Have you heard any angry voices lately? There are plenty of them in the news. The question is – how do we respond? And what do we do with our own anger or frustration?
Let’s face it – the church does not always do anger well. Our hushed sanctuaries can seem like halls of decorum, encouraging us to practice our “church manners,” while our air waves are awash with politicians, interrupting one another, eager to have the last word.
These noisy newsmakers are amazingly popular, attracting huge crowds and enthusiastic ovations. Fans explain their fervor this way:
- “He is saying what everyone is thinking but no one dares to speak out loud.”
- “Here’s a man who speaks his mind.”
- “Finally, someone who ‘tells it let it is,’ someone who speaks from the heart.It’s as if we are too afraid to voice our own anger and are glad when someone can do it for us. But we don’t need a mouthpiece. We are can speak our own concerns with honesty and clarity.
When Jesus entered the temple filled with money changers, he flipped over their tables in a fury that must have been frightening. Words alone could not express his disgust as he surveyed his Father’s house being tarnished and cheapened. Anger was the appropriate response. It clearly is an acceptable emotion in the Bible – maybe even a necessary one.
How do we follow a faith that tells us to “love our neighbor,” when there are times when our neighbor is just not all that lovable? Saint Francis prayed, “make me an instrument of your peace.” How can make the necessary changes in this world without giving in to rage?
There is a difference between anger and violence. The Psalmist vents heart-felt emotion. He pours out gut-wrenching cries of anger and frustration, speaking without a filter, not caring who else might be listening, but directing this venom toward God.
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock! (Psalm 137)
He does not ignore his yearning for revenge:
O Lord, you God of vengeance,
you God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth;
give to the proud what they deserve! (Psalm 94)
We don’t talk about these texts very often. I have to say – I have never preached on one of these. We don’t teach them in Sunday School. Perhaps our congregations don’t even know these angry words exist. Maybe they believe that rage is an unacceptable emotion in church. Maybe that’s why so many people are turning to those who do not hesitate to express their fear, frustration, and longing. People are looking for a way to voice these complicated emotions.
God knows there is enough to be angry about in our world.
God knows there is great need.
But we don’t need crass politicians to be our spokespeople.
We can do it ourselves, taking the psalmist as our role model.
We don’t need to be silent. We don’t even need to be polite. We can, as the old hymn assures us, “take it to the Lord in prayer.” Those hard emotions – fury, despair, rage – are meant to be a catalyst, to move us to prayer and then to action.
We can pour out our anger, frustration, hurt and disappointment to God.
But here’s the thing – we’re not meant to dwell in our fury. Simply living in anger benefits no one and does nothing to help or improve a situation.
Repeating outrageous accusations and slogans accomplishes nothing.
Instead, we are invited to pour out our anger in the presence of our transforming God. The God of resurrection and new life can lead us to new ideas, alternate solutions, and fuel our energies.
When anger morphs into constructive action it is a breakthrough moment that reflects God’s life-giving grace.
So – go ahead. Be angry.
- Talk about it
- Pray about it
- Ask how God can use that energy to make the positive changes that are so desperately needed.
Use my frustration, God, to be an instrument of your peace. Amen.