"How should a Christian deal with righteous anger?" E.A., Chicago
How do we deal with righteous anger? With as much righteousness and as little anger as possible.
all learned as children that we’re not supposed to be angry when
somebody does something to us, but there are times when anger is an
appropriate moral response. When the poor are exploited for the profit
of the rich, when people are put at risk by poor planning or corrupt
leaders, when politicians lie to cover up their own problems or mislead
the public, anger is the emotion that stirs us to do something about
it. In those cases, it’s apathy that is immoral, not anger.
if we’re honest, what usually stirs us up are the things that happen to
us. We get angry when someone cuts us off in rush hour traffic. People
living in FEMA trailers a year after the hurricane and soldiers sent
onto the Baghdad streets without adequate armor don’t get our blood
boiling quite so quickly. Righteous anger requires genuine compassion.
In order to feel righteous anger, we have to be outraged at what has
been done to others and put our own problems in perspective. Righteous
anger is the kind of anger Jesus expressed toward leaders who laid
heavy burdens on people and then wouldn’t lift a finger to help carry
them (Matthew 23). Righteous anger is the kind of anger the prophets
felt toward rulers who added house to house and field to field, until
the poor had no place to go (Isaiah 5:7-10). Ordinary anger makes us
feel good for a minute by imagining that we’re better than the person
who made us angry. Righteous anger moves us to action, often risky
action on behalf of people whom we may not even know.
nSo if youre going to allow yourself the pleasure of feeling angry, make your anger as righteous as possible. Make sure that youre angry on behalf of people who are really suffering, and not just angry at somebody you think has caused your problems. Use your anger as the starting point for serious action, and not just as a measuring stick to make yourself look better than somebody else. Righteous anger has the emotional power to engage you with real problems and build genuine moral commitments. But the problems almost always last longer than the emotion does, and thats a good thing. What comes after righteous anger is hard work. Its nice to imagine sweeping the bad guys away and setting things right with one blow, but in the real world the end result of righteous anger is almost always that youve got to work with the people you were angry at to solve the problem.n For that, youll need all the righteousness you can manage, and at least as much patience as you first had anger.