On Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356

God is good, dispassionate and immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, while turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right to imagine that God feels pleasure or displeasure in a human way. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good by resembling God we are united to Him; but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are seperated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us, and expose us to demons who punish us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but that through our actions and turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind. (Philokalia Vol. 1: On the Character of Men 150)

Comments

  1. I am so often inclined to think that God hates me when I fall into serious sins, and the devil comes in with thoughts of despair over myself. I cannot look up to my icons in pain, and often am unable to even mutter a prayer in despondency because I think of how wicked I have been.

    At those times, however, these words often come like a piercing light into my soul. God does not hate me, God is not even “angry” in the human sense of the word. His “anger” is assuaged merely by returning to Him, condemning myself, and thoroughly repenting.

    Of course, we see that because God is unchanging He does not play favorites either. He illumines all who fervently repent, making them partakers of His light, but this requires our action. He calls us to Himself, and we are responsible for going to Him. We cannot comfort ourselves with the false hope that perhaps God will overlook the sins for which I have not repented– He does not, because he shows no favoritism. If our sins have made us like the demons, then we will follow them and share in their sad fate in the next life. O Compassionate Christ God, save us all from this. Amen!

  2. Thanks for those comments brother! They go well as a written companion to St. Anthony. I hope that everyone reads and takes heed to your words.

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