Summary: There is a difference between the righteous anger Jesus felt at times and the piddling little things that make us angry. Anger can be an impediment which stands in the way of our enjoyment of God.
Don’t Let Anger Rattle Around in Your Soul
February 13, 2005
One of the things that I regret about the way I reared my children is that I think I raised my voice too often. As I reflect back, I understand now that on those occasions when I had reached the limit of my patience with them, I wasn’t often creative enough or sensible enough or rational enough to find ways of discipline that didn’t involve a lot of yelling.
I remember one incident in particular. Matthew must have been about four years old. We were living at Goblesville about six miles north of Huntington. He and I were home alone together. He had done something to set me off. I can’t remember what it was. But I do remember that he was sitting on the couch in the living room and I was pacing back and forth in front of him, shouting like a mad man. I had completely lost it. He had come to my last nerve and ripped it to shreds.
I can still see him. He had on blue shorts and a stripped t-shirt. I can see him sitting there with sort of a confused look on his face because he couldn’t quite figure out what had gotten into me.
In the middle of my tirade, when I had stopped to take a breath, he looked up at me and said, “Dad, I love you.”
I was devastated. Those four words from my son stopped me in my tracks and made me face up to the fact that I had lost control. My anger had passed into very dangerous territory.
To tell you the end of the story, I sat down on the couch, took him up on my lap, told him I was sorry and that I loved him too. I still remember and regret that incident. I continue to be ashamed of my behavior that day.
What makes you angry? What sets you off? What makes your blood boil? What causes you to act crazy? What is it that triggers your ire? What makes you lose your head?
As I was writing this paragraph, somebody did something to really honk me off. I had to sit and stew for awhile until I figured out how to handle it. I needed to take the time to cool off a little because my first reaction was not going to be pretty.
Now I do believe that there is such a thing as righteous indignation. I do think that there are things that ought to make us angry. In fact, the thing that set me off was, in my opinion, a legitimate anger-producer. It involved the church not acting like the church.
As I read the gospel, Jesus came as the Anointed One to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18). Any time the church is not respectful of one of the least of these, one of the outcast, one of the poor and oppressed as named in Matthew 25, I’m going to call you on it. I would expect the same thing from you if you caught me in unacceptable behavior.
You remember one occasion of the righteous anger of Jesus. It is told there in the second chapter of the gospel of John. He was in Jerusalem and, as was his custom, went up to the Temple. There he found the moneychangers. They were selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifice - at a handsome profit. Jesus was furious at this abuse of the house of God and so he made a whip of chords, over-turned their tables, and drove them from the premises. He brought his moral force, his moral power to bear on the situation. He wouldn’t stand for the exploitation of the Temple that he had witnessed. He had righteousness on his side.
My point here is that not all anger is wrong. Not all anger is sinful. Not all anger is misplaced. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and cautioned them to “be angry but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).
How do you become angry without sinning? It is not becoming angry because someone insulted you or wounded your pride. You become angry without sinning when your anger is directed against acts that violate the gospel, that go against the grain of Christian compassion, which affronts God, which hurts God’s people.
We should be angry at the story that broke several months ago, if it is found to be true, in which some houses in Fort Wayne have been vastly over-appraised and then sold to poor families at inflated prices. We should be angry at the greed of a few corporate executives who, in ravaging their companies for their own personal profit, sour the reputations of all of corporate America. We should be angry at civil servants who misuse our tax dollars in bloated defense budgets or swollen entitlement programs or costly bailouts…wherever waste and fraud can be found.