John 3:16 is often called the “end zone verse” because of its ubiquitous appearance on football game posters. “God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” God does love us, and the depth of his love surpasses all knowledge (Eph. 3:19). It is higher than the Heavens (Ps 103:11).
However, John 3:16 needs to always be held in tension with another important verse, Rom. 1:18. “For the wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men.”
When these two verses collide, as they eventually do with all sober, thinking Christians, they present us with a problem. How can they both be true? Do we just ignore the wrath of God and cling to his love? Or, do we honestly attempt to find a solution? Does God love man and hate man at the same time? If so, can we reconcile these seemingly contrary ideas?
They reconcile at the cross. There God’s love and God’s wrath meet and shake hands. They become friends. That is because the cross of Christ is simultaneously a display of God’s wrath towards sinners and his love for sinners. Jesus stands in our place and God pours out his intense anger on his Son in our place. God the Father does this so that he can lavish his divine love on us. Martin Luther summed it all up with the idea that we see God’s love through his wrath.
For these reasons and others noted New Testamen scholar, D. A. Carson, wrote, “The Bible can simultaneously affirm God’s wrath toward people and his love for them: it does not intimate that God’s love and his judicial “hatred” are necessarily mutually exclusive. So why should love and hatred be exclusive in us? (Love in Hard Places, pg 42)
Have you grappled with this idea? Would love to hear your solutions.