Mom’s great fried chicken (it’s the homemade buttermilk batter) deserved a walk around the block. This would not be just any walk, though. This would be the walk in which Lidi would ride her bike all the way. I probably thought it to be more about me than her. Teaching your daughter to ride a bike is a father’s rite of passage, having proven yourself able to teach a lifelong ability. She would ride her bike . . . and enjoy it . . . or else.
Freshly aired tires and retightened training wheels awaited their champion. She mounted her chariot with great eagerness and fanfare. We set out with her father leading this two-person parade in a high-chested gait. “Look at us, everyone! I’m the world’s greatest dad, indeed, despite what your little coffee mug says.”
We’d traveled about fifteen yards from our driveway when the slight downhill slope took over. Lidi has not mastered the intricate braking system on sophisticated Barbie bikes. So the bike picked up speed and Lidi might as well have been on a 747 that lost a wing. She screamed for her life and declared (to the neighborhood) the walk was over. We’d made it all the way in front of the next door neighbor’s house.
Are you kidding? “Either you ride or go home,” I said. Who cares about your 3-year-old fear when Dad’s 34-year-old reputation is at stake? So, I idly watched as she fumbled and stumbled to get her bike back in the garage. It was hard for her concentrate beyond her panic-stricken tears. I wonder if she’ll look forward to another “walk” again.
Would that this was the end of the episode. I wouldn’t let it go for two hours:
“Dad, can I sit with you?”
“I only sit with girls who ride their bikes.”
“Dad, give me five.”
“I only give fives to girls who ride their bikes.”
“Dad, will you play with me in the play room?”
“I only play with girls who ride their bikes. You’re going to want to play with your friends one day, and they’re all going to be riding their bikes. But you’ll have to stay home and cry because you didn’t learn to ride yours. How do you expect to get into college?”
I know. I know. And she didn’t even commit sin!
Lidi doesn’t know Psalm 85.5, but she knows the same question, “Dad, will you be angry with me forever?” If our home is her first seminary then I did a poor job teaching the doctrine of God, especially in light of the gospel. A simple, uneducated word study will suffice to prove my incompetence.
In the OT, Israel understood that God could be angry with them. They had no problem making God the subject of the verb “be angry” (anaph) (Dt 1.37; 4.21; 9.8, 20; 1 Kgs 8.46; 11.9; 2 Kgs 17.18; Ezra 9.14; Pss 2.12; 79.5; Is 12.1; cf. Ps 95.11). This is not to say God was only angry or always unmerciful; only that God could be angry with his old covenant people.
When we come to the NT, there is no reference to God being angry with his new covenant people. The Greek word translating the above Hebrew anaph is orgizo. And when God is the subject of that verb (or related to the noun orge), the direct object is never the church. His anger is certainly directed toward unbelieving rebels (see Mt 18.34; 22.7; Mk 3.5; Lk 14.21; Jn 3.36; Rom 1.18; Eph 5.6; Rev 11.18, etc.), but never towards those in Christ.
This is not to say the God of the OT was wrathful, but the God of the NT is not. It’s the same God, but his longsuffering anger was expended on the cross. The “NT God” is no less wrathful (or the “OT God” less merciful). His unchanged wrath is simply directed toward a different person– the Lord Jesus Christ–rather than his people.
God answered the psalmist’s question in Ps 85.5 with a resounding “No!” He proved it when Jesus emerged from the tomb. The relief of God’s anger is not because we finally figure out how to keep God happy, but because God will take his anger out on his Son. It’s not that we no longer do things that should make God angry, but that God no longer holds those things against us because Jesus drank all the cup.
God might be grieved (Eph 4.30), but he will not be angry. It’s hard for some of us Christians to stomach, but because of Jesus God is not mad at us! Heaven has no thin ice. Those who hold fast the confession of faith need never fear God’s anger. This is what makes the gospel “good news” and unbelievable were it not for God’s grace to believe it. Maybe that’s why many do not look forward to the walk with God: fear that if we get scared in front of the neighbor’s house he will angrily embarrass us for all the world to see. We’re so scared of making God mad we never enjoy what makes him happy (i.e. himself and his grace to us in Christ)!
So, Lidi, Dad’s anger was a poor reflection of the gospel. Because of Jesus, God never sits idly by as I shuffle my bike back home after failure. Though he has more freedom for me than I often choose to enjoy, he never forsakes me. In other words, he never treats his children like orphans. And he certainly never holds his anger over my head like Daddy sometimes does to you. In other words, God never treats his children like slaves. That’s what adoption means, princess.
“Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline you ear: Forget your people and your father’s house; then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him” (Ps 45.10).
Dear friends, come to Christ and ride your bike freely . . . or not.