“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” ~ James 2:15-17, NIV
Anyone who has known me for any amount of time know how much a despise Christian jaw-flapping that is unaccompanied by a willingness to “get dirty”. I have no doubt that others often see me as an “angry” Christian. I believe some mistake my attitude to be one of moral superiority, scolding me to “let it go” or to realize that “we all fall short” or to “pray for your enemies”. While these comments are valid ones in their own right, I think that people don’t “get” me when I’m angry.
Consider a recent personal situation we are going through. There are several great injustices and disappointments involved in this trial my family is enduring. Sadly, at least part of it involves such things as medical professionals, leadership within a church and immediate family members. I have been transparent about how we’ve been treated with certain people in our inner-circle, and I get the responses listed above in an unconscious attempt to shut down the discussion.
What I would like to suggest with each of you in a leadership position is that anger is an essential ingredient. Yes, God tells us in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger, do not sin…” (NIV). Yet, the verse implies that there will be anger. What I think our conversation needs to turn to instead of the pat responses well-meaning people dole out to squelch our ire, is How can we make things better because of this? What would Christian life look like if we were getting this right? What can the church do to step-up its game in such situations? Rather than continuing on as an avoidant, dysfunctional family, the Body of Christ should be seeking healing in areas where we are doing a poor job of being His ambassadors on this earth!
In August of 2011, I shared the post Considering the Unacceptable that gives us a framework to attack such frustrations with excellence. While the reference point for this passage is terrific, it stops short of mentioning anger. Perhaps we need to look into secular society to adopt their insights on how anger can be constructive. Back in 2009, Psychology Today published an empowering article What Most People Don’t Know About Anger. In it, a clear strategy is laid out for both examining and addressing our anger. Additionally, the magazine recently published The 9 Habits of Highly Effective Complainers, which offers the highlights of psychologist Guy Winch’s recommendations on the “right way” to complain. The long and the short of both articles is recognizing the good and bad of anger, then proceeding with wisdom in using that anger to change the situation.
Frankly, my anger is what keeps me from walking away from para-church ministry. Every time I think I want to surrender to the exhaustion and frustrations of serving, I remember the injustices and hurts my family has endured. I read, “But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? As the scripture says, How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15, GNT) This passage means more to me than sharing the Good News with an unchurched world. It means the energy from my anger needs to be harnessed to bring about good. It means I need to share the message of love concerning the church’s calling to reach those with special needs. It means I need to proclaim the message to the world by modeling what Christ intends His compassion to look like. I need to be long-suffering with those in leadership who are not malicious, but rather uninformed about the tremendous mission field right under their feet.
You may disagree with me, but I would contend that many of these things would never improve or change if people like me never get angry. Even church reformer Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; for when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.” If anger was this compelling for one of the giants of Christian history, perhaps it can be for us as well. What has YOU angry lately?