Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Slippery Slope of Righteous Anger

I've seen behavior in the Christian church that I would never have expected to see in a local bar. Shouting, screaming, name calling, verbal assault, verbal attack, however I was told "It's ok, because it's Righteous Anger."

I've actually seen a person in a position of power in a church stand up before the congregation and make an accusation against a member of the congregation, by name, shrieking at the top of their lungs, in the middle of a peace making conference. This person then went on to argue with the leader of the peace conference over a point of scripture. This conference leader who was now under verbal barrage was actually invited to the church by the exact same person who was now harassing him. The angry attacker soon stormed then out of the church never to return. Thus endeth the peace conference. The victims are doing fine and the attacker is in a new church and is telling members of that church that his actions were good and proper, maybe even biblical, "because it was Righteous Anger" an excuse he's used in the past.

Yes, there is such a thing as righteous anger, and no, this example wasn't even close to being righteous. The angry person just used the term "righteous anger" as an excuse to justify their actions. How many people have you seen explode in anger and later claim it to be righteous anger? I say this because righteous anger isn't an excuse to get angry in all except certain reasons, and from what I've been able to determine it's something best reserved for God and is not really for us. 

Tim Challies wrote an article that was published in the Christian Post titled 3 Marks of Righteous Anger, which outlines three aspects of righteous anger: Actual Sin, God's Concerns, and Godly Expression. He says that righteous anger is a reaction against actual sin, it's focused on God's concerns, and it expresses itself in Godly ways. True, this article is mostly a book review, but it's incomplete in its construction and only gives one bible verse as reference, and it's a partial bible verse at that. If there's anything worse than taking a bible verse out of context, it's using a partial bible verse out of context that's taken from a single bible verse that is taken out of context. In this case it gives someone the opportunity to hide behind a partial bible verse and call their angry behavior "righteous".

Tim uses Ephesian 4:26 as his reference but he doesn't use the entire verse, he doesn't even us a half, he only uses a third:  “Be angry and do not sin” and he doesn't even mention that it's a bare portion of an entire verse. The full verse is
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Paul is quoting Psalm 4:4, and neither the Psalm nor Paul are saying "get out there and get angry". Tim Challies reading of it is "Go ahead and be angry, just don't sin." however when taken in context Paul's meaning is closer to "If you are angry, do not sin, and get over it! Quickly!" It's not exactly permission to be angry, but God knows it's going to happen, so if we do get angry He's saying to get past our anger as soon as possible. 

Tim Challies uses the example of Jesus being angry in Mark 3:1-6, and I've heard people use an example of Jesus' anger in John 2:15 to excuse their behavior. John 2:15 is also a fine example of taking a verse out of context. Used alone it simply states that Jesus got angry and swung a whip of cords around driving people and cattle out of the temple. Used in context it fulfills a prophesy
14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” (John 2:14-17)
But even if it was taken in context, it's a bad verse to use. I truly cannot wait to hear this be used as an excuse for poor behavior when angry again:
"Jesus was angry! He used a whip to clear out the temple."
"Yeah, but you are not Jesus."
As imperfect human beings we are going to get angry, but let us not confuse anger with righteous anger. Tim Challies is absolutely right, righteous anger is brought about as a reaction to actual sin; abortion, abuse, racism, pornography, sex slave trafficking, religious persecution, murder, rape, torture... however God's concerns are NOT a dispute over what the church constitution says. Not over seating arrangements and table placement. Not over song selection by the worship leader. Therefore these petty grievances, not being God's concerns, are not a cause of righteous anger, any anger over them would therefore have to be unrighteous anger. And insulting a fellow congregation member in front of the congregation is not considered manifesting anger in a Godly way.

When the bible talks about righteous anger it talks about God's anger, but when it talks about unrighteous anger it talks about anger among us human beings. If it's true what Tim Challies insists is that Paul said "Go ahead and be angry" in his letter to the Ephesians, how can Paul possibly follow that up by saying
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
(Emphasis mine) Does Tim Challies actually want us to believe that in Paul said in one letter say to the Ephesians "Go ahead and be angry"  then turn around and in a letter to the Galatians say that you won't inherit the kingdom of God if you're angry? But wait, Paul also tells the Colossians
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)
According to health professionals anger is not healthy, it can lead to

  • Headaches
  • Problems with digestion
  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin problems, such as eczema
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke 
Personally I don't think that God will test us by saying "Sure, go ahead and be angry if you want, just don't sin." but instead as a loving, caring creator He would say "relax, get over it, anger is bad for you". Oh wait, he did:

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

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