Wrath“For the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.” – James 1:20

Some stories put me in touch with my inner murderer. This one’s a pretty good example.

Nearly two years ago Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight escaped the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro, who’d kidnapped all of them a decade earlier and subjected them to chained imprisonment, rape, torture, and degradations none of us can imagine. ABC’s 20/20 will be interviewing two of them next week on April 28, and Berry and DeJesus have authored their personal account of the nightmare in an upcoming book.

Castro, as you probably know, hanged himself in his prison cell shortly after being sentenced to life plus a thousand years. Yet before his sentencing he attempted to argue that he was not a monster, that he’d suffered abuse as a child, and that he’d never tortured his victims. (Rape, beatings, and chained captivity evidently meaning something other than torture.)

Every decent sensibility is violated by this story. The crime itself, its longevity, the fact Castro actually attended church while committing these atrocities, and his unbearable attempts to minimize his actions, all inflame a lynch-mob’s passion. Even his suicide – a stunning irony considering the conditions of his own imprisonment were quite civilized compared to what he’d subjected these innocent girls to – leaves us with a sense of unsatisfied wrath.

No First Stones to Throw
If I let myself, I can mentally devise some clever Medieval punishments for Mr. Castro, had he lived. And that only shows how far I’ve still got to go, and to grow.

Because God loved Ariel Castor. God also wills all men to be saved – Castro being part of the “all men” category – no exceptions; no disqualifiers, no matter than depravity of the man.

That’s His heart, then there’s mine. I’m susceptible to wrath, as I suspect a large part of the human population is. And not just towards infamous characters like Castro. We’ve all got our own private list of offenders, figures in our personal histories who made their marks on our souls at our expense.

After all, who hasn’t been betrayed, abused, humiliated, or abandoned? We bleed; we respond. Can’t be helped. And since the perpetrators of these sins aren’t generally the most caring of people, we often experience the brunt of their wrongdoing without ever getting an acknowledgement, much less an apology, from any of them.

Something in us protests this; first the wrong, then the refusal of the wrongdoer to own it, then our ongoing pain over the wrongdoer’s unacknowledged wrong. That’s fertile ground for hard-core, unyielding wrath, directed not just at the original wrongdoer, but towards any overt sinners we can vent our unresolved rage against.

Granted, rage over high-profile evils like Castro’s is hardly the unresolved, misdirected type, and I wouldn’t imply that all instances of wrath are born out of some old, uncorrected hurt. Sometimes they’re simple responses to horrendous wrongs. Yet the personal hurts of the past can fuel and combine with the outrages of the present, creating a toxic cocktail too many of us get drunk on. And in addition to being sinful and common, wrath can also be contagious. Look no further than the French Revolution or Nazi Germany for panoramic views of wrath on the rampage.

Tempting, But Unentitled
Problem is, we have no right to wrath. Anger, yes, because righteous anger can motivate us to correct wrongdoing, so Paul told the Ephesians to be angry, and sin not. (Ephesians 4:26) But wrath? Hardly. To my thinking, there are two primary reasons wrath is reserved as a right only God has.

First, only God has the full view of the picture. Being omniscient (See Psalm 139, for instance) He knows all, giving Him, and Him alone, the perspective needed to righteously judge and punish. How many times, after all, have we had a knee-jerk angry response to something, spouting off curses and threats, only to find we didn’t have all the information and had formed the wrong opinion? That, I’m sure, is why we’re told that “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13)

Second, only God can punish completely and eternally. When He says “I will repay”, I tremble to consider what He means. Because no matter how vehement my white-hot anger gets, it’s a baby’s whimper next to the wrath of God. And if I as a sinful limited creature hate cruel behavior, how much more – infinitely more, really – does the Creator hate it? And how much more – again, infinitely more – can He punish wrongdoing, far beyond the limited ways my puny backlash would
punish it?

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay”, He said, (Romans 12:19) so wrath is reserved for God alone, and for good reason. Only He can do it righteously, and only He can do it right.

I’ll try to keep that in mind when the news of the day ignites my passions. And I’ll consider it one whale of a success story when items like this one ignite my prayers instead.

Tomorrow: Reparative Therapy: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters
This will be the first in a five-part weekly series on the controversy over therapy for homosexuals wanting to change, which will be posted for the next five Fridays.

Saturday: Our response to the Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview on Jenner and transsexualism.



  1. about Wrath: well spoken. Thanks for reminding us things like this happen in our world, and if we remember them happening to us we are not crazy. God was there with us and will take care of it.

  2. p.s) ….not crazy. God was with us and will take care of it.

  3. Darla Meeks says:

    Nothing but a big “amen”, Joe. Thanks for posting.

  4. blackapologist says:

    Joe, that is why we love and respect you so much: you always speak the truth in love and have always been transparent about your former life. God bless you my friend.

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