Being Mad Like Jesus

This is a blog about being angry.

The arrest and subsequent death of Eddie Gray and ensuing riots in Baltimore have brought conversations about race relations, police brutality, and community division back to the forefront. But this isn’t a blog about any of those things. This is a blog about being angry.

The Bible talks a good bit about being angry. Never once does it condemn it outright. Rather, it warns against the effects of anger in the life of an individual. In the short term, it commands us to not sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26, quoting Psalm 4:4), along with the famous line about not letting the sun go down on your anger. There are definitely dangers to becoming and staying angry. It can take root and become bitterness or cause us to seek revenge. The Bible is clear that bitterness is not good for us, nor is revenge our job. It’s God’s.

Still, we are wired to get angry. Sometimes it’s because we’re selfish and we don’t get our way. Other times it’s because we really believe strongly in something and it seems like no one else cares, so we speak up.

If you are sympathetic to the predominately black community that resides in our nation’s cities, and you feel that there is systematic disrespect (and even brutality) against those communities, then you can understand how a group of people would become so angry that they might set cars on fire and steal stuff from stores. You may not agree that they should, but you can understand why they would. They are just that angry.

If you are a cop, know a cop, or just love cops, then you might look at a situation where they are putting themselves in harm’s way for the good of the community and question the motivation of people who are demanding answers and protesting. Not every cop is good at their job, you may consent, but that doesn’t mean every cop should suffer the consequence of having rocks or Molotov cocktails thrown at them. To see it makes you angry. Understandably so.

Or there’s the Baltimore mother who went viral after seeing one of her sons doing dumb stuff. So she got up, went down there, pulled him aside, and did what many mothers in America do every day. She dished out a little tough love on the young man. Judging by her actions (as well as her words), she certainly seemed angry. Most folks don’t blame her. In fact, she was heralded for literally trying to knock some sense into the kid.

Then there are the preachers and community leaders whose actions look more like Martin Luther King Jr than they do a scene out of the movie The Purge. Are they angry? Most certainly. They don’t get as much press because that kind of behavior doesn’t make for great television. But they march and hold hands and tell the truth and stand together and speak out against injustice and pray and beg for change. They may not look like it, but don’t you think they are angry? I do.

Not all anger is expressed correctly. I know when I get mad I don’t always handle myself well. But being mad about something is not wrong. In fact, it may well be a good thing. It may bring about good things. In the Bible, God is angry numerous times. James 1 warns us that “human anger” does not bring about the good living God desires from us, and we see that on full display in our society far too often.

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While we should avoid “human anger” and it’s dangerous results (wrath, bitterness, revenge, etc.) I do think it is appropriate to look at what makes God angry and be angry about that same stuff:

Relevant Magazine (who gets photo credit as well) had a piece a while back with stuff that hacks God off and should make us mad, too:

  • When his followers are not fruitful (This is the whole “if-you-don’t-bear-fruit-he’ll-cut-you-down” thing that is mentioned in the Gospels).
  • When people damage children (Remember the “millstone-around-the-neck-bottom-of-the-sea” thing that Jesus said).
  • When people are self-righteous and judgmental (see: Pharisees, Sadducees, Teachers of the Law, etc.)

Those aren’t the only things that make God mad, of course. Injustice makes him mad. Really step back and read the Minor Prophets. The way the rich used the poor was a big deal to God. Still is. Abuse of power makes him mad. Remember Saul? He found this out more than anyone. People ignoring Him makes Him mad. Remember the Israelites dancing around the Golden Calf? God was not pleased.

Sometimes in this world, there are things that just make us mad. Sometimes that’s because we’re selfish, but sometimes it’s for a darn good reason. I think in those times, we’re best off remembering two simple things:

1. God gets mad, and it is okay if we get mad at the same stuff He gets mad at.

2. We’re not God, so we need to be careful how we let that anger manifest itself.

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