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“Be angry!”

Excuse me?

I said, “Be angry. But don’t sin.”

Am I missing something here, Lord? Isn’t anger supposed to be a bad emotion?

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Ec. 3:1

Yes, Lord. Thank you for reminding me.

In a feel-good society, set in the context of a planet overrun by fear and rage, the broad impression is that we must avoid the dangerous emotion of anger. And to some extent both swings of the pendulum have banged against opposing walls of our churches: Caustic Christian at the first sway, Gooey Godly across the room.

So what is the proper Christian take on the subject of anger? Should it rule the day, or do we rue the day we lost it? Is anger always an unlawful passion?

Let us invite Jesus in as our analyst and His word for our instruction manual.

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13 KJV)

There were other times when Jesus exhibited righteous indignation. To state it in broad categories, He could never abide sanctimonious, pompous, strutting pride, and He gave no quarter to the unrepentant abuser of children or new converts to the faith.

In like manner our present world is peopled by misdeeds and mind-sets that should make us good and mad. If not we have lost our salt and light; indeed we have turned tolerance to lethargy. The exploitation of the tender soul, the crushing of the innocent on minute or massive scale, gossip that can wreck a person’s life, and our own subtle smugness, are just a few of the offenses which should arouse a storm of passion in God’s progeny.

To be honest though, in the subjective sense we may not always find it easy to discern between self-serving ire and honorable fury. But with God all things are possible. Jesus stands before us both as our example and chronometer and the Holy Spirit is eager to teach us all things, including when the time is ripe for righteous rage.

Its touchstone may be the daily news, or the broken countenance of a small child at home or down the street may set it off. Some places it probably won’t occur are in a traffic jam on our way to work, our bedroom when we are having a ‘reasonable’ discussion with our spouse, or at the office when we just got fired.

Of this we can be certain though: holy, appropriate anger, at its core, will always be prompted by true and fervent love for our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus, and our neighbor..
So go ahead and get mad! But don’t sin.

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