“God is love” (1 Jn. 4:9).
Love is the determination to act for the best interest of the beloved. (CS Lewis)
What is in a person’s best interest: not merely what gives the beloved pleasure, not merely what they want, but what is best for them? Love is meaningless unless God knows and is committed to do what is just and right for human beings, and for each individual person.
Therefore, in order for God to be love, he must also be just and right.
Thankfully, the Scriptures affirm on more than one occasion that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice (Ps. 89:14 & 97:2). This means justice, not power, is the basis for God’s authority.
Forgiveness may be considered an act of love, assuming there is justice. Apart from justice and a standard of right and wrong, there is nothing to forgive. Further, in order for forgiveness to be a genuine act of love, there must be an appeal to God who will make all things, including the offender, right.
Therefore, we look forward to Judgment Day: some with trepidation, others with longing. The world is not just or right, but the God of justice will make everything right on that fateful Day (see Heb. 9:27 & 1 Cor. 5:10 among several passages).
Wrath is God’s response to injustice and unrighteousness. It is apropos for a personal Creator who loves deeply to be angry when injustice and evil is perpetrated against himself, his creation and those made in his image. This is not a temper tantrum, and it is not a merely emotional reaction to being offended. God’s wrath is a personal response of justice toward evil, injustice and unrighteousness. It is measured and pure. It is destructive where reconciliation and restoration are rejected, and when his love is scorned in favor of hatred or willful disbelief and disregard of his authority, plan, and design.
Forgiveness comes at a price: propitiation.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Propitiation means the God of love made a way for justice to be satisfied, sin expiated, and for his wrath to be turned aside. That way is Christ, who died on the cross for us and for our sins (Rom. 4:25, 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:3), and who rose to conquer death forever (1 Cor. 15:26, 54-55, Heb. 2:14-15).
Therefore, every Christian who understands what it means to be saved will affirm the words of the scorned hymn Christ Alone, which state:
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live
And I write:
So, we go outside the city,
Where our Savior was led
To sanctify us with his blood,
And we bear the scorn
From civil and vulgar alike,
For in Christ alone we find salvation.