God of Mercy or God of Wrath? Lessons from the Bible

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAI wrote earlier about my image of God as I was growing up. Like many people today, I did not have a very complete understanding of who God is. I thought of God as distant and judgmental. Some people even think that God is wrathful and is specifically angry at, or at least disappointed with, them.

That is not who God is. There are many ways to come to know who God is, and a primary way is through Scripture. In the Bible, we have a treasure trove of stories about God that tell us who God is. When you are leading your catechumens on the way of faith, you will have more confidence in describing God to them if you are well-grounded in the scriptural images of God. Here are some to get you started.


In Genesis, chapters 27-50, we read the story of Joseph who, through God’s grace, was able to show compassion and mercy to his hard-hearted brothers.

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The story of Moses begins in Exodus, chapter 3. Throughout Moses’s life, God was merciful to him. Moses, in turn, showed that same mercy to the people of Israel, even when they complained against him.

King David

David was an unlikely king and not a very good man. His story begins at 2 Samuel 11. David had one of his generals killed so that David could take the general’s wife. God could have punished David with the same fate. But instead, when David repented, God forgave him.


Micah was a prophet who taught about what God’s mercy entails. After reading the Book of Micah, we know that God isn’t simply merciful. God loves mercy. It’s not a trait God decides to exhibit on a case-by-case basis. God overflows with mercy, all the time. And, Micah teaches, we have to do the same.


Who is more in need of mercy than Peter? When the pressure was on, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. And yet, Jesus forgave him and loved him (Jn 21:1-19).

More from Scripture

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Mt 5:7)

Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. (Mt 9:13)

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Lk 6:36)

But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him kindness by making the chief jailer well-disposed toward him. (Gn 39:21)

So the LORD passed before him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. (Ex 34:6-7)

But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Ti 3:4-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (1 Pt 3-4)

You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Mi 6:8)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-7)

On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh. (Jd 1:23)

The LORD, your God, is gracious and merciful and he will not turn away his face from you if you return to him. (2 Ch 30:9)

Lord, you are good and forgiving, most merciful to all who call on you. (Ps 86:5)

(Thanks to Bill Huebsch for the inspiration for this article. For lots of resources to prepare your parish for the Year of Mercy, go to: http://store.pastoralplanning.com/juyeofmeilee1.html)

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIACheck out this webinar recording: “Find out if your RCIA catechesis is ‘suitable’ for catechumens” Click here for more information.

See also these related articles:
  1. RCIA as a little black Fiat ministry
  2. Is your RCIA team a face of mercy?
  3. What Pope Francis wants RCIA teams to teach about mercy
  4. Does being merciful mean letting people off the hook?
  5. God of Mercy or God of Wrath? Lessons from the Bible

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