BY SARAH CARVER, GRACE ATTENDER
Over the past several weeks we have been studying the Psalms. We have touched on being in awe of God, doubting God, feelings of gratefulness. We have talked about when it feels as if God is distant in our pain, when all we want to do is praise God, what it’s like when we are afraid, and when we are astounded by the truth of God in nature. Just this past weekend we looked at what God says about when we are needing clear direction. All of these topics are covered in the Psalms. So, I was curious about what they had to say on the topic of anger.
In Dave Rod’s book, A Why to Live For; Where Your Destiny Meets the Broken Places of the World and his subsequent sermon series, we were led to figure out what passion God had put inside of us. What I learned was that I am an Activist. I am brimming over with a fire to fight the Broken Place of Hate. Dave said something that I realized was profoundly true. Activists are always angry. I am always angry. I can tell you, it is not always righteous anger, either. And that is how I came to search the Word and in particular the Psalms for what God has to say about anger.
A friend of mine led me to Psalm 94. I have to tell you, the psalmist truly laid bare my feelings. He is straight out asking the age-old question; “why do bad people prosper while good people suffer?”. Not only that, he goes further crying out against the fact that the bad people (the leaders, in fact) are CAUSING the innocent to suffer! He sees these evildoers in power, and it leads him to approach God in anger over this injustice. His anger is not misplaced or wrong, because he is coming to God because the wrongs, he sees being committed against the powerless are grieving him. He is angry at the suffering he sees and that those who are causing it are mocking God. He approaches God because he knows that if God shows Himself, those doing evil will have to stop.
This Psalm shows what righteous anger looks like. Righteous anger is being angry at what makes God angry. So, what makes God angry? When His goodness is twisted into wrong. When those who are powerless are abused by those with power. When His name is used to justify hate and evil behavior. Our anger is righteous when we are angered when evil profanes His holiness and perverts His goodness. I read somewhere once, that God is not fundamentally angry, but He is fundamentally righteous. His anger is a byproduct of His righteousness.
Non-righteous, sinful anger is so common though, that the Bible warns against it in multiple places, including the Psalms. “Don’t sin by letting anger control you” (Psalm 4:4, NLT). Righteous anger is altogether different. Righteous anger comes from the Holy Spirit within us. Righteous anger doesn’t look or feel like sinful anger because righteous anger is strictly governed and directed by love. God is righteous but as seen in 1 John 4:8, He is love and love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4).
The Bible tells us over and over that God is patient in His wrath. He is slow to anger. “But You, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered…” (Psalm 86:15). I realized that more and more, I am not demonstrating the “slow to anger” kind of anger that God models. Yes, as an Activist, I am angry all the time. But it is more of a prideful, self-fulfilling kind of anger. I am proud of this anger. I practically dare people to cross a line and mess up or say something out of line. I go out into public HOPING someone will do something racist so that I can record them (or more accurately myself putting them in their place) and put them on blast. I am aching for a fight. But this is not the righteous anger that God has called me to.
So, what do I do? How do I come back to the place where God and anger meet? What does true RIGHTEOUS anger look like in the life of a Christ-follower? First of all, I HAVE to see the sin in my own life first, the log in my eye, if you will. I must humble myself and see all the ways I have sinned against God’s goodness before I can ever call someone else out.
Secondly, as God’s anger is always governed by love, so must mine be. I must want mercy for those who are committing the sin of racism. God recently spoke to my spirit about this. He said, “you are so quick to say to others to love the sinner, but hate the sin, why does this not apply to people with racist views too?”. I was shaken. I only ever looked at people as their racism, not as people whose sin was racism. When you are governed by God’s love, your anger is righteous, when you are not, your anger can easily turn to hate.
Thirdly, righteous anger is fueled by grief, not rage. In Matthew, we see Jesus getting angry in the temple and flipping tables. His anger stemmed from deep grief over the sins He saw being committed in His Father’s name. His righteous anger was roused by an evil that was profaning God’s Holiness and perverting God’s Goodness. Our anger is righteous when we care more about God’s reputation than our own.
Finally, righteous anger is an anger that acts swiftly in the face of injustice. We must overcome our fear of backlash and the judgment of others to speak out against the evil in our world. For our anger to be righteous, we must repent of our own sin, pray continuously, and study the Word. It is only with the Holy Spirit that our anger is righteous, anything outside of that is just our own sinful, prideful, selfish anger.
As I wake up every day and see new atrocities being committed, new racist tweets and acts, ugliness everywhere and those who proclaim Christ defending such behavior, I am angry. I am always angry. But God is calling me back. He is telling me that His anger is righteous, and it is not sinful and that I need to lean into it and into Him. In Ephesians 4:26, Paul quotes David and says some things must make us angry, but it must always be with righteousness that we express it. “Be angry and do not sin.""