So over the course of the next posts we’re going to be hitting an important topic, and one that we don’t deal very well with. That’s anger. This is something that we like to talk a lot about, and we like to give impressions that we’re good at dealing with it, but we aren’t. Just like the title of this post points out, we’re missing the mark. Rather than really dealing with anger, we cover it in platitudes and trite sayings.
The problem is that some of those very things could be helpful, but we don’t take the time to really understand what they say. Instead, we take the angry birds approach to things. We’ll fill a slingshot and shoot something before we take real action. Through this series I’ll be using some of the imagery from the Angry Birds game. Mostly because it is a great image for the way that we deal with anger….or don’t deal with it.
The goal is, that by the end of this series we’ll be able to understand our anger better, and begin to use it is productive ways, or at least deal with it in much healthier ways than we did before. But, before we get to that point we’ll look at some of the ways that we talk about anger.
Have you ever heard, or used one of these phrases?
Don’t get all bent out of shape
Don’t blow a gasket
I just got chewed out.
You’re driving me crasy
You’re working my last good nerve
Those are ways that we talk about our anger, and you can read more here. Below is some of the advice that we’re given.
Don’t get mad, get even
Don’t be angry, be like Jesus
Life’s to short to hold a grudge
Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight
Just ignore them (which has been said by many a parent to siblings in the back seat)
Count to 10!
And I’m sure that if we wanted to, we could probably go on for a long time.
There’s a lot of things we could say, and there’s a lot of advice that we could give too. The hard part, is that some of the advice is actually good. Granted, a couple of them are a little tongue in cheek, but there are some good ones. The last on that list, count to 10, is actually good piece of advice. Unfortunately, it runs into our big problem. We don’t ever talk about what that’s supposed to do, we just tell people to do it.
Over the next posts, we’ll begin to untangle all of this mess. The goal, at the end, will be to develop ways that will help us talk about our anger, and help us deal with it in better ways. But before we can go there, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. That’s this idea of God getting angry. We’re given competing ideas for God and anger. On the one had we have the angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament, contrasted with the loving Jesus of the New Testament. We’re basically told that these are our options. But that doesn’t help us very much. I would argue that its that kind of separation that has led to so many of our problems with anger. We end up burying it until we can’t contain it anymore, and then it explodes in hellfire and brimstone. So let’s ask the question.
Does God get angry?
It doesn’t take long to figure out that yes, in fact, God does get angry. We get that from all sorts of places. From Genesis and Adam and Eve when God kicked them out of the garden. We get it from Noah and the flood, the tower of babel, and lets not even get into Moses and the plagues, or so many of the other places in the Old Testament. Our reading out of Psalms gets at this very point.
10God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. 11God is a righteous judge, a God who is angry at evil every single day. –Psalm 7:10-11
This was written by a guy who had an innate understanding that God does get angry. More specifically, God gets angry at evil things.
We see this carry over into the new testament too. Here we don’t have as many stories of God getting angry, but we do see Jesus get angry. We see him get angry when he walks into the temple, into the heart of his opposition, in big crowds of people, and he starts trashing the place. We see him get angry with Peter when he says to Peter, “Get behind me satan” And then we have our Gospel reading
5Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he did, and his hand was made healthy. –Mark 3:5
Jesus was being confronted by religious leaders and he didn’t like it. They were accusing him of breaking the Sabbath, even though there is precedent for doing so. They just wanted to catch him, and they were going to use the man with a disability. I can see Jesus just getting furious about that. I can see him staring down the Pharisees, and without looking away from them he says to the man, “stretch out your hand,” and as he does so, he hand is healthy. All the while, Jesus anger is shining in his eyes as he stares down the Pharisees.
It’s fairly easy to establish that God gets angry. That’s not the problem. It’s what we do with it that is the problem. Our problem is that we have to many different ideas of what anger is supposed to be, and what God’s anger is.
We do see God as wrathful, and God is also the King of Love and has a greater well of compassion than anything we could ever know. The real problem is ours. We try to decide for God what he should be angry about, based on our own reading of the bible. Rarely do we actually look to see what God get’s angry about.
That’s what we’re going to look at over the next couple of weeks, what does God really get angry about. And we’re going to end it with how we respond to anger, and what we should do. But there’s one last part for today. If God gets angry, is it okay for us to get angry?
We can get angry. That’s okay. If we remember back to the very beginning of Genesis, we are made in God’s image. If God gets angry, then its okay for us to get angry. But by the same token, if we get angry, then it should be because of things that God would be angry about. Granted, I try to be a realist, and I know that that isn’t always possible. And we’re only human. There are going to be a lot of times when we get angry over things that we shouldn’t. How we respond is what we’ll be figuring out. As we go through this week, ask yourself what you’re getting angry over, and then begin to ask yourself if it’s what you’re supposed to be angry about.
Next time, we’ll come back and start looking into what angers God.