Chapter 2: What does righteous anger look like?
Recognizing that anger is a natural, normal, and honorable response to injustice, mean-spiritedness, and wrongdoing is important. The Veteran’s wife, Kristina, mentioned in the introduction to this booklet had grown up in a home where anger was not openly expressed. Maybe you can relate to some of the following words of frustration expressed by this young wife in relation to her husband’s hurtful behavior.
As Kristina nervously sat down in my office, she seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as she stated, “Chaplain, thank you for meeting with me. I really need help and I do not know what to do.”
“How can I help you?”
“I simply can’t live anymore with Kevin’s unpredictable and unexplainable outbursts of rage. It is so scary. I have never lived with someone who is so angry. I grew up in a home where we did not express our anger, and I cannot remember my parents losing their temper. This is so new for me as Kevin never displayed such extreme anger prior to his deployment.”
Tears began to well-up in Kristina’s eyes and I handed her a box of tissues. “Kristina, can you tell me what is most scary about your husband’s anger?”
“Well, it is frightening to find myself married to someone who is no longer the gentle, very attentive, and sensitive man that I married. Plus, it is also distressing for me when I find myself incensed at someone that I want to love. Kevin’s anger is scary because it also stirs up angry feelings in me.”
“And it is difficult for you to express and confront this anger?”
“Oh, yes! I have believed that good people do not lose their temper and display anger. I hold my feelings inside, and try not to react when I’m hurt. Yet, I am really tired of hurting. I outwardly pretend that things are fine which only intensifies the pain inside of me.”
“It is exhausting to try and keep all those painful emotions inside of you.”
“Yes, although I feel guilty when I talk about Kevin’s behavior. I still love him. I wonder if I am to blame for his angry outbursts.”
“So, you feel guilty for Kevin’s anger? I would think that would be very burdensome.”
Kristina nodded and collapsed back into the soft cushioned chair in my office. As tears trickled down her cheeks, there was a wave of exhaustion that seemed to roll from her shoulders at trying to always appear pleasant, cheerful, and kind. As we continued to talk that day, Kristina began to see that she was in no way to blame for her husband’s uncontrolled outbursts.
Perhaps you also have struggled to express your anger. Maybe you have kept pent-up feelings of anger deep inside of you that have been eating away at you, robbing you of peace, and destroying your health. Unaddressed feelings of hurt and anger will not go unnoticed in our bodies and will negatively impact our well-being. As Kristina learned, there absolutely are unjust behaviors which should infuriate us and must not be tolerated.
God is a defender and a protector of those who are oppressed. We read in Scripture how God executes justice for those who are downtrodden. If you have been hurt or are being hurt by someone, please seek help. Like Kristina, you may need to express your anger in a manner which calls for the constructive change of another person’s aggressive behavior.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
When we worship anything or anyone more than we do God, we know that God becomes jealous and righteously angry. In Joshua’s farewell speech, he announced to the people of Israel:
“If you do not keep the covenant which the
LORD your God commanded you to keep and if
you serve and worship other gods, then in his
anger he will punish you, and soon none of you
will be left in this good land that he has given you.”
He worshiped and served Baal,
and like his father before him,
he aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel.
1 Kings 22.53
God’s righteous anger will protect people from their enemies.
Then the LORD thundered from the sky,
and the voice of Almighty God was heard.
He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies
with flashes of lightning he sent them running.
The floor of the ocean was laid bare,
and the foundations of the earth were uncovered
when the LORD rebuked his enemies and roared at them in anger.
2 Samuel 22.14-16
Doing evil will arouse the anger of God.
They sacrificed their sons and daughters as
burnt offerings to pagan gods; they consulted
mediums and fortunetellers, and they devoted
themselves completely to doing what is wrong
in the LORD’s sight, and so aroused his anger.
2 Kings 17.17
David asked for God’s anger to be poured out on his enemies.
Pour out your anger on them; let your indignation overtake them.
God’s anger can be quite powerful, and God’s mercy is even more powerful.
Our life is cut short by your anger; it fades away like a whisper.
Seventy years is all we have— eighty years, if we are strong;
yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow; life is soon over,
and we are gone. Who has felt the full power of your anger?
Who knows what fear your fury can bring? Teach us how short our life is,
so that we may be wise. How much longer will your anger last?
Have pity, O LORD, on your servants!
We should be angered by wrongdoing.
When I see the wicked breaking your law, I am filled with anger.
Disobedience to God’s commands should anger us.
You are righteous, LORD, and your laws are just.
The rules that you have given are completely fair and right.
My anger burns in me like a fire, because my enemies disregard your commands.
Readings from the New Testament
Jesus was angered when the temple of God was violated.
Jesus went into the Temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the stools of those who sold pigeons, and said to them, “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer.’ But you are making it a hideout for thieves!” The blind and the crippled came to him in the Temple, and he healed them.
The chief priests and the teachers of the Law became angry when they saw the wonderful things he was doing and the children shouting in the Temple, “Praise to David’s Son!” So they asked Jesus, “Do you hear what they are saying?”
“Indeed I do,” answered Jesus. “Haven’t you ever read this scripture? ‘You have trained children and babies to offer perfect praise.’ ”
Jesus displayed anger when the Jerusalem Temple was disgraced.
There in the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and pigeons, and also the moneychangers sitting at their tables. So he made a whip from cords and drove all the animals out of the Temple, both the sheep and the cattle; he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins; and he ordered those who sold the pigeons, “Take them out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”
The Jewish authorities came back at him with a question, “What miracle can you perform to show us that you have the right to do this?”
Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.”
“Are you going to build it again in three days?” they asked him. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple!”
But the temple Jesus was speaking about was his body. So when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what Jesus had said.
Jesus was angry at self-righteous people who did not show compassion.
Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him closely to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man, “Come up here to the front.” Then he asked the people, “What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save someone’s life or to destroy it?” But they did not say a thing.
Jesus was angry as he looked around at them, but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it became well again.
God is angered by wrongdoing and the sacrifice of Christ satisfies God’s anger toward our sin.
God did not choose us to suffer his anger, but to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us in order that we might live together with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes.
1 Thessalonians 5.9,10
Thoughts for Reflection
- Anger is a natural, normal, and honorable response to injustice, mean-spiritedness, and wrongdoing. Write or share why you believe this or why you do not believe this.
- How was anger demonstrated in the home in which you grew up? Write or share how this impacts you today.
- How does the verse, “In your anger, do not sin” (Ephesians 4.26) apply to your life? This verse seems to imply that anger is to be an expected emotion at times, do you agree? Write or share your thoughts on this verse in relation to your life.
- What would be your response to an unfair or cruel act done to you or a loved one? Honestly reflect on how you would display righteous anger.
Dear Lord, please help me to understand that there are times in my life when anger is a natural, normal, and honorable response to the injustices and wrongdoings in my life. May I not be timid or shy away from confronting wrongdoing and injustice in our world.
Help me to understand what righteous anger looks like and how I should respond to unfair and cruel acts. I’ll admit that I do not always understand how to respond with righteous anger that wisely confronts the wrongdoing.
I thank you for your wise counsel as you remind me that you have promised to give your followers a spirit of power, love, and discernment in confronting the evils in our world.
In your holy name. Amen.