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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Righteously Angry

Been angry lately?  What was it about?  Anger is one of those tricky emotions.  It can easily go real wrong, real fast. 
In the helping professions, anger is what is often called a “secondary emotion.”  In other words, you can feel a primary emotion of fear, disrespect, frustration (blocked goals), injustice or pressure (high stress).  The outward response to that primary emotion can often be anger.  But the anger was triggered by what came first.  Anger can be a great signal to us that something deeper, more powerful is going on in us.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but do not sin.”  It is OK to be angry.  It is not OK to sin.  What is anger that does not become sin?
Last week my favorite Bible passage was Psalm 18.  When I shared it with my wife Pam, her comment was she liked how it talked about God becoming angry.  I went back and read it again and I have to agree with her – I like how God became angry.  Since God is perfect, holy and righteous, it is a pretty good example of sinless anger.  So what did God get angry about?
Look at verse 6:
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. ” (Psalm 18:6, ESV)
David was in trouble and he cried out to God.  His enemies were threatening to do some serious damage to him.  And God got ticked.
Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. ” (Psalm 18:7, ESV)
God got ticked because he is passionate about righteousness and justice.  Anger that flows from Godly passion is how we can have sinless anger.
We could really use a lot more Godly, angry people.  We could use more people like Jesus, who sees the temple courts filled with vendors that are keeping his house from being a house of prayer for all nations so he “cleans house”, he does something.
Anger that has no action is just whining and complaining about the status quo.  Anybody can (and does!) do that.  Godly anger moves us to action, to bring the Kingdom of God where it presently is not.  Godly anger over senseless violence should motivate us to be battling in prayer and being a peacemaker.  Godly anger over kids destroying their lives through destructive choices should motivate us to go and be the presence of Jesus where they are.  Godly anger over the exploitation of children by sex traffickers should motivate us to give and work toward justice.  Godly anger over people going to a Christless eternity should motivate us to step out of our comfort zone and start sharing Jesus in simple ways with those around us.
Are you angry?  I sure hope so.  I hope you discover the deeper thing God is wanting to do that is the true source of your anger.  I hope you find your righteous anger and it moves you to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus.  We need more righteously angry people.


Randy Ehle said...

Always a bit of a challenge to publicly offer thoughts that are contrary to my lead pastor, but since you asked me to, here goes.

When I scanned through just about every passage in the Bible dealing with anger (thanks to an online Bible with a good search tool), I didn't see anywhere that spoke of human anger in positive terms. That was a huge eye-opener for me, because I had so often relied on the verse that says, "in your anger don't sin." With that simple verse, taken out of the broad context of scripture, I was able to justify my own anger as long as it didn't lead to (some other) sin.

The only places I saw anger as being justified were God's anger, or a man's anger at God's glory or name being brought low; for example, David's anger at Goliath's taunting. The problem is, most human anger - certainly mine - is not about God's glory, but about my own selfishness or pride.

What I needed to do in order to begin dealing with my own tendencies toward anger was to stop telling myself that anger is sometimes okay. Even when I'm angry with my disobeying kids, my anger was not about God's glory but about my own need for control; it wasn't a righteous anger about my kids ultimately disobeying God because they were disobeying me, it was sinful anger about them disobeying me.

With that background, I confess to a hesitation about communicating that [our] anger is or may be okay. Otherwise, good words, DC! The great point: be angry about sin; be angry when God's name is dragged through the mud; be angry about God's creation - any part of it - being abused. And always, "in your anger, do not sin."

F.J. Gates said...

Well...I think Paul showed anger with Barnabas and with Mark. I think biblically, if we are created in God's image and God gets angry, we should expect that we will get angry. Pent up or expressed, that's the difference anger makes. Anger is a part of our design. Yes: anger is a secondary response but so is pain; both exist exclusively to let us know something is wrong. I'm going to agree with Paul, It's what we do with our anger that matters most.