Disappointment, regret, sadness, shame, joy, relief. I consider myself an emotional person. I am comfortably uncomfortable with a broad spectrum of emotions. While I may not always invite them into my life, when they show themselves within the walls of my frame, I oblige their visit, seeking to learn from them, seeing them as instruments in the hands of a loving Father. With one glaring exception: anger.
She is unsightly, unseemly and unbecoming. Of all the human emotions, the most obvious and visible abuse and carnage has stemmed from her contagious root. As the least culturally acceptable and potentially the most volatile of the human emotions, it is understandable why people, myself included, attempt to block anger from their emotional repertoires.
The problem with this approach is twofold. Most obviously, it doesn’t work. But even if it did work, by robbing ourselves of anger, we would be losing a goad and guide to the Cross. Setting out to bleach our souls from anger, we lose an indicative emotion that has a proper place in our hearts and lives.
To be clear, I am not speaking of common, run-of-the-mill anger. I don’t think that anger over Starbucks being out of Pumpkin Spice syrup in the middle of the summer is intended to be a sharp tool in the hand of our Father. Nor do I think that fleshly anger at the inconveniences of traffic or the disobedience or childishness of children are something to be celebrated or courted.
I am focusing today on the anger that explodes or slowly percolates in our hearts when human dignity is effaced, whether intentionally or unintentionally. There is something to be learned from our anger when it is triggered by a tripping of the intrinsic justice sentiment wire God has graciously installed into every human by virtue of the fact that we are made in His image.
God Himself displays righteous anger throughout the Bible. Look up the story of Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12-17) or the story of Korah (Numbers 16) for a few examples of God’s anger regarding the desecration of what was and is most holy, Himself and His Word. Christ overturned tables in the Temple in his sheer anger over the way the House of Prayer intended to be a place of safety and help for humanity had been turned into a place of financial and emotional exploitation by the religious leaders.
To be certain, there is an unfathomably large chasm between God’s perfect righteousness over sin and evil and our highly tainted human version of righteous anger; however, even our alloyed anger can be used as an instrument in His holy hands.
When humans are treated with indignity or hatred or seen as objects rather than human beings, anger is a helpful emotion. In these situations, anger can be seen as a diagnostic tool. Appropriate anger can be a protective measure against dangerous patterns of abuse as it indicates that the justice sentiment has been triggered.
Our current cultural situation where systemic racism is front and center on the nightly news serves as a case study in which we can look at alloyed anger. Destructive rioting and violence are obviously inappropriate expressions of anger; however, the level of anger being expressed by whole sectors of our society clearly indicates that the justice sentiment of a people has been repeatedly triggered.
Here’s where the Cross comes in. If in my alloyed anger, I cry for justice and long to be treated with a dignity demanded by my humanity, I am aligning myself with God and the system of justice He has installed into the human heart. I don’t get to pick and choose when to tap into this system. If I demand justice for myself or my race or my situation, I agree with God that justice is a right demand.
In so doing, I place myself on the side of every single human that has ever walked this broken globe as guilty before a righteous God. My demand for justice has now accused me in a much higher court.
My earnest and right cry for justice in places of injustice here on earth leads me to a deeper awe for the situation of the greatest injustice in human history.
Christ, the perfect man, the One who did not even harbor even a hint of alloyed anger, became the recipient of the full wrath of God. All of God’s righteous and unmitigated, seething anger at the sin and brokenness of every human from all history was funneled down into His holy human, Christ.
My alloyed anger leads to me the Cross where peace with God was purchased for me at an unthinkable price. My alloyed anger reminds me that there is God who is more demanding of justice than even the most vocal human rights groups. My alloyed anger forces me to long actively and work presently toward the day when justice will roll down like a mighty river.
For these reasons, I am learning to be comfortably uncomfortable with the alloyed anger I keep finding in my soul.