Anger is everywhere these days. It is in the air, and it lives and feeds and grows, on-line and in our political discourse. There is a lot to be angry about, like injustice and war and our own impotence to affect change or control our circumstances.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time dwelling on this subject. It has been a consuming topic for me because for a long time (too long) it was my chief identifying emotion. As I realised I had a problem, I began to cast about in search of a role model. While there were innumerable people who handled anger better than me, I failed to find a role model I could imitate! There were people who never seemed to get really angry. I knew I could not do that! There were people who swallowed their anger and bitter experience taught me this would not work for me. Some were passive aggressive, and I did not admire that as a method. Many, many were better than me with anger, but I could not find a wholesome or workable model.
The scriptures not only give me permission to be angry, but actually encourage anger. It seems this is a God given emotion. It is a tool which we wield most clumsily. When I first looked to Jesus, I saw only ‘Jesus Meek and Mild,’ and I allowed this one-dimensional caricature to dominate. Apparently Jesus was not in all ways tempted like me and was incapable of anger. Sure, he got “righteously” angry at money changers, but “righteous” anger was not my problem.
Now I see Jesus quite differently. When Judas betrayed him with a kiss, the Jesus who was indeed tempted in all ways, felt anger. He looked Judas in the eyes, not letting him off the hook and thereby confronted him with his awful betrayal. After Peter’s denial again we see him looking Peter in the eye and the terrible weight of Peter’s denial crashes upon him.
Jesus had taught about turning the cheek. This was not solely to offer the abuser another opportunity, but more so to look that person in the eyes and force them to see your humanity in the face of their inhumanity.
Jesus followed his own model as he dealt with inhumanity and abuse. He was angry and yet did not sin. No one was ever just ‘let off the hook.’ Everyone is confronted with their behaviour and the horrendous consequences that flow from them.
It is not only okay to be angry, but it also seems a Gospel imperative! Like sex we have perverted the gift of anger. We abuse and misuse anger to justify our own inhumanity!
Being angry well is really difficult. I have come to believe though that God does not ask of us that which we can not do through Him. He says, “Be angry and not sin.,” and this is one of the many things we can do “through Christ who strengthens us.”
In this life and times, there is a lot to be angry about. The chore for me is to choose my anger well and to feel and act on it in a way that honours God. I fail often at this. I fall well short of this ‘mark,’ but it remains the ‘mark’ nevertheless! I fail and I repent and reset. I think I am getting better. I think I sometimes hit the mark, or nearly so. My goal is progress rather than perfection for I find that solely striving for perfection frustrates me to the point of abandonment.
We had our first “Finding Freedom” Bible Study last Saturday and it was a really enjoyable time. We hope to see a couple of more people this week.
Linda and I believe we have turned a corner health-wise. Thank you for your prayers.