Judgment and wrath, as in divine judgment and God’s wrath, are ideas that have been harmfully misused. I know this. It is wicked for people to use scripture and theology to do harm. At the same time, though, when there is great, sustained, even normalized injustice, as there is in this country, I meditate on God’s righteous judgment and wrath and find comfort in it: Not easily turned toward evil like human vengeance, but bright and true.
I believe that the sin of racism is very deeply embedded in the foundation of the United States. It contributes to the shape of everything around us, so that no one is free from its effects: its targets are harmed in health, in opportunity, in spirit; and those like me who benefit from it are sickened in soul and mind, though we often believe that we are perfectly fine. The charges handed down to the men who killed Breonna Taylor were an insult, as over and over these cases end in insult. I believe that it is right for God to be angry at the oppression of God’s precious children. I have been turning to Jeremiah often recently: He saw the destruction of his home city, understanding it to be recompense for the injustice and oppression committed by their leaders and elites against those with less power (sound familiar?). He lamented and grieved the loss of his land and cried out in fury against the injustices that brought it about. This complicated double viewpoint feels really resonant lately.
Here’s a little bit from the book of Jeremiah. If PCM can support you in any way—if we can meet with you to listen, if we can pray for you, if there is something material you need—tell us.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel; like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again over its branches.Jeremiah 6
To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? See, their ears are closed, they cannot listen. The word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in. Pour it out on the children in the street, and on the gatherings of young men as well; both husband and wife shall be taken, the old folk and the very aged. Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together; for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land, says the LORD.
For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD. Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it.”Also I raised up sentinels for you: “Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!” But they said, “We will not give heed.”
Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not given heed to my words; and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me. Therefore thus says the LORD: See, I am laying before this people stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble; parents and children together, neighbor and friend shall perish.