By Mark Dance
It seems like even the most positive of pastors are getting salty these days—and who can blame them after pastoring through an endless cycle of catastrophes for a solid four months?
Our frustration is growing because we’re unable to fully understand, explain, or fix complicated pandemics and protests that rock our world. Pastors shouldn’t be surprised when our frustration devolves into anger. Therefore, my primary question in this post is—is anger always bad?
Indulge me as I unpack the difference between anger that’s helpful and the kind that’s harmful.
Anger is a natural emotion which God intentionally crafted into our DNA. We inherited our anger from a Creator who has demonstrated His own righteous anger throughout Scripture.
At the very core of the gospel is God’s wrath against sin and death, which is why Jesus became our substitution for both. Deadly pandemics and racial injustice must make God angry—so why on earth should anyone on earth be in a great mood during this season of suffering?
What makes God angry should make His people angry.
When God initially confronted Peter about practicing favoritism (racism), he repented and became a strong advocate for Gentiles. Several years later the apostle Peter was confronted again about the same issue by an angry apostle Paul:
“When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party” Galatians 2:11-12.
Paul’s love for Gentiles, and for Peter, fueled his anger to the point of stepping up and speaking out. This is a good season for society to be good and angry about this same sin. Some people are speaking the truth without love, which has fueled a different kind of anger.
“Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity” Ephesians 4:26-27.
Polarization over the protests and pandemic are inevitable in this election season, so don’t expect America’s collective mood to improve in 2020. Even so, guard your heart and your tongue from anger that will tempt you toward sin. Whether online or in person, our untamed tongues can result in collateral damage. Before you send or respond to a toxic post or tweet, consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest (James 3:5).
Do you want to make noise, or do you want to make a difference?
When you see or experience an injustice that fires you up, consider the possibility that God put that fire in your belly. Be very careful, however, not to label all of your anger as “righteous indignation” because sometimes we’re just throwing an old-fashioned tantrum, which is anything but helpful.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” James 1:19.
Good and Angry
Jim was my close friend and tennis teammate when I was a sophomore at John Tyler High School. Jim is as black as I am white.
We spent so much time together that he called my mother, “Mom.” One day after playing at a tennis club my family belonged to, I got a call from the club manager politely explaining that Jim was welcome to play tennis but not welcome to swim.
I was fifteen years old and genuinely confused at first. Eventually my confusion grew into anger. As sinful as this man’s racism was, what I did next was just as bad: Nothing.
I was angry, but not enough to say anything about it. I regret my sin of silence to this day. Silence is not golden, it’s yellow.
I was saved that same summer and called into the ministry later that year. I eventually learned that every believer is a minister of reconciliation, and pastors are called to lead the way.
The best pastors will get angry enough to speak up and be mature enough to know when and how.
MARK DANCE (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats—often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He’s currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.