For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NIV).
Last night I watched “Platoon.” Best Picture of 1986. I first saw it at Fort Meade, Maryland that year in a theater full of Vietnam veterans, nearly all of whom were silent at the end and more than a few were crying. Besides being about combat, Platoon was about fall and redemption, about receiving salvation by surviving the hell of the Vietnam War.
After that, I watched the first few minutes of “Gladiator,” Best Picture of 2000, also about war. Near the beginning, Maximus, Russell Crowe’s character, said something profound: “what we do in this life carries over into eternity.” Had he been real, Crowe’s character would have lived just after the time of Christ. I wonder if he would have picked up this thought from those early Christians.
Salvation has indeed come to man and it didn’t come by surviving war, though I’m sure most any war veteran can tell you that returning home safely was awful close. And salvation came to us specifically because what we do in this life can indeed carry over into eternity. Without Jesus’ salvation, the idolatrous things we choose here will indeed be fully rewarded to us in eternity. By accepting salvation, something completely different is in store.
God didn’t appoint Oliver Stone, Charlie Sheen, Russell Crowe, or any of us to suffer His wrath. He created us to love us, not to hurt us. Before we were even born, God loved us and breathed life into us so that we may breathe life back to Him; so that we might share His love with other people that they would know His love too. Being all love, Jesus knew that love-compelled isn’t love at all, so He also gave us free will: the ability to choose one thing over another. Even if it means we choose things other than Him, Jesus loves us enough to respect our choices so that we might come to love Him just as freely. He didn’t create us to feel the Father’s holy wrath of hellish separation, but if that’s what we choose, then He loves us enough to respect us and our choices.
At the end of Gladiator, Maximus dies, having freed Rome from the grip of a tyrant. At the end of Platoon, Charlie Sheen goes home to attempt to find something good of the world. We’re not so different, you know. This verse comes at the end of a section talking about the end of time. It’s a good reminder of why God made us. We’re here to learn to love God, even as a world bathed in wrath works against us.
For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, 1 Thessalonians 5:10.
Lord, love me today and encourage me so that I might avoid wrath and share love.