A shocking video has gone viral on YouTube in the past week. A hidden camera captures Texas Judge William Adams repeatedly striking his fifteen-year-old, cerebral palsy stricken daughter Hillary with a belt.
As she resists he grows angrier and angrier, curses in the crudest way, strikes her on various parts of her body, and threatens to hit her in the face with his belt if she doesn’t lie down on the bed to be struck on the behind. Apparently, the Judge was punishing Hillary for illegally downloading video games.
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The episode occurred several years ago. Now in her twenties, Hillary released the video for reasons of her own and Judge Adams insists that he was simply disciplining his daughter. Texas law allows for corporal punishment and there is some doubt that charges will be brought over the incident.
I am the first to admit that even accurate videos can lie. After all, they give us only a slice of life. And who among us wants any of our worst moments captured on YouTube? Nevertheless, Judge Adams looked furious and out of control. And watching him made me wonder if some Christians think of God’s wrath along the lines of this ghastly video clip.
If God’s wrath looked like a violent outburst of destructive temper, I would be the first to say that there is no room for wrath in the doctrine of God. But I have always remembered something that my Systematic Theology professor once said to us long ago. God’s wrath is what God’s love looks like to a sinner.
God’s love is more than a mere affection. God is love. It is his very being. Love affirms the good for the beloved and will never settle for anything but the very best for him or her. God is relentless in his pursuit of all that is good and beautiful in his Creation.
When we cling to something destructive or demeaning as if it were our prized possession, we will inevitably feel torment when God works to wrench it away from us.
I’m reminded of the character Eustace Clarence Scrubb in C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He was an obnoxious child, but more importantly, he succumbs to greed. He stumbles upon a dragon’s lair and stuffs his pockets with the dragon’s treasure. Eustace falls asleep only to awake as a hideous dragon. His now repulsive appearance leads him to see how malicious his soul had become. The Lion Aslan restores Eustace to being a boy only by painfully tearing away the dragon flesh layered on top the real boy within.
Aslan, as the Christ figure of the story, tears away the ugliness that Eustace has layered upon himself and now cannot remove even though he desperately wants to be free of it. Aslan’s act of redeeming love is painful, but Eustace willingly endures it. He knows that it will set him free in a way that he has never actually experienced before.
This same love would surely feel like destructive wrath to a boy who wants to remain a dragon.
I do not wish to criticize someone I do not know. But without sitting in the judgment seat I still think it is clear that Judge Adams’ rage bears no resemblance to God’s redeeming (and sometimes demanding) love. God never sets out to cause us harm just to be destructive or to vent his anger.
Growing in grace is not always easy. But it is always good. That is because it results from Christ’s unrelenting love for us.