Jesus: Beyond Anger Management
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We all admit that anger is a tough emotion to handle. Usually, but not always, our anger makes things worse rather than better. Yet, anger is here to stay.
Jesus shows us how anger works for the good. In a Sabbath incident recorded in Mark 3:1-6, we read in verse 5 that "Jesus, looking around at them in/with anger ( μετ οργης ), deeply grieved (συλλυπουμενος) by the hardness of their hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand!'"
William Lane remarks that Jesus is angry here with "the anger of God." We are not left to wonder if this is "righteous anger." We are honestly reluctant to label our anger as such. James 1:20 is correct that our anger seldom if ever advances the righteous life that God desires.
Yet, note the intentional connection of "with anger" and "deeply grieved." In the Greek text, the two phrases are side by side. This is very instructive. With this insight into Jesus' emotional state, we see anger and grief together: not anger alone nor grief alone.
Rarely am I aware of grief when I am angry. I say and do things that grief wouldn't go near and never prompt. Yet Jesus' anger is a companion to deep grief.
Are grief and anger different? Of course, they are. And grief, when teamed with anger, transforms anger into active, courageous compassion. We see this modeled by Jesus in this Sabbath episode. The religious leaders have schemed to trap Jesus in Sabbath disobedience. Compassion is the last thing in their hearts. Their hearts are calloused; resistant to grace. Is it lawful to kill on the Sabbath? Yet, in verse 6, these leaders on the Sabbath plot to kill Jesus. These so-called guardians of the Sabbath are blatantly disobeying it. How ironic.
Jesus looked at the religious leaders in anger, yet was profoundly grieved by their insensitive spirits. Anger and grief together keep Jesus from being obsessed with the leaders. His anger and grief keep him focused on his mission; on the needy human being--the man with the withered hand. Anger diverts us (usually) from the righteous life God desires. Anger united with grief advances active compassion and brings about the righteous life that God desires.
We need God to transform our anger into grief. Anger alone will harden our hearts and destroy the hearts of others. Anger with grief will prompt us to act courageously and compassionately.
David, who felt the fierce energy of angry hate, prayed this:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Spirit, mix our anger with deep grief for your sake and ours. Amen.