What especially riles you? What lights touch paper to your temper. How short our fuse is will be related to how tired and cranky we are at the time, but how spectacular are your fireworks that follow? I consider myself a reasonably level headed guy, often bringing calm in the heat of conflict, but sometimes the red mist descends and I lose the rag, usually when I feel wronged on the football pitch or when driving. Old age has certainly mellowed me, but also helped me see that ‘anger’ is a helpful hound dog, sensitive to sniffing out Wrongs, Injustice & BS.
A lady stormed out of a meeting I was chairing. She seemed really angry with me. I could easily have become defensive and think ‘How dare you behave like that!’ and respond with anger. Her anger embarrassed onlookers, but I wanted to see where her seemingly unreasonable behaviour pointed. Just over a year previously this dear lady had been widowed. Usually I send a sympathy card to people on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. I’d messed up and forgotten to send her such a card and failed to get alongside her lately. This ladies flash-point pointed to wrong within me, which I was able to right, but more importantly it exposed a raw nerve and pain within her, which needed a vent, comfort and care. Bottom line was that she was livid about her man’s loss, wrestling with the raw reality of his departure, which she wasn’t ready to totally accept.
Anger helps us to sniff out wrongs, ‘inside’ our own body and being and ‘outside’ in others and the world around us. Having calmed down from our outburst we may see a readiness in others to recognise the ‘outside’ wrong we’ve highlighted. But our anger might also point to wrong Information, wrong understanding and an underdeveloped heart. That was King David’s experience when Nathan got him fuming about injustice, which turned out to be his own awful sin. Jonah was incensed that God should show mercy and grace to the horrible Assyrians of Nineveh. Jonah’s theology was sound, he knew that God was ‘slow to anger and abounding in forgiving love’, but his heart was cold and hard, requiring more exercise in the ‘prayer gym’ to overcome his unforgiving spirit.
In overturning the money changers tables in Jerusalem’s Temple court of the Gentiles, Jesus proves that there are times for ‘righteous rage’, when we are to stand up for people being exploited and prevented from receiving and experiencing God’s Grace and Mercy, stopped from coming near to The God Who loves them deeply and dearly. But we must also humbly remember that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, full of Grace & Truth, and able to point the finger without 3 fingers pointing back.