The Morality of Anger

“He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.” – Aquinas

As Christians, ought we to be angry when we see injustice around us – and what does that look like?

Are we talking only talking about the large injustices of poverty, inequity, discrimination etc within our societies, or does this include injustices on a smaller scale within some churches, or when we see false doctrines that promote types of injustice? Examples might be the injustice of people facing dire financial stress being judged for not tithing, or perhaps a church stressing its right to receive time, tithes and offerings from all its members but virtually ignoring the needs of those who later need help – saying “God will supply” while doing nothing. (Think of Jesus’ expressive comment re the Pharisees ‘devouring widows’ houses’.) Or false doctrines promoting submission by the weak towards the powerful, when Jesus message was about the strong serving the weak.

Are we to never let the sun go down on our anger – including this type of anger at injustice. Should we just deal with it inwardly, and live a peaceful life regardless of injustice around us? Are we to walk in a kind of forgiveness and not let anger have a lasting foothold? Can we live a peaceful life while being angry at injustice and things that we perceive as travesties of our faith?

Can anger be an expression of love?

In some Christian contexts, anger is suspect. It can be seen as sign that the person has to deal with their inner man, rather than as a correct moral response. If the messenger is angry, criticisms of church methodologies or culture are sometimes deemed invalid without being considered at all. Is this approach immoral? Does it lead a congregation into a kind of immorality where injustices in their midst are belittled or overlooked?

I am not for a moment suggesting that all criticism from an angry person is invalid, or that every time we are angry we are right.

To me there is a tension in what Aquinas says, yet he also has a strong point. He is one of the most influential Christian thinkers ever.

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RavingPente


14 thoughts on “The Morality of Anger

  1. There are two aspects to anger – what is the object of the anger, and what is appropriate in terms of expressing that anger.

    Some comments…

    Firstly this verse from Psalms

    Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

    Depending on which version you search there are double digit responses for the expression ‘slow to anger’ mostly in the OT.

    I think God’s ‘slowness to anger” with associated consequences is an expression of God’s desire for relationship which we just don’t get.

    Anger is there, but it is not the dominant thing.

    Another word: wrath – at least a 150 times from beginning to end of the Bible.

    Again not the dominant theme but inescapably there.

    God has put in place a scheme so that those who want opportunity can avoid God’s anger and wrath.

    The words sit uncomfortably in our western world where the individual is paramount, answerable to no-one, and ultimately likely to avoid punishment/justice on a technicality anyway – or at the other extreme get unjustifiably shafted with no recourse – think rendition, Cornelia Rau etc

    In my roundabout way yes Christians should feel and express anger – especially at those things which we hold up as being virtuous that actually separate us from God.

    I can list some but you could rattle off your own lists, and frequently have.

    I guess in many ways anger should be a catalyst for change that ultimately comes from Godly love – and the expression of that anger, should perhaps also be an expression of that too.

    Rambling here. Sorry.

    T

  2. Kasey Chambers once said in one of her songs “If you’re not pissed off with the world, you’re not paying attention”.

    I totally agree with that statement.
    Anger = uncontrolled passion. It’s what we do with anger that either puts us in the right or the wrong.

  3. Love and anger can both be controlled or uncontrolled passion.

    I think the two are strongly related.

    Where we are renewed in Christ, the things that made Him angry will make us angry – and that would typically be a result of some kind of mistreatment of people we love, who might even be abstract – we love the body of Christ for example. Where we are not renewed in Christ, we may get equally angry about things that are quite selfish, or things that God would not be angry at.

    So I think that feeling anger in response to injustice or abuse of various kinds is a Christian response. But I think its under attack by various doctrines that seem to equate anger at some things with rebellion.

  4. Having said that, I don’t think God wants us to wander around in a permanent state of anger – anger is a first response to something; it might act as a motivation to go and do something helpful about that thing. Some people might find anger is the first thing they notice in some kind of call to ministry that they then serve in for years – campaigning to improve conditions for the poor, for example. Anger in this context is out of love and compassion. I imagine that to be in a constant state of that initial passion would be exhausting – perhaps there is a peace when the call is recognised and action is taken.

  5. It all depends on the context though… hate can be a result of love, too. God ‘hates’ the thing (sin) that destroys the object of his love (us). If God loved less, why would he hate sin so much? (Do tell me if I’m wrong here.)

