(Today, on the show, we talked about this. And if I'm wrong here - I can always be glaringly, spectacularly wrong - please tell me how. I should note here I write as someone who wants to follow Jesus's example in how he dealt with people, and as someone who believes God uses the Bible to instruct us with wisdom. Without that as a background, the following will make no sense.)
You're not allowed to be angry.
I'm serious. You're not allowed.
I don't think lots of people agree with me on this. I sense this, because tons of people say, "I don't agree with you on this." I've got antennae for subtlety like that. I pick up on things.
Typical: This entry from something called "Nehemiah Notes", an online devotional, dealing with anger. The writer gives what I think is the reigning understanding: Anger's pretty dadgum good, sometimes:
There is also a positive, even essential, side to anger. I doubt that we ever accomplish anything fruitful when anger isn't part of our motivation, on a certain level at least.
We don't ever accomplish anything fruitful without anger? WOW, devotional-writer dude.
Here's another example of how we retrofit actual scripture with our current embrace of anger-culture:
Ephesians 4 (NIV translation)
"In your anger do not sin" Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold
Ephesians 4 (The Message paraphrase version)
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry--but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge.
Did you catch that? I like Eugene Peterson - the guy who wrote The Message - but... sheesh. "You do well to be angry"?
That ain't in the original, folks. That's the updated version, hope you like it better.
Remarkably, Peterson does this, knowing that just a couple sentences later, Paul says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger". Get rid. All. Anger. From this, we get, "You do well to be angry"?
But doesn't God get angry? Doesn't Jesus get angry? Well, in a word: Yep.
God is "allowed" anger, yes. And other things, too, which we're not. Like vengeance. That's His, and it makes sense, too that we're not allowed vengeance. We stand as guilty as whomever is the target of our anger. But God? He doesn't.
For that matter, God is allowed to judge, too.
God loves you, but you're not God.
We positively love "righteous anger". The operational definition of "righteous anger", for me, of course, is the anger that I, Brant Hansen, feel, usually because I'm ticked that somebody done me wrong. It helps that we humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims, and re-writing narratives that put us in the center of injustices. And we can re-paint our anger or hatred of someone, like, say, a President, into a righteous-looking work of art. And yet, in Jesus' teaching, there is no allowance for "Okay, well, if someone really is a jerk..."
We're flat-out told to forgive, even - especially! - the stuff that's legitimately maddening, and legitimately offensive. That's the whole point.
Anger is very easy. Love is very difficult. Upon hearing my ideas on anger, I was asked, today, "I don't get it. Shouldn't we be angry at those guys in the news who beat up homeless people?"
But here's what I think, given that we're to "get rid of all anger": We're to truly grieve this stuff, and be motivated to pursue justice, and to defend the vulnerable.
Seek justice, love mercy. You don't have to be angry to do that. In fact, the best soldiers don't function out of anger. Neither do the best police.
The problem with anger: According to the radical teaching of Jesus, I stand as guilty, morally, as any other sinner, period. I asked the guy, "How long do you think you're allowed to keep this anger?" He said something like, "You can keep it for a little while."
We can keep it awhile. Sounds...reasonable. Sure. Absolutely. But mere seemingly "reasonable" isn't what we're going for here. We want to follow the Gospel, wherever it takes us.
In Proverbs, anger is always -- not sometimes, always -- associated with foolishness, not wisdom. The writer recognizes that anger may visit us, but when anger finds a residence, it's "in the lap of fools."
Harboring "justified" anger, towards a political figure, a news network, your dumb neighbor, your lying spouse, your deceased father -- whomever -- is perfectly natural, and perfectly foolish.
And foolishness destroys.
I get angry. Can't avoid it. But anger can't stay here. I can't try it on. I have to take it to the Cracks of Doom, like, NOW, and drop that thing, much as I want to wear it awhile. This silly LotR analogy breaks down quickly, though.
There's not a single, hyper-destructive "One Ring".
There's like...six billion.