By Alex Florez
Section 1: The Light of the World
Sometimes I get the feeling that we Christians prefer our Jesus to be a soft, sugary Mr. Nice Guy. We love to bask in the reassurance of carefully curated Bible verses that suggest His unwavering advocacy for our personal lives. The preponderance of uplifting Bible-themed t-shirts, bumper stickers, and home decor suggests that we are very comfortable relegating Jesus to a position of some sort of mystical life coach who is conditioning us for individual empowerment and self-satisfaction. Jesus is indeed gentle and, yes, it is so sweet to be loved by Him. But I think we often water down the magnitude of what has transpired in order for us to enjoy the warmth of God’s love.
A closer look at Scripture reveals that God’s wrath is an undeniable aspect of His character. Because God is unswervingly just, He is right to look upon all sin with seething anger; to respond to all rebellion against His authority with condemnation; to execute judgement against any entity that stands apart from His standard of absolute holiness. When I reflect honestly on my own unrighteousness, I recognize that I ought to belong in the category of God’s enemies. Face to face with God, carrying nothing but my own merit and a list of my own achievements, His holiness would not abide the company of one such as me.
We would do well to come to terms with the wrath of God so powerfully brought to light in Scripture. Not to wallow in our unworthiness—in some sort of self-absorbed pity party—but in order to appreciate more fully the revelation of what Jesus accomplished by coming into the world.
Without the death of Jesus, without His tireless ministry on this messy planet populated by broken people, we would have no share in His kingdom. But Jesus did come; He did suffer and die. Therefore, we take heart knowing that Jesus took the punishment we deserve so that we don’t have to.
Because of His mercy, we have inherited the right to step into His presence. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28–29). Now, when we think of God as a consuming fire, we do not despair. Instead, Jesus makes it possible for us to see in the darkness and to luxuriate in the warmth of His embrace.