Anger is a tremendous force, one which should not be taken lightly. It is more than irritation, an emotion which arises when someone is slightly bothered. Nor is it the emotion of irksome which is a fancy way of saying irritation. It is also not frustration, for frustration is a mixture of irritation with tiredness and/or restlessness. These three and others can grow into anger and are synonyms of anger but are not anger itself.
No, anger is a fire that burns through the veins and calls a person to act. We are all too eager in this world to unleash our anger. It can stem from pain caused by internal wounds whether new or left open. It can be caused by pride when our ego is threatened. And it can erupt when our bodies, including our minds, are severely stressed out or we feel as if we’re losing control of the things we’re trying to hold onto.
Intriguingly enough, when I looked up anger in ‘The Baker Compact Bible Dictionary’ it told me to seek ‘Wrath’ or ‘Wrath of God’. I think that as technology advances our level of interest in words dims and we begin to group words like irksome and vexed under the umbrella of anger so much so we water down the term and we lose it’s true definition. Thankfully, ‘wrath’ doesn’t seem to have lost it’s sting and it helps remind us of what anger really is.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” –Romans 1:18-20
Yes, anger has different degrees of intensity, like that of a fire. If contained and controlled, it can be used for a good cause. For example:
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” –Matthew 21:12-14
During the time of the Old Covenant, people were told to sacrifice animals at the altar to ask for forgiveness of their sins. Yet, not all owned animals to sacrifice. Some had taken advantage of this tradition out of greed and tried to make a profit off of something God had called the people to do. Such a market as theirs probably encouraged apathy towards those less fortunate who were asking for a way to go to the altar. Jesus saw what they were doing and how the pour were treated, even how those who were greedy were twisting what God had called the people to do. It was like giving freely a key to the prison cell of someone wanting freedom, but someone greedy comes up and tries to tell the one in the cell that key was going to cost them a few coin. It is no wonder Jesus got angry enough to drive people away from the temple and flip tables.
Note, though, that his anger was controlled. This was Jesus, the One who could walk on water, calm a storm with just a word, and heal someone through just a touch of His garment. He could have “went ballistic” — as the term goes — and caused an earthquake or a rain of fire if He wanted to out of His anger. Plus, He had every right to do so…but He didn’t. He showed just enough anger to get the point across: what God calls us to do should not be twisted nor made a mockery of, nor should the poor suffer because of our greed. Honed anger can fuel someone with determination to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves when no one else is willing to stand up for them.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” — Proverbs 31:8
Controlled anger can also be used in ‘tough love’ situations.
“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate’.” –Zechariah 7:11-14
We apply tough love towards our children to discipline them in certain cases. I’ve seen some of my friends have looks of anger in their eyes when their child has done something wrong like backtalking or trying to argue about a task they’ve been asked to do, but instead of screaming at them (as a child would in anger at a sibling) the parents take away the Xbox or give them more chores to do. The more angry the parent gets the more severe the grounding. Growing up, our mother would simply tack on weeks of the chores we despised the most the longer we argued with her. With either tough love or fighting for a good cause, anger must stay in check. Otherwise, a wildfire will ensue, burning everything around it. There will be more on that in part 2.
Anger is okay to have but we must learn to control it and it must be entertained for the right reasons. A fire controlled can provide warmth in the midst of bitter cold and light in the midst of hopeless darkness. It can even help us survive by cooking what we need to eat. Whether you’re fighting for something/someone or applying tough love, controlled anger can provide hope for the future.
“[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” –1 Corinthians 13:5
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” –Psalm 103:8
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” –James 1:19-20