I would love my neighbors to come to church. Our church is a friendly and encouraging place with kind and sincere leaders. But that morning you couldn’t tell by how I acted. I got angry over literally nothing.
All I had to do was move the speakers as we were loading up for worship early one Sunday morning. All I had to offer was a strong back and an ounce of humility. But instead, I wanted to do it my way, and even the fact that I had no knowledge of what the right way was did not keep me from getting angry.
Anger is everywhere. Anger is hollering from the bleachers at youth sports. It’s on cable news. It’s inside the walls of our nice homes. It is always stuck in traffic. And it is filling up the local law enforcement and court system. Anger comes out of people like us, almost everywhere we go.
Anger is an emotional response to not getting our way. When we snap, rant, or unload, we are responding to not getting our way.
Anger always reveals what we value, what we desire, and the way we want the world to be. Anger, like our calendar, and like our bank statements, communicates what we value, and who we really are. That Sunday morning my anger revealed that I have a hard time accepting the simplest instructions, that I want to do things my way, even when it is obvious I don’t know what that is. So apparently, I value being a know it all. My anger revealed a dark, stubborn side in me.
Often, in the name of religion, we are told to stifle our anger. Some traditions speak of anger as one of the “seven deadly sins.” While I agree that we can, and often do, respond emotionally to some of the most petty things, I also know that anger can be the most righteous response to a situation. Anger is not always wrong.
I know this because Jesus got angry. One day he walked into the temple courtyard and completely blew his top. The public gathering area to enter worship had been run over by con artists who sold sin-removing sacrificial animals and “clean” monetary offerings at ridiculously inflated prices. Jesus hated seeing the people swindled as they tried to move towards God.
So Jesus got angry. He created a whip of cords, and he drove out the money changers and let the sacrificial animals run free. Jesus‘ anger revealed what he valued; he valued people being able to access a relationship with God. (For a great video of this story go to YOUTUBE and search Jesus and Money Changers. It is the first video to pop up; it is two minutes long.)
Take 30 seconds, and reflect on the last time you got angry (chances are you won’t have to think back too far). Was it something petty or something life defining? How did you not get your way? What does your anger say that you value? Does what you value need to be reconsidered? Do not hide behind empty statements like “I can’t help it” or “I don’t know where that came from.” Allow God to dig below the surface.
Anger is not always wrong, but anger does always reveal what we really value.