Years ago, Jerram Barrs, professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary gave us the assignment: “Go home and ask your wife what she thinks will be your greatest challenge in pastoral ministry – that is what you will write on.” I remember loathing this because I sort of knew what Cheryl was going to say. So I asked and she spoke without hesitation – and without praying about it (not very spiritual wouldn’t you say?!), “Anger.” I said, “*&$^#&()()%*&@^^@^” – that can’t be true!!!!!!
We experience the emotion of anger every day. In the words of Ed Welch, anger is an emotion that says two things and these two things must always be there in order to feel anger: 1. A perceived injustice (whether real or not); and, 2. It has to be important to me. For example, I don’t feel much anger at all if the news reports that a man’s tires were slashed in Mobile, Alabama. But if my tires are slashed, well, then . . .Just call me Heat Miser.
You see, a perceived injustice AND importance to me, are the two requisites for anger. The question is: Does my anger match God’s? And if it did, would I be a more loving person?
Unlike love, God’s anger is always earned. It is merited, it is provoked, it is stirred up – it is kindled. God’s Love however is never like this. The bible does not teach that God is Anger. He is Love. But God does get angry to protect what he loves. Watching God get angry is what we need if we are to become more loving persons than we are.
Hear what the prophet Micah had to say about God’s anger:
“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old” – (7:18-20).
If you want to know how redeeming your anger affects marriage, child-rearing, employment, dealing with sinful behavior, relationships and friendships, and the built-in frustrations of life, then know this:
God’s anger is a redeeming anger!
God’s anger actually makes things better. His anger does not destroy what is already broken but repairs what needs to be repaired. God is never ashamed of his anger and he never sins in his anger. His anger always operates through his love. In other words, God does not blow off steam when things go haywire, letting the pent-up frustration spew out of his system, and then return to love. No, it is his love for his chosen that regulates his anger.
Does your anger end up separating you from the one you love or does it bring you together? This does not mean that God’s love does not discipline – it does (Heb. 12:6ff). But there again, it is his love that moves him to train our hearts to be like his. This of course has a narrow application for you – there are a hundred other variables that come into play in the real day-to-day relational dance between those we love and our anger. But start somewhere – and this is a good place to start. Is your anger tearing down or repairing that which is already broken? You’ll need grace and mercy to become more loving like God so that when it is time to be angry, it will aim to redeem and heal.
This is how God shows his anger to you today. He loves you and will only deal with your sins (a real injustice) through the finished work of his Son where all his anger was exhausted. His anger aims to protect the object of his love – not destroy it (your affection for him is really important to him).