Growing up, my dad would tell me I’d make a great lawyer. At the time I wasn’t really sure what he meant. I look back now and laugh, understanding his words clearly. I was an argumentative child but I wasn’t a brat. I saw the world in black and white and for the life of me couldn’t understand how people allow injustice to exist.
In second grade I beat up 3 little boys on the playground for making my friend cry. They were teasing her because she wore braces on her legs. As she told me what they were saying I didn’t just see the hurt on her face; I felt the breaking of her heart as if it were being crushed inside my own chest. As my blood began to boil, I looked through the crowds of faceless students until I spotted the three perpetrators still laughing and looking for their next victim. Without a second of hesitation, my feet began to sprint and before I knew it, I was airborne. As I landed, I took out all three boys and my fists started flying. A few minutes later I was respectfully arguing my case in the principal’s office. I must have made a pretty persuasive argument because not only did I NOT get sent home for three days (like the three disheveled bullies who sat before me), the principal didn’t even call my parents. JUSTICE WAS SERVED.
My dad loved this about me. Not the part about using my fists. He loved that I longed to rid the world of injustice. If I saw a man on the side of the road holding a sign that read Will work for food I was going to feed them! My parents could have scoffed about it (knowing it was more than likely a scam) but instead they nurtured my compassionate heart. Better to ere on the side of righteousness. They allowed me to be angry at the face of injustice and encouraged me to take a stand when I felt led.
My dad and I would have these deep, heated discussions where he would make me think and break down problems until the solution was evident. Then with a smile he would say, “You just won your case”.
I remember getting frustrated during one particular discussion regarding children who had been taken from their abusive home. My frustration turned to anger when none of my solutions would work and all I could say was, “Well, that’s just not fair!”
Without missing a beat he responded with, “Who ever said life was fair?”
I was hurt and disappointed in his response. Before walking away feeling completely defeated I implored him, “Please don’t ever say that to me again”. He never did.
I didn’t become a lawyer but the desire for righteous justice and fairness still dwells within me. Unfortunately, growing older has made me cynical about a few things however, the belief in justice is not one of them.
I believe at some point in life we all connect with at least one particular person who seems to be living comfy, cozy, and completely content embedded as the thorn in our side. They seem to be able to hurt whomever they want yet never get hurt in return. They steal from others and end up getting even more than they had taken. They turn on their own family and get a pat on the back for a job well done. It seems no matter how hard we try to live right or do right by others or how hard we strive to be like Christ, the thorns always seem to come out on top. They have you walking away feeling defeated by the unfairness of it all. Are you the type to admit defeat and find that it’s easier to just walk away than to fight what seems to be a losing battle? Or are you more like me? Walking away feeling defeated yet responding with confidence to the enemy who whispers who said life was fair? with a bold “Don’t ever say that to me again!”
I’m in a very delicate place at the moment. I desire to reflect Christ in every aspect of my life and the thorn in my side (also known as my ex husband) has fogged the line between righteous anger and anger born of my flesh. Some will debate that there is a difference. The Word of God clearly states that there is.
Anger is a natural emotion that we all share. We have all been created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and our emotions are a part of His creation. As a gift He has given each one of us free will; the ability to independently choose and make decisions. These facts lead me to ask:
Is there a difference between righteous anger and sinful anger?
How does my reaction to anger help/hinder my walk and the path of those around me?
God’s anger appears throughout the Bible. 2 Kings 22 tells us how great His anger can be. Jesus was so angry at the sight of the temple being used as the local strip mall that he started turning over tables! Deuteronomy 4:24 tell us that He is a consuming fire. Have you ever sat and watched a fire consume something? Not a very happy or peaceful sight. Since we know that God is righteous, therefore everything about Him is righteous leading to the conclusion that there is in fact a righteous anger. Furthermore, since we are created in His image, we have the ability to possess a righteous anger. So, is all anger righteous? Absolutely not!
God’s anger NEVER comes out of frustration or confusion. I read somewhere that God’s anger is a direct and calculated response to sin. (Isn’t that a fabulous revelation!?) So getting irate when someone cuts you off on the express way or your blood pressure reaching stroke level over a waitress who gets your order wrong is NOT righteous anger. It isn’t a sin to not check your bind spot when changing lanes. It's certainly not a sin remember incorrectly! Aren't we all grateful for that!
Yesterday was a real battle for me. I was angry to the point of tears! The thorn in my side decided that a court ordered child support agreement should bend to fit his needs. The first words that come to mind regarding my reaction yesterday are frustration and confusion. A friend sent me a scripture that her husband (who I think is a wonderful husband and father) wanted to share with me.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20
My first response was, “Can I skip the eating and drinking and just heap burning coals on his head?” I’m pretty sure that response wasn’t coming from righteous anger! So, after I took a shower and refreshed my spirit I revisited the verse once more but this time I started a few verses before and ended with the verse after.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
So we must ask ourselves, why am I angry? Am I angry over an injustice outlined in scripture to be a direct consequence of sin? Or am I angry simply because I haven’t gotten my way? How do I respond in anger?
“In your anger, do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26
We are cautioned to not be so quick in our anger. Even righteous anger can lead to a sinful response. A father’s righteous anger over the murder of his daughter isn’t justified by killing the murderer. It may seem that way especially to those of you reading this who has children. But think about the consequences when we repay evil with evil. At the time our first thought may be that we don’t care what happens to us. Let them lock me up and throw away the key because I have brought justice to my daughter. But what happens to the wife and family left behind? Our reaction to anger, even righteous anger can have a devastating ripple effect.
Is my anger toward my ex husband a righteous anger? In this particular situation, believe that it is. Not taking care of the children you abandoned goes against God's Word. Was my response a righteous response? Initially, not so much. I was able to keep the outburst away from my children and had enough wisdom to contact those who I trust to give me good GODLY advice and who I trusted to gently talk me down from my irrational ledge. Although I really wanted my flesh to see instant justice, I was slow to act on that desire. As hard as it is for me, I must be slow in my anger and trust that God’s Word is true! He will bring justice and judgment but in His perfect timing and not according to my desire for quick justification.
If my anger comes from my flesh then I need to repent and change my heart! Why get angry over the small things that have no eternal worth? So many times we waste our energy being angry because we are stuck in holiday traffic inside our nice warm cars while a homeless man shivers under the overpass next to us.
If seeing children disrespect their parents, employees being sloppy or lazy on the job, or watching a parent weighing their child down with unrealistic expectations angers you, it’s a righteous anger. (Ephesians 6)
How I react to righteous anger is crucial. Walking over and disciplining someone else’s disrespectful child may not be a wise response!
Our response to righteous anger will be different according to how God is telling us to respond.
We must seek the Lord with all of our heart and listen to what He is telling us to do. If we are still unsure, ask those around us who we trust to pray for us. Our God is faithful! He may tell us to be bold and courageous or He may tell us to just be still and know that He is Lord. Either way, The will of God will never lead us to a place where the grace of God will not protect us.
Flying through the air with a rebel yell and beating the snot out of three bullies may not be how God is calling you to react. I'm pretty certain that dismembering a cheating spouse isn't a righteous response either. However, if you have a righteous anger regarding broken homes maybe God is calling you to start a divorce care group or if you have a righteous anger for children who have been abandoned, maybe he is calling you to respond by opening your home to those children.
I know right now in my situation, my response is to wait on the Lord as His justice is revealed in His perfect timing!
Be blessed! And even in your righteous anger, be a blessing!