Who does God get angry at?

God gets angry at people, and he says who he gets angry at too – it’s those invited into his kingdom who “refused to come,” Matthew 22:3. The Jews of Jesus’ day were invited, for instance, but few responded, verse 14.

They thought the kingdom was already theirs, judging by the question thrown at Jesus in Luke 13:23 – “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” – the “few” being them, of course. But Jesus talks of people who arrive at the gate to God’s kingdom thinking they can just waltz on in, who “will not be able to,” verse 24. Instead, they’re met with a very cold “I don’t know you or where you come from,” and they’re shooed off as “evildoers,” verse 27.

Evildoers? But their credentials are good, surely. They’re “knocking and pleading” to enter the kingdom (verse 25), “We ate and drank with you (Jesus), and you taught in our streets” (verse 26), and in Matthew 7:22, many say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” But Jesus shoos them away as evildoers too, verse 23.

How can that be? They’re allowing Jesus to teach in their neighbourhood and they’re using his name to do good, but Jesus banishes them. Why? Because there’s only a very narrow door through which people enter the kingdom, explained by Jesus in the next chapter when he offers to go to the home of a Roman soldier to heal his servant but the soldier replies, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed,” Matthew 8:8, and Jesus’ reply is, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith,” verse 10. That narrow door is faith in him (verses 11-12).

Faith in him how, though? Faith that the Father loves Jesus “and has placed everything in his hands,” John 3:35. Whoever believes that, verse 36, “has eternal life.” The person who doesn’t “will not see life, for God’s wrath remains upon him.” The Roman soldier, however, did believe it. Jesus only had to say the word and his servant would be healed. He believed Jesus had that kind of power and authority.

Who does God get angry at, then? Those who “refuse to come” to Jesus for that kind of power over everything in their lives. They rest their hopes instead on knowing Jesus, being favourable to him and listing all the good things they’ve done, but not on the power and authority God has given Jesus over every part of their lives to heal them and bring them into his kingdom whole and blameless. They’re trusting in themselves instead, and that’s what God gets angry at.

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“Tell me about God, Granpy”

She was 9 years old when my granddaughter said, “Tell me about God, Granpy.” In reply I asked her, “What’s your nickname?” “Hamster-roodlesticks,” she replied. “God knows that too,” I said.

In other words, God’s so fully aware of who she is he even knows her nickname. Why? Because he loves her. That’s how she got stuck with Hamster-roodlesticks in the first place. Because she’s loved. A nickname is a term of affection, and in affection language her real name Hannah became Hamster, and loved Hamsters roodlestick. Obvious, right?! It’s a crazy name but it tells her she’s loved. That’s what nicknames do.

And it’s funny how we give our children such formal names at birth and then immediately dump those names for some ridiculous-sounding nickname that sticks with them all through their childhood and even into teenage and beyond. Our youngest son is “Keeks.” He’s 20. His real name is a grandiose Celtic “Keehan,” with all sorts of fanciful, ancestral significance I was extremely proud of when we named him, but we haven’t called him Keehan for his entire life. He was Keeks as a baby and 20 years later he’s still Keeks.

But God also gave people nicknames that stuck with them for life. Jacob, for instance, became “Israel,” and never Jacob again. And now “Israel” is here for keeps as living proof of God’s love, just as nicknames for our kids are.

So in telling my granddaughter about God, nicknames seemed like a nice place to begin because she loves her nickname. It constantly tells her she’s loved. And when I told her I was thinking of using Hamster-roodlesticks for a password – because then I would never forget it – she was delighted. But we never forget nicknames, do we? I still remember mine from school, and I’ve used it twice for passwords already because I love it. It reminds me of the friends who created that nickname for me in the first place. It was their way of expressing eternal friendship.

But that’s what nicknames are for. God called Peter “the rock.” Solid as a rock, you are Peter, a real term of affection, but loaded with encouragement as well for the man who would lead the church into the fray after Jesus ascended. It was a nickname with love and meaning. So is the name God has for us. He calls us “saints,” 1 Corinthians 1:2 (KJV), “the holy ones.” What a crazy name for the likes of us, right? But it’s God’s choice of name for us as living proof of his eternal friendship with us – and it’s ours for keeps, too.