Jonah 4:1,4,9b – But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die."
John 2:14-15 – In the temple Jesus found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple.
Anger is not necessarily sin. Anger is not the problem as Jesus cleanses the temple. The problem is what we do with the anger we feel. Jonah had the other kind of anger – the kind that was going to fester no matter what happened. "Is it right for you to be angry?" was God's inquiry to Jonah, and we would do well to ask that same question every time we feel anger burning deep within us.
Jesus expressed anger time and again. Jesus knew what to do with his anger and tells us what to do with ours.
Accept your anger. Jesus had no problem whatsoever in saying how angry he was with the scribes, Pharisees, religious leaders and those who made the temple into a trading post. He was really angry, and he did something constructive with his anger. He gave it voice and direction. He told the religious movers and shakers what a bunch a hypocrites they were and he fired off the seven deadly woes at them, expressing in minute detail what was going to happen to them for their callous approach to their religious duties. Remember how the tables flew as Jesus went amok in the temple courtyard, how the money changers had to scurry away from the anger boiling up inside of Jesus as he drove them out from that holy sanctuary?
Don't let it fester. Don't let the sun go down on your anger. Jesus told a story to illustrate just this point. A man was coming to the temple to give glory to God and make an offering. In his prayers and reflections he realized, by the grace of God, that he harboured ill-will and negative feelings about another. He was angry, but it wasn't a pretty kind of anger. It was eating him up, and he had to do something about it right then and there, and the answer was obvious. Go and get right with the other, and put that anger to rest. Then you can come and give the glory to God and only then can you be free from the negativity that often is part of anger.
Third. Get angry for the right reason. There is good reason to get angry. In scripture, especially in the Old Testament, God is depicted time and again as an angry God. But God is always angry for good reason –
- expressing anger for the emptiness of worship,
for turning away from truth and righteousness,
for vain and empty promises,
for the way we treat each other,
for the nastiness of the nations.
And often the answer to God's question "Is it right for you to be angry?" is "Yes, Lord, it is right to be angry on account of what I have heard and seen." But be careful to listen to the response when God then asks, "So what are you going to do about it?"
Prayer: God, we cannot hide the angers and hurts that are deep within us. Especially we cannot hide them from you. Help us expose the hidden anger and deal with it in ways that lead us toward your love, for we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.