This series concludes today by examining the second story of the wedding feast which mirrors the parable of the workers in the vineyard. I have tried to weave together a number of themes in this series because I’m aware that people feel very certain about whether God is angry or not. This subject is embedded in the larger topics of salvation, atonement, and the exclusivity claims of Jesus, and for most believers, these are subjects that are already fixed within their thinking and theology.
So if I come along and challenge the way we have understood a core tenant like this, there is a natural knee-jerk reaction that wants to dismiss this content. I understand this, but it is my hope to move us beyond this and expose the wider consideration.
If substitutionary atonement is what it claims, then Jesus became our sin, the full anger and wrath of God was poured out on him, and there remains nothing that can stand between God’s perfect love and humanity. If God is somehow angered now by our sin then the substitution and sacrifice were partial and incomplete. Substitutionary atonement is required if one holds to retributive justice. But a model of restorative justice seems to resolve things in an entirely other way. I recognize that this will be a big frameshift if it is to happen at all.
Once again the story depicts heaven (Matt 22). This time a king is giving a wedding feast for his son and when he called the invited (the religious) to come, they ignored him because they were too busy with their own endeavors. The king got angry and destroyed the city (Jerusalem AD 70). Then the king opens the invitation to all comers, both good and bad and he fills the wedding hall (amazing symbolism). In the hall was a guest who would not wear the wedding garment provided by the king and opted to go in as is. As a result he is bound and cast out of the city.
Why is the king so angry?
The short answer is: The False self. The king destroys the city and puts an end to the religious system that trapped people into an ever increasing set of rules that were somehow designed to appease an angry God. Instead, it created cultural, economic, and social elites who entrenched themselves into the container rather than the contents of their religion. Religion is supposed to bring us proximity to God or at least point the way and instead it imprisoned people, keeping them trapped within the distractions of their own lives until they completely dismissed the kings invitation for community.
The man who did not put on the wedding garment was also the false self. This is the false self of no religion, but that of self-righteousness. His self appraisal was far higher than reality and thought himself worthy, perhaps better, smarter, or more clever than others who like sheep received the generosity and hospitality of the king. His distinctions also went too far like the religious.
Both stories depict a heaven where God goes out and gathers any who will come. Both tell of a profound generosity that makes everyone whole and complete regardless of their proximity to God. Both depict the trappings of the religious false self and warn against the creating distinctions that allow our pride to see ourselves as better or other than others. Both depict a false self (pride, ego, self promotion) that is always expunged in proximity to God.
So is God angry? Not if you think anger requires retribution. From these and countless other stories, anger is too base of an operating system for God. A God of retribution is the God we have made in our own image, and the ancient stories depict our low level of understanding and why we need an angry God.
Love is different. Love restores all things. It completes all things. Love closes the gap between what we think we are and what we truly are. The good news is that we are NOT what is wrong with us. Love sees us as we are. Love sees us as the love that we are and it is the most powerful force to displace the ego, pride and falsehood that we craft our lives to be. Love knows and accepts us. Pride wants to make us known, love wants to make us good. As we move toward love (toward being the love we are), the false parts of our lives are purged and burned (1 Cor 3:13), and this is the whole spiritual journey and the essence of our roads of faith.