The Weekly Word: Living in an angry society …
By Tim Purcell, Superintendent of the Iowa/Minnesota District of The Wesleyan Church
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 4:26-27 (NIV)
Is it my imagination, or is the overall level of anger in our culture at an all-time high? Along with living through the frustrations of the COVID pandemic, the political climate is more contentious than ever and it all adds up to an environment that breeds anger and it seems that lots of folks are just impatient and angry. If you don’t believe me, just ask a waiter, a bank teller, a store clerk or anyone who works with the public.
Anger is something that is part of the human experience. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that God created us with the capacity to get angry. How do I know that? Because we are created in God’s image and the Bible very clearly portrays Him as a God who gets angry.
He gets angry at injustice, at rebellion, at evil. His anger is real, it is intense, it is a force to be reckoned with. As creatures made in his image, we have that same capacity to experience strong and intense feelings of anger.
So anger can be a good thing, but here’s where we get into trouble. God is sinless and perfect. His anger is a righteous anger. When he gets angry it is for the right reason, at the right time, it is never selfishly motivated, and it is always directed properly.
Our problem is that, unlike God, we have a sinful nature and often our anger is not of the righteous variety. When it is, it can be an incredibly positive thing, motivating us to attack injustice or stand up for the marginalized. But often our anger is tainted by sinfulness and, instead of resulting in actions that are positive and constructive, it results in actions that are selfish and destructive. That’s why Paul, in Ephesians, didn’t say, “Don’t get angry” but instead admonished us to be sure that our anger doesn’t cause us to do anything sinful.
So, here are three questions that will help us resist getting sucked into this angry culture that we seem to be living in:
- What’s the real issue? If I am getting angry over little things all the time, it’s probably an indication of a deeper issue that is simmering inside of me. So, what’s the real issue? Until I identify and deal with that, I am destined to simmer in anger.
- Am I getting angry for the right reasons? If I am angry because of something that happened to me, that may be a signal that I’m not getting angry about the right things. There are plenty of good reasons to allow anger to motivate you to action; injustice, poverty, hunger, human trafficking, etc. If you are going to get angry, be sure you are getting angry about something that matters.
- Am I responding in the right way? Even if I am angry, I can still choose to respond with kindness and love.
In our angry culture one of the best ways that we can be salt and light is to respond consistently with love and kindness.