Everybody’s been angry more than once in their lifetime, whether for good or for bad reason. I guess what I want to talk about with this post is how anger is not something to avoid, but a tool to drive us to righteousness in proper times. At times, this is going to sound like a rant, but I’ll give it my best shot here.
Anger has driven humankind to do some REALLY stupid things. Looking at Scripture alone, it cost Moses his trip into the Promised Land and it cost a servant his ear when Peter chopped it off the night of Jesus’ execution (there, one from each side of Scripture!). Doing things in anger has cost us millions of lives at the hands of dictators, murderers, and others who have misunderstood what their anger was for (I know I’m simplifying things drastically here, but follow me on this one). The thing is: anger is not a bad thing, but is simply misplaced.
In your anger, do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. – Ephesians 4:26
While Paul said this in reference to dealing with others, it still illustrates my point: being angry has its purpose. The problem, in my opinion, is when we get mad at other people, instead of indignant at the lack of humanity in them.
In his book Guerilla Lovers, Vince Antonucci talks about how often we opt to judge instead of showing mercy. We think it is our right to judge others for others, especially when what they did is, in our minds, horribly wrong. Whether it’s wrong or not, though, is not ours to necessarily ours to judge and sentence a person over, but it IS our place to show mercy. It is our duty to do so, in fact.
Swinging back around to anger, it is the judge mentality that really provokes us to the evil things that anger can drive us to.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. – Ephesians 4:31.
(Note that the type of anger referred to in this verse isn’t fully the same as the one in verse 26; here the greek refers to a desire to seek revenge, whereas that of verse 26 more refers to being upset over something).
All of these are byproducts of anger. We get bitter at those who wrong us, and seek to slander them, beat them up, and breed hatred toward them in the form of malice. What we instead need to do is show them mercy, because the same inhumanity that drives them to do the wrong things they do exists in us as well.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
We are just as undeserving of forgiveness as we are, and yet it has been shown to us by the only one who can be judge. If the judge is showing mercy, so must we.
So where is angry applicable? Well, even Jesus got angry. In fact, he often expressed his disdain for the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, but what was he mad about? Take, for example, the story of his rampage in the Temple. Jesus was indeed unhappy with the proceedings with the money changers. They were demanding that the people use the animals they were selling for sacrifice, and charging an exorbitant price for them. For this, Jesus tosses a few tables and drives them all out. I really wish I could have been there to see the look on the disciples’ faces when this occurred. I keep picturing them thinking, “Well, I don’t EVER want to piss him off…”
Anyway, what Jesus was angry about here was the injustice being served in a place of holiness. This was supposed to be the place where the nations would one day come and bow before the one true God, YHWH, and here these people are exploiting those who come to receive the forgiveness of the Almighty God! What infuriates God is injustice towards those who should be shown mercy. I think this is what Paul would rather us be mad about it. Both he and Jesus show a marked disdain for injustice from people who wish to exploit those needing mercy (and believe me, we all need it). This same indignation has carried down throughout the centuries and poured out into the hearts of many different revolutionaries, even men like Che Guevara:
If you tremble with indignation at every injustice you see, then you are a comrade of mine.
Seriously, I love this quote, because it shows the heart of nearly every revolutionary. The problem is when we decide that the person showing injustice should be shown no mercy. It does no good to deprive mercy of those who have deprived you of the same mercy you needed (but didn’t deserve). You only perpetuate a vicious circle, because who, then will show you mercy when you haven’t shown it?
Anger has its place when we recognize injustice in our world, and our anger spurs us to bring humanity back to those who have been deprived of it. Anger should fuel our desire to bring love back to this world. It should NOT fuel us to exact justice when we are not meant to judge. The Lord will exact justice on the unrepentant, so instead of seeking to bring justice more swiftly, seek to bring the unjust to repentance, and remember you were unjust at one time yourself.
Tremble with indignation at every injustice you see, and bring mercy to those who need it.