I’ve been thinking about righteous anger this week and what it means. I want to believe it means, “You’re wrong, I’m right, and I’m angry about this.” J However, the definition is ‘an emotion of anger due to mistreatment or injustice that is free from guilt or sin.’ The part that is easy to swallow is being upset over an injustice or someone being mistreated. Who doesn’t get angry over domestic abuse, sexual slavery, or racism? We should all be enraged by these travesties. And we can react by giving to charities, supporting causes, raising awareness, or stepping in to help.
But what happens when the injustice is closer to the heart? How do you react when your kid is bullied at school or when you get passed over for the promotion at work that should have been yours or when your neighbor lets his dog poop in your yard and doesn’t clean it up? What kind of anger is this and how should we respond? To be honest, I want to lash out and make them pay for what they have done to me or to my loved ones. I want that bully to feel his or her own pain. I want my boss to be sorry he made the wrong choice and suffer for his decision. I want to take the dog poop and put it on my neighbor’s front step. This kind of anger is not righteous. It is definitely not free from my own sin. It is full of pride and revenge. This is not the kind of anger Jesus felt when he knocked over the tables in the temple. This is not the way He wants me to respond to what I perceive as injustice. In Matthew 5:44-45 Jesus says, “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”
Maybe God said this so that my heart will be changed, not theirs. Maybe he wants me to pray so that my eyes will be opened to my own sin and to the unbelievable grace I have received through Jesus’ love and sacrifice. I need to remember that I am not righteous. The way I react to people is tainted by my own sin. I am tempted to believe, “My kid would never act that way.” “I am so much better than who they chose for the job.” “I would never be so lazy to not clean up after myself.” Really? When I take a good hard look, all of those statements are false. I am just as flawed as those who hurt me.
God has shown me grace and forgiveness for my sins and expects me to be compassionate towards others, especially when they are broken. God will handle every wrong-doing, every hurt, every injustice. I don’t have to. It’s not my responsibility to judge the actions of others. What God really wants from me is to love other people, to show them mercy, and to pray, for them and for myself. Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back, says the Lord.” In other words, I need to trust that God’s got this. He will make right all the injustices in the world at the perfect time, in the perfect way.