Monday, November 20, 2006

appropriate anger?

I received an email this morning from someone asking questions about anger, Jesus and revenge. Concering whether or not it is OK for a Christian to get angry, here are 2 things to keep in mind:

1) Psychologically, I think it is important to remember that anger is just a byproduct (a secondary emotion). It is the warning light on the dashboard of your car, pointing to the real issue that exists underneath the hood.

Whenever you get angry, don't just flow with the emotion. Step back and figure out WHY you are angry. What is the primary emotion? Is it embarrassment, hurt pride, fear, anxiety, exhaustion, lack of patience, not feeling respected or valued? What is causing me to be angry? This helps me gain a proper perspective over anger, helps me figure out what to do with it, and often brings my temperature back down to a more reasonable level.

2) Spiritually, it is important to notice that Jesus never got angry about an injustice against himself. Whenever he was attacked, offended, abused, accused or wronged...he took it in stride, and NEVER took revenge. The only time Jesus got angry was when others were wronged or when God the Father's honor was violated.

I think that is an important distinction. WE tend to get angry when someone hurts us, rather than reserving our anger for injustice against others. Appropriate anger can and should spur me to action on behalf of those who are being wronged. It can be a good thing when it is directed towards a godly purpose.

But one thing Scripture never condones is acting out of revenge. Forgiveness is not an option. It is mandatory for a follower of Christ. Forgiveness means that I must let others off my hook, knowing that they are still on God's hook. God says that He will take care of it in the end. To truly trust God, it means that I must leave vengeance in the hands of the Lord.

If someone continually abuses or takes advantage of me, I can and should remove myself from their line of fire. It doesn't mean I have to continue to let them hurt me over and over again. If they have broken the law, I can let justice take its course. While removing myself from harms way (if I have confronted the person and they are unwilling to change their behavior), I also have a responsibility to prevent them from doing the same thing to others. But all of this must take place from the context of forgiveness, grace and love.

I think these 2 key principles are essential to handling anger in our lives. I pray that God will give you wisdom as you seek to bring Him honor in your life.