Getting Angry

I recently started doctoral classes alongside a couple dozen other pastors. In a discussion we were having on shepherding, I asked a question of the professor about when it honors the Lord to get angry. I felt sort of stupid later as I had to rephrase the question a number of times, and in the end had it mostly passed by. It seemed like a legitimate question to me. I had just received information about good friends and ministry partners who had been devastated by sin. I was angry … righteously angry, I think!

We come to Matthew 21 where Jesus cleanses the Temple and we are uncomfortable with his anger. We find ways to explain it to the glory of God – Zeal for His Father’s house, a passion for holiness, and things like that. Yet it’s almost as if we feel the need to make excuses for Jesus not being the meek and mild guy holding sheep and touching the heads of children. My friends, I think we have t0 get a better grasp on this one. We get angry for all the wrong reasons, and not angry when we should be.

Too Quick to Anger 

The Psalmist repeatedly commends the patient nature of God to us – “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalms 145:8). James correctly warns us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). No doubt the heart of God is full of grace to His own. He is patient with us wayward rascals, and we are to likewise “be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). We get angry over all the wrong things. That person doesn’t treat us respectfully and our pride lashes out. The situation spins wildly out of control and we look for someone to blame. Or maybe we just feel afraid, and anger makes it feel easier (and safer) to deal with the things we have no control over. Whatever the case may be, we do choose anger far too quickly … yes you choose it!

Too Slow to Anger 

But back to my classroom question. My concern is how rarely we get angry about the ravishing effects of sin on image-bearers. I’ve been doing ministry long enough to see my share of trauma, abuse, abandonment, hypocrisy and lies. It makes me mad. It makes me want to “flip tables over” when I see the damaging effects of sin on people I care about. So does the Bible have much to say about this? I think it does, but we feel really uncomfortable with this emotion. Take for example the section of Psalms called the imprecatory Psalms. “Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them” (Psalms 69:24). We see the honest cries of men who saw the injustice and mistreatment of people and called out for God to judge. They fought taking matters into their own hands, but responded with the holy heart of God. They cared about God’s glory, as well as the destructive evil of personal and corporate sin in those around them. Wasn’t this what fueled the righteous anger of Jesus too?

Switch Up Your Anger 

We seem to have it all backwards. Most people get angry and sin, rather than seeing sin and getting angry. Of course this is dangerous territory because we don’t always see so clearly. It is a hazy line sometimes between being impacted by people’s sin and responding in the flesh, or seeing sin’s effects and righteously responding with a Spirit-filled passion. Solomon provides a helpful warning – “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). What starts as a good compassionate response can lodge in bad places that fuel sinful anger. Be careful, but be bothered. As lovers of God, we need to not only have God’s heart of patience and grace, but God’s heart for those we love who are deeply impacted by the wickedness of sin. I encourage you to wrestle with this one a step further in your own life, friendships, and ministry.

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2 thoughts on “Getting Angry

  1. Such a good question. We all wrestle with this. Ah, now we have to keep searching for answers wrestling on a case by case basis. I find that the older I get, the less anger presents as a response. Instead, I am thrown into sadness and a prayer response. The situation or person involved rarely needs my anger. My sadness even seems to be more effective. No one wants to disappoint the “grandma”. Prayer for all concerned jumps into my reaction as a first response. I am saved from the physical detriment of chemicals that make me ill and move with compassion to address the sin in prayer. Do I get angry? You better believe it, but it is momentary and fleeting. The victims of sin need prayer…..as do the sinners. Remembering my sins, I move on to think of those who need God’s forgiveness and repentance.

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  2. Hey Mark, It Mike from KCF…nice read. I will say my first thoughts when I am in the eyeshot or earshot of what is clearly ‘sin’, my first feeling is always grief. I am saddened when I see an event of clear disreguard of God’s will. I tend to not be the angry one in the face of some injustice. Maybe its my gentle nature…great thought to ponder. I do think of the Lord as he was being sacrificed on Calvary…he did not express anger to his accusers and killers, he asked his father to forgive them because they were unaware of what they were doing. I would have to believe the long term effects of some of the stuff we hear and see are in the same category. People are unaware of their destuctive behaviors long term effects.
    Simply put, I need forgiveness and grant forgiveness everyday. I just think I’ve been conditioned to operate that way.

    Peace.

    MC

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