I don’t know about you, but I can count on the fact that at some point during the day something will happen that will make me angry. It could be something I do. It may be something that happens to me. Or it could be something that happens that does not involve me at all. It seems like in 2019 there is always an opportunity to become angry.
I’ll be honest, I think the media looks for stories that will push us into anger. We are at the point now where we can just look at a headline and immediately exhibit outrage. Sometimes the outrage is legit. Certainly when you hear of a parent who abuses and then kills their child it is natural to be angry, right? But what about when here is a viral video of a person in a store who appears to respond in a way that is not right? Is it okay to lash out in outrage towards that person?
A few real questions for people today are…
“Is it acceptable to be angry?”
“Is it acceptable to exhibit outrage?”
“How do I know the difference between what deserves outrage and what does not?”
First, it is acceptable to be angry. On its best day, anger is a natural response to activity that is not acceptable. Webster defines anger as: ‘a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism’. Sometimes I do things that I discover I am not happy with. So I get angry at my foolishness. But just because I get angry doesn’t make it acceptable. Looking in Scripture, God reveals that He gets angry… a lot. Primarily it is injustice that makes Him angry. He is holy. He designed us to be holy. So when humans don’t act like we are supposed to, it gives Him a strong feeling of displeasure. God was angry at individuals (Cain), at communities (Sodom and Gomorrah), at nations (Philistines), and at the whole world (Noah’s flood).
Jesus was angry at times. He was angry at the hypocritical religious leaders who were mistreating people. He was angry at unbelief. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead gives us the shortest verse in the Bible. When John tells us, “Jesus wept,” It doesn’t mean He was distraught over losing a dear friend to death. Rather, it means Jesus was visibly upset.. at the unbelief of the people who knew Him but did not truly believe Him.
The apostle Paul was angered by similar things. He disliked people who spiritually abused others and those who trampled the work of Christ… as he had once done. In Ephesians 4:26 he tells Christians, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” This tells us two things.
It is acceptable for a Christian to be angry. But there is also an expectation that we are to be angry without violating God’s law. It is alright for a Christian to be angry when a man shoots up a school. But we are not allowed to hate the man. We can be outraged at the injustice of such an act, but we cannot be un-Christlike towards the perpetrator of the injustice. That Paul would say that we should not let the sun go down on our anger is to guide us in our anger. We should be in control of our anger instead of being controlled by it. Holy people can have anger, but anger should not have us. We place the limits on our anger, or else it will consume us.
So if it is acceptable to be angry, is it okay to exhibit outrage? As long as the situation calls for it, and it is restrained within holy limits, we can express our anger. This takes serious focus and attentiveness to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus overturned tables when He saw the injustice of the thieves in the temple. Paul struck a man blind who was opposing his missionary work. Paul recommended shunning when people went beyond certain lines of rebellion. But again, these expressions are not crazy, open-ended deals. It isn’t Christlike to flip out. It is Christlike to be loving and measured, even if what you are doing doesn’t necessarily look loving. Whatever a Christian does should be in love. This includes exhibiting anger. Be angry, but do not sin. This seems weird, but it is real.
Knowing the difference between what is outrage-worthy and what is not is sort of tricky. One thing seems totally over the top to one person while another takes it in stride. What you get angry about will be different from those things which makes your brothers and sisters in Christ angry. This is because of various environmental influences, or the fact that God puts burdens in each of our hearts. So the best thing to do is stay close to God through reading the Bible, prayer, and being in relationship with believers who live out the kind of life that aligns with holiness.
Maybe another rule of heart can be, “When in doubt, do without.” I have had to repent of getting angry too quickly, or exhibiting my anger in an unholy way. For the most part, anger itself won’t change things in a positive way. It may be more of a flag to indicate your values. But when expressed in an unwise or unholy way, you can do damage that is difficult to clean up.
So let God determine what will make you angry. Then be angry in the right way. And set limits on your anger. If we do this properly, it may very well increase our mercy toward others, and draw them into the right path… which is our ultimate goal anyway, right?!?
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.