Whether it’s Karl Rove ranting on FOX News, Howard Stern raving on the radio or Angry Birds on your kids’ iPhone, wrath is popular these days. If you follow this blog, then you know I believe that all our emotions have a godly purpose, even anger. It’s a lot easier to welcome a feel-good emotion like confidence than it is to embrace the meaning in jealousy or rage. However, we were made in the image of a perfect God who feels all those emotions, albeit in their purest forms. Jesus got angry. In fact, we have several examples of that and no examples of Jesus laughing. Yet, we tend to feel closer to God when we are joyful than when we are angry. Maybe we should re-evaluate.
To be fair, all our emotions are equally fallen (just like our thoughts and our actions). It is possible for love to warp into selfishness and for happiness to become a god (small ‘g’). And anger, of course, has a particularly unattractive dark side – but that is for another post. My purpose here is to highlight the potential goodness in anger and to encourage you to emulate God when you feel it.
So what “good purpose” can anger serve? We need only look at the expressions of anger which Jesus displayed in the New Testament to see that anger motivates people to intervene when wrongs have been committed. Without righteous anger, no one would chase the purse snatcher across a parking lot. No one would tackle the school shooter before he pulled the trigger again. No one would collect the signatures necessary to protect animals and children from their abusers through the political process. Anger motivates us to change things.
Anger motivates us to change things in the world, to reveal inequities and injustices and to work in society to end them through activism, heroism, volunteerism, legislation, publicity, fund-raising, donating our time, talents, words and hands to the cause of righteousness. Anger motivates us to change things in other people, to speak the truth in love, to take a bullet in their place, to hold someone back from harm or to push them forward into a better life. Anger motivates us to change ourselves, to be more careful, to make resolutions, to put accountability in place, to overcome fear or laziness, to finally do that thing we should have done long ago.
The biggest problem with anger is when there is absolutely nothing we can do to change anything. However, that is rarely the case. The second biggest problem is when we choose the wrong target for our anger. Because anger stirs our physical juices, it’s hard to put down, and we generally want to lash out at someone or something. Before you do, take a little time to figure out why you are angry and whether God is in it anywhere. Is there something you can or should do to change the situation, the people involved or yourself? How do you think you might go about it in ways which honor the Lord? Put your emotions to good use – don’t waste your anger!