How to Be Angry

“Anger Ally” John 2:13-22
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Third Sunday in Lent, March 11, 2012

[Trailer Clip from Anger Management movie]

There are some real issues with anger management here. We laugh, but
fully realizing that we can identify. We could all use an “anger ally,” couldn’t
we? Adam Sandler’s anger ally didn’t end up being the perfect model
for him. And we do not have the best choices either when it comes to
anger management.

You may not have such a model in your life. Maybe your life has been filled
with negative models, seeing a parent, teacher, or coach demonstrate a hot
temper or fiery rage. Where can you find a positive model? Our Gospel
text this morning provides us with one in Jesus, showing us what healthy
anger and positive, zealous passion look like. What we learn here is that if
it is ok with Jesus to demonstrate his anger, then it is ok for me do so as
well, so long as I’m doing it his way.

John gives us a great description of a side of Jesus we seldom consider
when we think of him. There are countless paintings of Jesus you can look
at, but most of them show Jesus either in a peaceful, sheep-carrying kind
of way or they portray him in suffering while hanging on the cross. We
often forget that Jesus threw a holy tantrum in the Temple, taking a whip
after people, turning tables over, chasing people and animals out the door.
At the expense of our emotional health, we overlook the angry Jesus.
Jesus had good reasons to do what he did. The people he confronted
were a part of a system of economic injustice, or good religion gone bad, of
grace twisted into greed. Jesus saw what was going on and stepped in to
do something about it.

Have you seen the TV show, “What Would You Do?” It sends actors out in
a public area undercover to act out certain situations, like a man abusing a
woman, or a person taking money out of a homeless man’s begging cup. It
shows different people’s reactions to situations; how some choose to do
nothing, while some immediately step up and speak out. I thought of this
show as I read this passage for today. We as followers of Jesus need to be
the kind who know how to be angry, who step up and speak out when we
see things that make us angry.

So, now you have an ok from Jesus to be angry, to step up and speak out.
Before you jump out there with whip in hand, here are some tips we can
apply from Jesus’ example. First, be angry about the right things.
Christians have a reputation these days for being loud and confrontational
about a lot of issues that tend to miss the point, or are not primary. While
churches argue about worship styles, the definition of marriage, who can
take communion, the Christian voice on issues like hunger, poverty, sex-trafficking,
war, bullying, and education remains far too quiet. It is not that we
shouldn’t have a voice about these former issues, but why at the expense
of the latter, bigger issues that demand current attention in our world? I
was excited to see the habitability code pass in our city council recently, all
as the result of four years of work by our local Interfaith group and other
concerned citizens about the lack of a renter’s code; at the reality that
people were living without toilets, running water, protection from the rain
falling through the hole in the roof. The voice of faith stood up and spoke
out. This was the right thing to be angry about. What are the right things
for you to be angry about right now? What should we as a church, as
individuals be getting worked up about?

Notice, too, how Jesus was able to let the less important things go by, even
though I am sure these things angered him as well. He couldn’t address
every single thing that bothered him, but needed to put a red hot focus on
the bigger problems of the world around him. Maybe he was irritated by
the song selection in the Temple, thinking there should be some more
contemporary instruments used. Or, I guess it is possible that he could
have been mad about the temple taxes and the use of them by Caesar. I
am sure he even bristled at the other religions and the temples to manmade
gods. Jesus, however, let these issues pass by him as he made his
way to the right things for him to be angry about during his time. We need
to learn to do this as well. As Christians today, we need selective
demonstrations of anger. We need wisdom and discipline to focus on what
is most important; most demanding of our voice and passion. Are there
things you are angry about today that you need to let go?

Second, be angry at the right people. Jesus didn’t take out his anger on
everyone in the temple. His whip was directed at the people who were
causing the injustice. He went after the right people at the right time. I am
confident that he was thinking this through as he wove together the strands
that made up his whip. Our anger can so easily become misguided and
dangerous, following the kick-the-dog model rather than the righteous
indignation template Jesus demonstrated. Who are you mad at these
days? Is it directed in the right place, to the right people? Any chance that
you are taking your anger out on the wrong person?

Jesus picked the most appropriate time to show his anger. John shows
Jesus weaving together a whip, providing insight, I think, into the
premeditated nature of his action there in the temple. There were plenty of
opportunities for Jesus to get mad, but he didn’t respond to all of them. He
picked his battles, one could say. Even though the other gospels place this
event at the end of Jesus’ ministry rather than the beginning, John’s
placement still invites his readers to consider that Jesus was aware of what
and when he was showing anger.

We need to pick the right time to show our anger as well. We are not
perfect and our anger can break out at the wrong times and in the wrong
ways. Holy anger, however, should happen at the right time. There are a
lot of things we can show anger about in our local community, our state,
and in our world. How will we pick our battles? When is the right time for
your anger to show?

Jesus also exhibited the right Spirit of anger. His was a holy, righteous
indignation. It was authorized by God and under the supervision of the
Holy Spirit, this same Spirit he saw coming down upon him in the form of a
dove before heading out into the wilderness. Our anger is to be bridled by
this same Spirit. The only way to keep anger in check is by the Spirit of
God within you. As you look at your anger and the way you demonstrate it,
is it marked by the Spirit?

Once your anger is authorized by God, modeled after Jesus, fueled by the
right Spirit, the right things will happen as you engage the people and
issues that deserve the holy heat of anger. A great example of this is with
the non-violent protests led by Dr. King in the civil rights movement. He
knew the dangerous results of misguided and uncontrolled anger and so he
preached and modeled something better. He held up Jesus as the model
for how to get angry the right way. And it worked. The right things

Aristotle noted that, 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 and is not easy. 1

It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Thank God we have an anger ally.
1. http://www.brainyquote.1 com/quotes/topics/

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