Living with Anger

"Our search for the ways Jesus expresses and experiences anger has revealed a human being who radically exudes integrity, strength, and vision, one who models confidence in his mission, indignation over injustice, and love in the midst of aggravation. Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus's demonstrations of anger reveal his authenticity. He doesn't play games. He isn't passive-aggressive or obsequious. He doesn't stuff his anger, holding it in until the breaking point. Rather, he is clear and direct and utterly righteous in his anger.

"We've gleaned some answers to the questions that confronted us:

"Jesus demonstrates different kinds of 'anger,' ranging from pique and frustration to exasperation and furious righteous indignation. Anger can be destructive or constructive, harmful or holy. Jesus models a way to express anger in ways that can be illuminating as well as instructive.

"Jesus expresses anger in direct, honest ways. He will not be swayed from his mission. He is bold and clear in his message. He responds to attacks directly. Sometimes he uses anger to try to shake some spiritual sense into others, though often he realizes the effort is useless, so he expresses his judgment of hypocrisy, greed, and self-aggrandizement, particularly of those who are charged with the care of the souls of the people. Jesus states his case unambiguously in spite of opposition.

"He makes no personal attacks, but seeks to uncover the evil behind the actions. There is no record of Jesus being angered by a personal offense no matter how wrong, unjust, or violent it may be. He teaches that the one who is persecuting us is also created in the image of God and is loved by God, and in that reality we can love our enemy. At the same time, just as God is righteously angered over oppression and injustice, so should we be.

"Jesus's mission is to liberate human souls, to draw them into the reign of God, into a loving, selfless way of life. He is after what matters to God — and so he reveals dishonesty, fights injustice and subjugation, causes change, sets thing right. Undergirding every expression of his anger is love; Jesus speaks the truth in love. In every case the anger of Jesus is the passion of love. His love of God, his zeal for the ways of God and the true worship of God, his mission to open the reign of God to all, together make him indignant at whatever dishonors God and whatever impedes others from knowing and experiencing God. He is honest with his feelings, expresses them as directly and transparently as possible, and moves on.

"Jesus responds to anger in others by calmly explaining his position. He possesses an unshakable force of honesty and truth. He stands up to angry attacks without getting drawn into fierce, thoughtless encounters. He understands that one's anger is often caused by fear, and takes that into account when he is the object of a violent outburst. He is transparent in his response to every challenge, and refuses to yield his position. He explains who he is and what he is about with utter openness and outspokenness.

"Jesus's teachings regarding anger overturn our assumptions. If you are persecuted, if you are the focus of others' anger for righteousness's sake, then you are blessed, he tells us, so be joyful. If you are angry with a brother or sister, deal with it and be reconciled — make that a priority even before worship. He teaches a model of peaceful nonviolence that many throughout history have attempted to follow, even today. He recognizes that there is a place for righteous anger, as he himself has shown, but he urges us to be angry without sinning, without causing harm or seeking destruction. And he tells us there can be a cost for making such a righteous stand. Nevertheless, he encourages us to live a life of pure, authentic love and integrity.

"As Robert Law concludes, 'God is love; Jesus is love; the anger of Jesus and all holy anger is the anger of love. For love is not wholly sympathy and sweetness; love is full of indignation and wrath.' "