When I was much younger I had a terrible problem with anger. If someone did or said something I didn't like a rage would take over and would express itself with a kicked garbage can or a slammed door. I remember once I slammed a door so hard that I put it right through its frame. I had a problem with expressing my emotions and also had an unrealistic expectation of people. I praise God that he transformed me so that he eliminated this from my character. He gave me an ability to understand things from other people's perspective as well as making me a patient man. However, I have found over the years that it isn't anger that is wrong but instead that we can do wrong things with our anger.
Anger can sometimes propel us into doing great things and even overcoming great evils in the world but we need to understand the difference between the healthy and unhealthy. An unhealthy anger is one that is provoked when someone offends us. It can provoke us into inappropriate actions toward people or things as we release the pent up energy in us. An healthy anger is one that arises when other people are wronged, when we feel a need for justice, when we feel a need to defend. God's Word does not condemn anger but instead warns us:
In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent. (Psalm 4:4)
Before you take any action make sure you understand your anger so it doesn't lead to sinful actions. If someone has offended you then the best way to deal with the anger is to forgive them and allow God's peace to be established in you. If it is because you see wrong done to others then respond in a way that is appropriate and God honouring. God honouring action may not be as some people understand it. Jesus' actions at the temple is an example.
Most of you are aware of the incident when Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the center of the relationship between the people and God; it replaced the ark as the representation of God's presence in Israel. It was a place of teaching, prayer and sacrifice. It was intended to be the most holy place in Israel. I wonder how many people had been disappointed over the years to arrive and find what Jesus found:
In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14)
It had become a den of thieves. The sacrificial animals pilgrims would bring from their homes would always be found to have defects so they were forced to pay exorbitant prices for those being sold at the temple. The temple tax had to be paid with temple currency so general currency had to be exchanged, at incredibly high exchange rates. People who had come to worship and pray found themselves to be victims in the very place where they expected to find righteousness. I wonder if that sounds familiar to anyone in this current age. Jesus could not stand the sight of people being harmed in the name of God:
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:15-16)
Jesus did not bring bodily harm to anyone but he sure did scare them. Imagine the chaos as this "madman" came at them with a whip, yelling with such passion. People, money, animals were scattered in every direction. I wonder how many ran more from guilt than from fear. But take note in this that Jesus reacted because of what people were doing against God not because of anything they did to him. In fact, Jesus never defended himself, only the message he was given to pass on to us. He would defend the lambs from the wolves who were their teachers. He would come against those who put such heavy loads on the people but they themselves did nothing. Jesus did much to defend others but when it came to himself he did nothing. He did not stop them from striking him even when they had no just cause. He did not defend himself even when the accusations were absurd. He remained silent before Pilate. He made no word of complaint when they ripped the skin from his back and nailed him to the cross even though he was the most innocent man to be born and live on this planet, even though all things were created through him and for him.
If only we possessed as much zeal for God and his righteousness. If only we would get angry over social injustice in this world and not just when someone cuts us off on the highway. If only our anger would be directed to positive change instead of negative. The thing we should note is the same thing the disciples noted:
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 1:17)
Are we zealous for the things of God? Do we get offended when people use Jesus' name as a curse? Are we defenders of the weak? Do we lift up those who have been disadvantaged by society? Do we step in when people are being harmed in Jesus' name? There are so many abuses in this world that have been perpetuated in that most holy name by people who were filled with self-interest and who had no compassion for people at all. Are we there to defend and protect these victims, to speak up when laws are unjust, to become passionate and perhaps even angry when we see wrong? This is the good anger, the healthy stuff that brings about a healthy change. Such anger never harms or destroys but instead defends and builds up out of love. Anger can be an healthy thing if we can understand the difference.