Lent 2: Seven Deadly Sins (Jeff Cook)

Jeff Cook, author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes , has offered some brief meditations for us to ponder during Lent this year.

Wrath

During Lent, we will meditate together on the Seven Deadly Sins and use this list as an aid in confession as we prepare ourselves for Holy Week, Good Friday and the Easter announcement of resurrection.

There is great pain in our world, and our anger alerts us to the fact that it needs fixing. I become angry when I see the weak exploited, those I care about injured, and what I value destroyed. The desire for justice is legitimate. (In fact, God desires the elimination of evil even more than we do.) Yet when my longing for justice turns to violence and scorn, to lashing out and deprivation of love toward others—I no longer share God’s perspective. I move from being part of the solution to becoming just another part of the problem for I have embraced the way of wrath.

Dante called wrath a “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite.” Wrath is a simplistic, dehumanizing way to address the world’s problems. It takes no intellect or goodness of soul to start swinging at those who hurt me. Ultimately, wrath is a deadly sin because it separates us from those we ought to embrace and cherish as God’s fellow children. Wrath moves us away from those we could potentially spend eternity with. Yes, wickedness hurts us. When the sins of others target our joy, our welfare, and those we love, we rightly long for things to be made right. Wrath, however, is not concerned with restoration, only with revenge and dominance. Therefore, wrath aimed at our fellow human beings is always opposed to God’s activities.

Like the other deadly sins, wrath wars against the community—the kingdom—that God wants to create, and to us Jesus says, “Blessed are you who work for peace. You will be called a child of God … Love your enemies, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good” (Mt 5). Take a moment to let the Spirit expose wrath in your life, so you may repent and be free.

(Excerpt from Seven: the Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes by Jeff Cook)

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Richard

    To clarify, is it accurate to say that this post defines wrath as anger expressed in unloving action (violence, scorn, revenge, and spite) toward another?

    How does this differ from the wrath of God in Scripture (aside from, “one is a sin and one isn’t”)? Is motivation the root difference- God’s motive is chastisement toward repentance/restoration and ours is punishment for its own sake and just sticking it to someone that deserves it?

  • John W Frye

    Richard (#1),
    If I may, the title of the book points to the answer of your question, i.e., the seven deadly ‘sins.’ I don’t the think author wants us to equate human wrath (a sin) with God’s wrath. James 1:20 expresses the deficiency in human anger/wrath to achieve what God wants–righteousness/justice expressed in life.

  • Adam

    I like this line.

    Wrath, however, is not concerned with restoration

    I think that’s the difference between God’s anger and evil wrath. God is concerned with restoration. His anger does not guarantee restoration because we are all free to choose to reject restoration but it’s purpose is to restore things.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com Peggy

    In response to my latest post, on the wrath of God, one of my new friends (and author of the book from which the story of the abbot came) made this comment:

    “I guess I think of God’s wrath as the manifestation of His love that stands with us against what would weaken the good in us and raise up the evil.”

    God’s wrath is the medicine that cures, the shears that prune away dead wood. It initiates the process of restoration. This is what it means to hate the sin but love the sinner.

    Man’s wrath, on the other hand, is too often the drug that poisons, the knife that defaces. It cuts off the process of restoration out of spite, unable to separate the sin from the sinner.

    My husband and I just watched Spiderman 3 the other day … and this reminds me of the creepy, slimy symbiotic blob that crashed to earth in a meteor, looking for a host with lots of emotion to amplify. It targeted Peter / Spiderman originally for the emotions of love he and his girlfriend were sharing … but it really preferred anger and revenge — and the poison that came with the power it gave was devastating.


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