Do you have something you can’t stand? Something that provokes a violent and immediate reaction in you? For some folks it might be snakes or spiders. For me, it used to be cauliflower. If “kill it with fire” comes to mind, you know exactly what I mean. Have you ever stopped to think that God feels similarly about sin?
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
– Nahum 1:2-3, ESV
We don’t like to talk about God as a jealous, avenging, and wrathful God. After all, those qualities in us are terrible. Our jealousy, even if well founded, typically leads to sin. Our avenging tends to go too far. Wrathful, being a description of strong anger and a sense of revenge, almost always results in too much. However, the rules change with God because He is perfect. All of those qualities are held in keeping with the rest of His character. The verses which follow explain the limits of His vengeance and his wrath and the fact that He is slow to anger.
Wrath, vengeance, and anger are strong emotions, though. They aren’t to be taken lightly. They are the consequence of God’s hatred for sin. We talk about God’s great love and His mercy. We call Him “Daddy” or “Father” because the Scriptures tell us we can use “Abba.” We like God as a cuddly teddy bear, as a supernatural Santa Claus. To only characterize God in this fashion, however, is to have an incomplete view of what God has shown us about Himself.
The Scriptures make it clear God hates sin. God may be slow to anger (as opposed to most of us), but He will deal with sin. That’s why verse 3 reminds us that God will not clear the guilty. He deals with sin powerfully and completely. He is, after all, a God of justice as well as a God of love. And He has shown that He is willing to “kill it with fire,” as was the case with Sodom and Gomorrah.
Why do we play with sin? If we know God hates it and we know God’s reaction is going to be in keeping with that hatred, why do we toy around with it or, worse, embrace it? I think we have been lulled into forgetting just how much God hates sin. This doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility or the accountability of our sin. After all, God delineates clearly His view of sin and the punishments He has thus far been willing to deliver for those who dabble or delight in sin. This is one reason regular Bible reading is so important to the Christian walk. We are reminded of God’s view on sin and His correcting of it. Our minds are refreshed on the subject.
Let us, through our love for Jesus Christ, begin to feel the same way about sin as He does. Let us reject it in ourselves as surely as He would. The temptation is to look at someone else and say, “I’m not as bad as that person.” The problem is that God doesn’t do that. His comparison for us is against His own perfection. We fail miserably there. That’s why we need grace. However, let us not be so flippant to sin because of grace that we don’t take sin as seriously as He does. He hates sin. He hates the sin in us. We should, too.