come to destroy our very capacity to even want to change. At that point He can no longer communicate to our heart any longer and He has to respect our choice. This is the essence of the meaning of wrath when it comes to God according to Scripture.

If this becomes our condition, then on that day when the truth about His unconditional love for us becomes unavoidable and all the lies we have clung to about Him are melted away in the blazing light of the real truth about His love, all the shame which we have used to manipulate others will be seen as having become the identity we have embraced and has permanently formed our characters irreparably. We will have become so identified with shame that it is no longer possible to be separated from it.

Now the pivotal issue emerges. Even though Jesus despises shame, He will never despise any of His children, even those who have welded their hearts to the shame they have clung to throughout their lives. So how will they react when they see clearly His intense feelings against shame? How will they perceive His attitude towards them? Will they believe He is despising them? Does He despise them?

When the true Jesus (who is the perfect reflection of God) shows up, all who have refused to believe God is like Him react with dismay and terror. This is not because He is angry or looking for revenge but rather because their perceptions of God are so contradictory to what they see that they cannot stand the dissonance between the two. Both at the Second Coming of Jesus and later again on the day of Judgment, those who stand in the passionate presence of pure love, that atmosphere in which all the humble thrive, those who have rejected Jesus' version of God will be in terror.

Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17)

Hear, you who are far away, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can live with the devouring fire? Who among us can live with everlasting flames?" (Isaiah 33:13-14)

In that day of final revelation of all truth and goodness, it will become plain to every intelligent being that God has never been the source of any of the problems that have taken place in this war. It will also be made clearly evident that all who have married themselves to sin, shame and the ways of evil did so using the full freedom of choice that they could have used to embrace God's healing love instead. It is fully the choice of each individual as to which system of beliefs about God and which version of reality they will embrace to shape their life and determine their destiny.

The only way to enter into real life is to die to our right for revenge – letting go – forgive. What was brought vividly to my attention this morning was how close the Bible's definition is for this word forgiveness and the concept of God's wrath.

The word wrath, at least when relating to God in Scripture, actually means letting go. Romans 1 makes this very clear and defines God's wrath as His letting go of people who reject the truth about Him to experience the natural consequences of their choices to reject truth. Now it is becoming even more clear to me that in a way God is asking me to relate to others in a very similar way through the choice of forgiveness, choosing to let go of any and all offenses and leaving the other person free to do or choose whatever they decide for themselves without any pressure from me.

This aligns with the core principle of freedom that undergirds and secures God's government – freedom to think and to choose for one's self how to respond and relate to God's love for them free of any threat of recrimination or retaliation. God does not force His love on anyone and that includes any veiled or explicit threats against those choosing to spurn His love. This is the same thing involved in forgiveness – choosing to give people freedom to make their own choices without entertaining desires for revenge or punishment. This is what is most clearly exposed about the heart of God through Jesus as He hung on the cross, suffering the abuse of sinners against Him. He breathed continual forgiveness according to the original language. This is the reality of who God is and how He relates to offenses.

In fact this is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and gave you an example, so you should follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Although he was abused, he never tried to get even, when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but left everything to the one who judges fairly. (1 Peter 2:21-23 multiple versions)

To forgive is to leave everything in the hands of the only One who can be counted on to be completely fair. To forgive like Jesus demonstrates is to resist all desire for revenge, for getting even or for retaliation,. To accept an attitude of forgiveness is to embrace fully and at all times the reality that God is the very same way as Jesus revealed Him to be most clearly while suffering abuse on the cross.

When I take offense from what others may do, whether or not it is even done to me directly, I am judging them, something Jesus refused to ever do (John 12:47-48). Paul explains this in Romans 1 and 2 where he explains the truth about the wrath of God as letting people go to experience the natural consequences of their choices and then addresses those who take offense at such people. After rebuking us for judging people who openly sin, Paul explains that if we resist taking God's attitude toward those who offend us we are in fact exposing ourselves as in the very same condition as those we judge.

So you have no reason, whoever you are, for judging: for in judging another you are judging yourself, for you do the same things.
But by your hard and unchanged heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of the revelation of God's judging in righteousness; Who will give to every man his right reward: To those who go on with good works in the hope of glory and honor and salvation from death, he will give eternal life: But to those who, from a love of competition, are not guided by what is true, will come the heat of his wrath. (Romans 2:1,5-8 BBE)

Wrath is God's corollary to forgiveness, for both are defined similarly – letting go. If I refuse to let go of offenses, those offenses become the substance of the wrath I store up in my own heart. In reality I am creating the lethal mix of wrath that will break out from inside of me to consume me on that day. The fire that I would experience will not be God's anger against me by my rage left unhealed which becomes the fuel for my own destruction. On that final day when all become exposed to the passionate love of God, my own wrath from unrelinquished offenses will serve to torture and destroy me. This is the fire that will destroy all who have rejected the kingdom of pure love.

By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. (Ezekiel 28:18)

Offenses, guilt and self-condemnation react to create extreme resistance internally when exposed by the presence of passionate love (Revelation 14:10). As God releases the lost to the natural effects of their choice to cling to offenses that fueled the deadly infection inside, their character is seen to be incompatible and hopelessly out of harmony with the fire of God's passionate love for all His children.

Love never holds onto or even takes offense to start with. When confronted with that kind of love up close and unavoidably, our mirror (we are all mirrors of the god we worship) will shatter in dissonance because it has not been reconditioned to resonate with the way of living heaven enjoys. The character has become distorted through being conformed to this world (Romans 12:2), ways of manipulation, offense, fear and desires for revenge. As a result, exposure of the hardened heart to the opposite principles of heaven is repulsive, offensive and torturing to the lost (Isaiah 33:13-14).

I must learn now, while I still have opportunity, to either let go of offenses and continue to practice that way of living, or face being let go at last by God to experience the painful natural effect those offenses inexorably produce within me, i.e. resistance to God's forgiving, unconditional love. As we know, excessive resistance produces heat, and excessive heat produces pain. In that day the level of pain experienced by all who are lost will be directly proportional to the amount of resistance/wrath stored up inside each one correlating to the offenses they have cling to and refused to forgive.

There is one more thing about wrath revealed in this passage in Romans that I believe is important to notice. God's wrath is not something terrible or negative or angry. It is actually His act of respect for the freedom He has given every person to make their own choices of how they will relate to His love and offer of life. God's wrath is simply an expression of His willingness to respect every one of us and our freedom. Given that perspective it can be truthfully stated that actually everyone will experience God's wrath, in the sense that even those who choose to embrace salvation will also experience the natural consequences of their choices. Paul makes this explicitly clear in this very passage.

To those who go on with good works in the hope of glory and honor and salvation from death, he will give eternal life...

Paul says in this passage that God will judge in righteousness. That simply means that it will be seen that God has always been fair in everything He does. What He does is allow everyone to make their own choice and then be released to experience the full effect of that choice according to the principle of cause and effect that governs all of creation. When Paul states that God will give to each man his right reward, it is not an arbitrary reward like we are used to thinking of under earthly systems based on the Tree of Good and Evil, the system of reward and punishment. No, God's reward system is based on cause and effect which means He does not have to artificially interfere in the system of principles He has designed, for the principles operate along the lines of His own character already. And His character can be summed up in these fundamental principles: Love, Truth and Freedom.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)


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