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Friday, February 25, 2011

Anger 2

As is regularly the case, when I write, preach or teach on anything, it seems that the next day I run across something that addresses the issue. I am sure that it is because I am attuned to it. Even so, it is pretty consistent.

I wrote about anger yesterday. I confessed that it is one of my besetting sins. In sermon preparation on 2 Peter I am reading several commentaries (you have to do alot of preparation in order to make it look like you are just winging it!). Pheme Perkins (Interpretation commentary series, p. 109)) writes "Modern biology, psychology, and other social sciences make many readers fairly skeptical about this traditional version of perfection. Passions are often treated as autonomous characteristics of human nature. We are much more comfortable with the perfection that exhausts itself in working for justice, caring for the poor, and the like than with turning away from the world and its passions."

I tried to research Pheme to get some ideas about her background and theological disposition. What little I could find is not enough to make any sure claims. I probably do not agree with her assumption here. While I am certainly aware of the social dimensions of holiness, I do not think that our responsibilies in the outer world negates the  need to work on the inner world. Angry, lustful, and gluttonous people simply do not do a terrific job of helping the poor. We get mad at them too easily, or we are tempted to use them for our own purposes (hence politics), or we are too busy eating to share with others! So learning to disengage from my passions, however much I continually fail, remains on my primary "to do" list.

The truth of the matter is, most of the time I am quite patient. I am calm most of the time. I am able to put up with any number of irritants in a wide variety of settings. The blow ups may even be related to this capacity! The problem goes back to the call to holiness and the call to perfection. The problem is I am not ready for real love because I am still too broken. And so are you, dear reader. So are you.

There is, however, one thing I wanted to add to yesterday's meditation. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes anger is the appropriate response to a situation. For one thing, the wrath of God is often spoken of in the New Testament as well as the Old. The word occurs 198 times and many of them are speaking about God. When confronted with evil (e.g., child abuse) we should be mad. It is not clear to me that as a pastor that anger is inappropriate when I see that members of the church just plain do not show up and do not help with our mission. Sometimes children provoke parents to anger by inappropriate actions.

James 1:19-20 says our anger does not accomplish God's justice, so we should be slow to anger. I think that is true, but I wonder if  slow to anger means never get angry? I wonder if the real issue is how we express our anger? Perhaps that is the real problem, acts of rage.

I am not sure if this helps, but I do think anger is an issue of great importance. We hear about road rage. We see violence by individuals and by groups regularly. Someone must be mad!  Taking care of those issues have as much to do with holiness as anything. Prayer, study, community, service (all focused on God and His Son Jesus) are the remedy for all our sinful passions. It is a slow process. The promise of new life is our hope. Some day it will all be transformed. Until then....


  1. From Morning Prayer today, Psalm 119:53
    "I am filled with a burning rage, because of the wicked who forsake your law."
    As I spoke the words I sort of laughed about the incongruity of it all and I was reminded why I am tentative about quoting bible verses!

  2. Anger always reveals something... either the unrighteousness of the situation or the unrighteousness of the person who has it. That can generally be deteremined by answering the question are you controlling it.. or is it controlling you?