Justified anger can help fuel necessary changes in society

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“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

Yoda’s famous quote from “The Phantom Menace” quickly became a widely-accepted adage after the “Star Wars” prequel hit screens in 1999. 

When I threw a tantrum as a kid, I remember what my belligerence would receive: “Dear, what did Yoda say again?” from an exasperated mother. As a kid, it was a golden truth. At 21 years old, I think Yoda was wrong.

Anger is a powerful tool. It was anger that drove millions to protest with the Black Lives Matter movement last year. Public anger at the atrocities  of World War II catalyzed the United States to fight Hitler. 

Interestingly, it was anger that caused Jesus to trash the Temple in Chapter 21 of Matthew. Our ultimate role model, overturning tables and banishing vendors?

Jesus’ actions exemplify a theo-philosophical concept called “righteous anger.” It is the idea that sometimes, anger is justified — even right.

Matthew Henry, an author and minister in the 1600s and early 1700s, wrote a popular six-volume commentary on the Bible, where he explains:

“The great Redeemer appear(s) as a great Reformer, that turns away ungodliness… The abuse was buying and selling, and changing money, in the temple. Note, Lawful things, ill-timed and ill-placed, may become sinful things.”

Henry details that the antagonists of Matthew 21, the vendors in the Temple, were defiling the Temple. These “Kolbon,” or “money changers,” were exploiting Jewish worshipers and breaking God’s Levitical Law. It was this that transformed a normally soft-spoken Savior into a whip-wielding force for justice.

If we just read Matthew 21, we might be tempted to act in anger all the time, but the Bible tells us otherwise. We are meant to be angry about the things that God is angry about instead of living in our personal anger. James 1:20 reads:

“…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

If this seems like a difficult tension to achieve, you’re not alone. I looked to my father, Stephen Stringer, to impart his famous words of advice. 

With nearly 25 years of missionary experience and a brand-new job as Vice President of Global Strategies for a Georgia-based missions organization, he might have some interesting insight. He said that the key to understanding anger is first understanding what is right.

“…you know (when) your grace quotient exceeds your righteous anger quotient,” he said. “I think that (injustice) might be a part of the problem for college students—they are quick to be angry about injustice, but slow to resolve it.”

So what is God angry about? Here are three major issues in our world:

1. Human rights. Even in the 21st century, equality has not been achieved. Recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the conflict between the Amharic and Tigray in Ethiopia are just two examples of this. The International Justice Mission reports that more than 40 million people remain trapped in slavery. God makes it clear that all people are made in his image, and are deserving of respect.

2. The porn industry roughly 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites, according to United Families. In the beginning, God created one man and one woman, unifying them together as a template for human relationships. Porn is slowly destroying God’s plan for sex and marriage.

3. The public image of Christianity. John 13:35 reads: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Yet Christianity is largely seen as bigoted and divided. How are people supposed to know we follow Christ if our actions are rude and confrontational?

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