Anger in the Church
We all get angry from time to time—at least everyone I know does! Many people think that getting angry is a sin, but Jesus wasn’t exactly calm and peaceful when he cleansed the Temple in Matthew 21:12-13. So, how do we deal with the conflicting ideas about anger?
Anger can be a very destructive emotion. It can cause us to harbor feelings of ill will toward others, act irrationally, say and do hurtful things that we often later regret, waste energy and time, create dissension, affect our health, and even make our Christian witness less effective. In these instances, I would say that anger is a sin.
Then, you may wonder, how did Jesus get angry and still remain without sin. When Jesus cleansed the Temple, he may have caused some dissension among the Jewish ruling parties, but none of the other things apply. Jesus’ anger and resulting actions were what many people term “righteous” anger. His anger caused him to take action to correct things that were wrong.
When people traveled to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice at the Temple, it was almost impossible to bring an animal with them. The animal had to be without blemish, thus it was easier just to buy the animal at the Temple than to travel with it. A Temple tax was also required of people who came to worship, but it could only be paid in the currency used in Jerusalem. The money changers exchanged foreign currency for acceptable coinage, often at very high rates.
Since only Jewish men were allowed inside the Temple, the women and Gentile believers were left to worship in the outer courts, which is where the merchants and money changers had taken up residence. Just imagine trying to worship amidst all of that chaos. Jesus knew that the situation needed to change, so he took action.
When have you responded to a situation in righteous anger? How long did your anger last? What were you able to change? All too often, we may see an injustice that makes us angry, but our anger wanes before we take action. We may excuse ourselves by saying that one person can’t make much of a difference anyway. When one person is passionate about a cause, he or she CAN make a difference.
Consider Rev. Lisa Anderson, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister and former moderator of the General Assembly. She was angry that many people who had no homes were having to live on the streets of Memphis during the cold winter months. So, Lisa and her congregation (Colonial CPC) decided to invite people into their church for a meal and a warm place to sleep. Before long, Lisa had started Room in the Inn-Memphis, which is based on a program of the same name that originated in Nashville, Tennessee, more than 30 years ago. After 8 years, more than 35 congregations are involved in offering shelter and hospitality to people who otherwise would be forced to sleep on the streets.
What things has God placed on your heart? What answers to injustices has God placed before you? How will you respond? How will you use your anger to make a positive difference?