Buy cialis soft onlinelt=”” width=”240″ height=”160″ />In the buildup to the US invasion of Iraq, a haunting video got circulated of Saddam Hussein standing in a room of people who were giving him a standing ovation while he selected certain individuals to be taken out and executed. Ive often wondered what it would be like to clap for a dictator in those circumstances. Certainly many of the people in the room were clapping purely to convince Saddam that they deserved to stay alive. But I imagine there were some who really did worship the absolute power that Saddams wrath represented. That kind of power is intoxicating as long as youre standing on the trigger side and not the barrel side.
As this video has haunted my memory from time to time, Ive wondered whether this is what worship is like for Christians who love nothing more than Gods wrath. Theres something erotic about Gods wrath. Its perhaps no accident that the Greek phrase for it is orge theou. For some Christians, the prospect of an eternity that looks like a never-ending game of Doom for most of humanity can be summed up in one word: awesome!
People who worship the wrath of God could be called the church of outrage. Its invigorating to worship a God whose most defining feature is His wrath because the closer you get to Him, the more angry and powerful you become. Since your anger is righteous as long as its divine wrath, the way to sanctify your own anger is to worship God as vigorously as possible. At least this seems to explain why people grow more and more comfortable in their outspoken condemnation of others the further they progress in the church of outrage. In the church of outrage, a good sermon uses words like sin and hell and Satan frequently without flinching so that the listeners will be terrified enough of Gods wrath to convert from the barrel side to the trigger side while people who are already converted can grow in their rage against those who havent.
Theres no denying that Gods wrath is part of the Biblical message. Ive wrestled for years to understand how it fits, but I find a different center of gravity for the Christian gospel. What I see on the cross is not God spewing His wrath on His only-begotten son but a naked, bleeding God receiving the penetration of the worlds nails. If the cross is the most extreme act of rape in human history, God is not the rapist, but the rape victim. If that makes you flinch, its because the cross is supposed to make you flinch since its not just an abstract spiritual transaction but a real event of physical brutality committed against the Creator of the universe.
Much popular evangelical theology today talks about the cross as though Jesus were not fully God when He was crucified, as if God crucified somebody else named Jesus as a form of divine anger management. When we talk as though God is not the victim of the cross, we make God and Jesus into two separate gods rather than recognizing the Father and Son are both part of the same Triune God (which is certainly a difficult concept to understand). If God is not the crosss victim, that eliminates the essential feature that distinguishes the Christian God from Allah and the deities of every other world religion. What makes the cross a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks (1 Cor 1:22) is the preposterous claim that the Creator of the universe made Himself nothing becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8). Whatever else is true about the cross, its uniquely Christian message is that our God made Himself absolutely vulnerable for our sake.
A very different church emerges among people who see Gods vulnerability as His most defining feature rather than His wrath. I dont think this means denying the presence or importance of Gods wrath. Wrath is what God uses to create a safe space of perfect intimacy that He can enjoy together with those who love Him. Wrath describes what God does when He violently destroys the walls that we build up between us and even digs into our flesh to get the sin that is buried underneath the surface like a stubborn splinter. There are people who dont want to be vulnerable with God, preferring instead for their facade of perfection to remain impenetrable. These people experience Gods wrath as damnation rather than the scalpel that creates freedom. And what concerns me the most about the church of outrage is that it creates angry, self-righteous people who choose damnation over vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the goal expressed in Jesus prayer in John 17: that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you I in them and you in meso that they may be brought to complete unity. We are not called simply to stand side by side with Christ; we are to live inside of Christ while He lives inside of us. It is a vulnerability that breaches the boundaries of our bodies and Christs body as we are interpenetrated completely by God. This is the absolute vulnerability of which the deepest physical intimacy of human marriage is a sacrament. In the church of vulnerability, the goal is to tear down every wall that keeps us from loving God and each other completely. Sin is understood to be any action or attitude that undermines our vulnerability with God and each other. Sin has power over us as long as we live in the delusion that we can or should hide it from God and each other.
One of the tactics for hiding our sinfulness is to clap our hearts out in the church of outrage for a God whom we perceive to be a cruel and powerful dictator, whose cruelty and power are ours to deploy as long as we feel sufficiently on His side. We will remain imprisoned to our deepest sins as long as the purpose of our worship is to remain invulnerable and somehow prove to God that we really do believe in Him and deserve His acceptance. As long we are slaves to this need to prove our worth, we will be slaves to the sin that we are compelled to hide. Sin only loses its power over us only when we trust that Jesus has absorbed on the cross all the shameful things that keep us from opening up completely to God. We lose our shame and become vulnerable by facing and accepting the vulnerability of our God.
The church of vulnerability proclaims that Jesus gave up His body so that He could take us all into His body where we could be safe and free and loved. My prayer is that God will continue to build the church of vulnerability by using His wrath to break the spirits of the outraged so that their faith will no longer rest in how many Bible verses theyve memorized but instead they will become grateful sinners who trust in Gods vulnerability enough to be vulnerable.
Morgan Guyton is the associate pastor of Burke United Methodist Church in Burke, Virginia, and a Christian who continues to seek Gods liberation from the prison of self-justification Jesus died to help him overcome. Morgans blog Mercy Not Sacrifice is located at .