Love is something we do. We educate ourselves. We refuse to demonize those who disagree with us. We try our best to make our words and actions a witness to the world.
The love that acts to care for vulnerable people imparts the love God has for all. “Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.” So wrote Aristotle, more than 2000 years ago, in his classic work The Art of Rhetoric.
Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.
Learning, action, and prayer transform…
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “Righteous anger is usually not about oneself. It is about those whom one sees being harmed and whom one wants to help.” Jesus got angry.
- Instead of an anger driven by a passion that really controls us, Jesus’s anger was driven by love and directed at the destructive forces a person was engrossed in. As a result, Jesus intentionally attacked the destructive forces within a situation as the most effective way to call a person to repentance. In this sense, righteous anger is a tool of justice and compassion, more than a reactive emotion and a chosen response.
- Righteous anger is about one’s collective responsibility and feelings of deep connection, not the type of anger that divides. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil.” It is ungodly to be apathetic. To not be angry when confronted with injustice should give us pause to question the depth of our love.
- A healthy mind is a calm mind. Anger as an uncontrollable reaction is of no use in problem solving. Proverbs constantly warn about the pitfalls of anger: “A quick tempered man does foolish things” — Proverbs 14:17, and anger, unchecked, can bring destruction to our bodies, our relationships, our families, and our communities. Respond rather than react.
- Godly anger is meant to elicit a response and drive us to action but we must be careful not to overreact. “A man’s wisdom yields patience, and it is to his glory to overlook an offense” — Proverbs 19:11.
- Lovingly and humbly confront injustice, with a readiness to forgive as we have been forgiven.
- Go after the problem not the person.
- Be sure your goal is peace, not punishment. “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ – Romans 12:18-19.
- Grow in love for what is good and just by reading scripture, listening to the still, small voice of God inside us, asking God to guide our response and make tangible steps clear.
- If you are experiencing injustice, remember that Jesus sympathizes with you.
- If you are guilty of having been complacent toward or complicit in injustice through words, thoughts, or deeds, ask for forgiveness.
Beloved God, cultivate in my heart a genuine love of others; a righteous anger towards those things that separate me from you and others. Allow the love of others to be my driving force so that with your help I may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you. Amen.
Kim Snodgrass is Assistant to the Bishop for Christian Formation.