By Michael J. Brooks
An old adage is that anger is one only letter away from danger. This is a good reminder for us all. Every one of us has done or said things in anger that we came to regret and wished to recall. That’s why it’s so unusual that the Apostle Paul exhorted believers to “be angry” (Ephesians 4:26). The writer didn’t offer further rationale, so we’re left to speculate about his intent. Was he simply acknowledging that we do get angry and that there might be more positive ways to handle it?
I’ve heard some insist that anger is a sin and we must avoid it altogether. The truth is we can’t avoid it, and Mark’s gospel acknowledges Jesus was angry on at least three occasions. So, anger can’t be a sin. But anger can be channeled in a positive direction.
It’s certainly true that anger can motivate us to do things of value for ourselves and others.
I often think of three people who faced terrible tragedies and used their experiences to improve our world.
John Walsh endured the horror of his son Adam’s kidnapping and murder in 1981. Walsh and his wife directed their anger into a number of areas to protect children. President George W. Bush signed the “Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act” in 2006, and many retail outlets have a “Code Adam” when a child is missing or found by store officials.
Candy Lightner was horrified in 1980 when her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver. The driver actually drove onto the sidewalk where the girl was, and the driver had previous citations for drunk driving. Lightner founded “Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” an organization that has saved countless lives.
Recently we observed a sad anniversary. Natalee Holloway was last seen alive on May 30, 2005—fifteen years ago—and her disappearance has never been satisfactorily explained. Her mother, Beth, has spent the last years talking with young people about “safe travels” and making good decisions when they’re away from home.
Anger can be terribly destructive. It can lead to abuse and even death. But these families were motivated by anger to do something positive and constructive. It’s arguable that every social movement in history has properly-channeled anger at its core.
Paul must have had this mind when he wrote his imperative.
But he also gave a qualifier: “don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” Unresolved anger is the root of many physical and mental problems. Our bodies weren’t meant to be depositories of anger. We have to deal with it constructively or it will destroy us, and perhaps others.
God gives us the wisdom to use anger in positive, not negative ways. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.