  6. Greek lineal thinking would have hate and love on the opposite sides of the spectrum. With a Hebrew mindset (cyclical) it is easier to appreciate the place of both hate and love. Maybe when you go through the emotion of hate you are better placed to get an increased understanding of love.

  7. But when we overcome sin, He is making us more into his image. Like how his son overcame sin, we overcome sin.

    Speculating here; but when we overcome the lesser, we are seen as the greater.

  8. I found an article that suggests there has been a misguided campaign against anger in the Christian church for several hundred years, destroying a power cord that we need for change for the good.

    The link is http://freebelievers.com/blog-entry/anger-management

    Some interesting quotes from the article are:

    “…From the moment a person becomes a Christian, they are taught that any form of ANGER is unspiritual, wicked, immature, rebellious, dangerous and an overall sign of spiritual weakness…”

    “…The moment a Christian uses the words, “He’s ANGRY” or “He’s bitter,” they have both permissioned and obligated themselves to close their heart.

    Verses that say “Love is not easily angered” are grossly taken out of context in an effort to convince an entire generation that this means more than just getting angry at a person you love. It’s used as a call to never allow anger over anything or on behalf of anyone…”

    “…To not be angry at the sight of spiritual oppression, is to not have love…”

    That last quote fits with Aquinas’ words in the post above.

    Has anyone read John Bevere’s ‘The Bait of Satan’? How does what Bevere says about offence fit into this? Would he say that you shouldn’t take offence at injustice in the church, or is he just saying to forgive one another as we have been forgiven?

  9. Sorry, S&P.

    Bevere’s books are on the recommended reading list of my ex-church, and are pretty popular within CCC. Also, on reading Hillsong’s website, they seem to agree with Bevere’s salvation doctrine, which says that you are saved through faith in Christ, but also by submitting to God’s will. This sounds like salvation by works to me, because all of us are going to fail to submit to God’s will at some stage even if we try our hardest, and that’s exactly why we need Jesus.

    So I think that Bevere sounds convincing but has certain major points that are ‘off’, including this very influential salvation criteria.

    Re the offense thing, I of course believe we should all forgive one another, but feeling angry about a false doctrine isn’t the same as holding unforgiveness towards a brother.

    Paul said we should hold fast to the doctrine of grace; grief and anger are natural reactions to seeing the doctrine of grace replaced with something different; we may not want to hold onto the anger, but it’s not wrong to be outraged that the very thing Christ died for is now being mangled.

    Still, the mangling started in Christ’s day, and we have it there in the NT, illustrated in the book of Galations.

    Paul said some amazing things in Galatians. Was he angry when he said about those still preaching circumcision:

    “12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

    Well, I’m sure he wasn’t entirely serious, but he obviously felt pretty strongly about people trying to bring back law and losing the gospel of grace.

    Being angry in that way seems appropriate. I guess Paul was not so angry that he couldn’t be humorous about things. So feeling strongly, but handling it well while still opposing the false issue and
    promoting the true gospel is supported in the NT.

    Galatians 5:1
    “1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

  10. Imagine if Paul was a blogger. FaceLift would have a field day with that emasculate comment. “Lets be clear, so you are actually wishing that people would harm themselves? …” etc… on and on.

  11. Like I’ve said, I’ve checked out a lot of local ministries.
    When it has come to the local churches that are OP (Oneness Pentecostal), they both love T.D.Jakes (an OP) and John Bevere.

    Why John Bevere? What makes his teachings so dangerous is what he stresses with leadership. Instead of being the typical word-faither, his message is not ‘believe & receive’ or ‘give to get’, but ‘submit & be blessed’.

    This is why these cults love his material. And his messages are works based. He’ll say ‘saved by grace’, but every message I have heard misses that mark and the underlying tone of his message is that it is works that does it.

    I don’t want to de-rail this thread. I’m looking at doing an article on the ‘Charismatic Charmers’.

    So what should happen if one is getting angry all the time in a church environment because they keep seeing things happening that are wrong?

    And they can’t do anything about it?

    From my understanding, this is why so many Christians come online and make the rest of Christianity look ugly. (I’m sure I’ve done this too!)

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