"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them." John 3:36 NIV
Wow! At first glance, this is an extremely sobering verse. In reading it a few more times, I realized the concept I found so disconcerting was "God's wrath." In particular, the word wrath. Typically, when I think of wrath, I think of anger. Here's what the Merriam-Webster dictionary has as a definition (I added the bold):
1: strong vengeful anger or indignation
2: retributory punishment for an offense or a crime: divine chastisement*
What instead of looking at God's wrath as anger; instead, we think of it as his indignation over our actions, and chastisement for our rejection of him? Doesn't that put the ball in our court? Isn't John the Baptist saying we need to be willing to accept the consequences of our actions? If we get pulled over for a traffic violation, isn't it reasonable to assume the result is a ticket? Isn't receiving the ticket a logical consequence of our breach in judgment? Is it unreasonable then to expect God to react any differently for more serious spiritual choices?
The verse doesn't start with wrath; instead, it begins with God's invitation and promise of eternal life. All He asks is we accept Jesus, HIs one and only Son. He who came to earth living with us and experiencing temptation to sin. The Son, who willingly offered his life as an atonement for our sins, was crucified, died, resurrected, and returned to his Father. In his resurrection, He conquered death so we may have the everlasting life promised in this verse.
The Bible is full of God's love, but also the administration of His justice. Think back to the chastisement of Israel in the Old Testament. He earnestly desires us to live righteously. He goes out of his way in loving us. At the end of the day, though, the choice is ours. Will we, or won't we, believe in Jesus? In believing in the Son, we also believe in the Father, and within that belief is the promise.
Dear God, we thank you for your Son. We give thanks for the promise of eternal life. We ask for forgiveness for those times we have made choices counter to the joyous and righteous life you desire for us. We ask for you help this day, and all our days, to make choices that are pleasing to you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
*“Wrath.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wrath?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld.