In a world that has been terribly broken by sin, where nothing operates as was intended, and where evil often has more immediate influence than good, it would be wrong not to be angry. How can you look poverty in the face and not be angry? How can you consider the surge of AIDS and not be angry? How could you look at the political corruption that makes government more a place for personal power than societal protection, and not be angry? How can you look at the rate of divorce in Western culture, or the prevalence of domestic violence, and not be angry? How can you consider the huge numbers of homeless people who wander our streets and not be angry? How can you consider the confusion of gender identity and sexual impropriety that surrounds us and not be angry?
How can you consider the state of our educational institutions, art, and popular entertainment, and not be angry? How can you look at the state of the church, which seems so often to have lost its way, and not be angry? How can you even look at your own life, your own family, and your own circle of friends – how sin twists and complicates every location, relationship, and situation of your life – and not be angry? In life and ministry, righteous anger is not only important, it's vital.
How can you consider disease, war, and environmental distress and not be angry? How can you look at the fact that nothing in your world is exactly as it was meant to be and not be angry? You simply cannot look at the world with the eyes of truth and with a heart committed to what God says is right and good, and not be angry at the state of things in this fallen world. In your ministry, how can you daily look at the damage that sin has done to the people around you and not be angry? In a fallen world, anger is a good thing. In a fallen world, anger is a constructive thing. In a fallen world, anger is an essential thing. That is, if the anger is about something bigger than you.
In a fallen world, people of character and conscience will always be angry. Perhaps our problem regarding anger is not just that we are often angry for the wrong reasons, but that we are not angry often enough for the right reasons. Perhaps our problem is that the things that should make us angry and thereby move us to action just don't make us angry anymore. So we get used to political corruption. We get used to homelessness. We get used to the perverse morals of the entertainment industry. We get used to how many broken families are around us. We get used to the daily reports of suffering and disease that infect every continent on the globe. We get used to the fact that the church is often a place of compromise and division. We get used to our own complacency and hypocrisy. We get used to marital stresses and childhood rebellion. We get used to a world that has been broken by sin. Even pastors get lulled to sleep. Even with lives committed to ministry, we are all too easily satisfied. Things that should distress, concern, and upset us become the things we either no longer see or that we've become used to.
We learn to walk around the problems, almost as if they aren't there. We learn the skill of negotiating the minefields. The fact that life is broken becomes a regular part of our lives and simply doesn't bother us any longer. We develop the sad capacity not to care anymore about things that should break our hearts and rile us up. We lose our moral edge and don't even realize it. Things that God says are not okay become okay to us. We lose our ability, our commitment, to be good and angry at the same time. We fall into accepting the unacceptable and living with what should be unlivable. We quit fighting in righteous anger and learn to cope in unrighteous complacency, and when we do, we are not faithful to the radical, transformative power and call of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Righteous anger is not optional. It is a calling for people who claim to be living for something bigger than their own happiness, who are committed to ministry, and who profess to do what is right, true, loving, and good. You cannot be like God and be free of anger as long as you live in a sin-broken world. This righteous anger causes you to love God's grace and to do all you can to proclaim that grace to others, knowing that it is only this grace that has the power to fix all those broken things that rightfully rile you up every day.