The Gripes of Wrath

This post on my friend David Lamb's blog tipped me off on a recent move by my denomination to first change a line in a hymn and then drop the hymn from its hymnbook.  The hymn is "In Christ Alone" and the line is "the wrath of God was satisfied."  I'm not up on the theology or the politics but my suspicion is that either the notion of God's wrath or of Jesus' death satisfying it left some folks queasy enough to want to suggest to the hymn authors the line "the love of God was magnified" instead. 

As luck would have it, we sang this song in church yesterday, just hours after I read my friend's post.  It was useful to ruminate on the words of this hymn, which is a favorite for Amy and me.  I can't begin to tell you how many times one or both of us have emerged from singing this song with our fists held high, saying "yes" to God for His amazing work in redeeming broken humanity. 

There is no celebration without victory, and no victory without something to overcome.  What was overcome was our sin, and how it was overcome was not just love but wrath.  Love alone can come off as downplaying the vileness of our depraved state and the justness of God's condemnation; love in and through the satisfaction of wrath upholds both God's affection for us and His commitment to perfect righteousness.   Love alone leaves unaddressed the notion of consequence for waywardness; love in and through the satisfaction of wrath renders us completely rescued.

In other words, on that cross as Jesus died, love was magnified, but also wrath was satisfied.  There is no good news without both.  If you agree, keep singing it the old way.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
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