A pastor named Michael was the guest preacher at Trinity Grace Church-East Village this past Sunday.  He started his sermon off by saying he was going to address the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.”  How is this related to many of us, who so easily brush aside this commandment as irrelevant because we don’t see ourselves as involved in killing?  Michael explained how the root of murder is anger.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, however, anger is not inherently evil. Anger goes in tandem with love, which is passion for someone or something. So when you love, and something does not go as you want it to, there should rightly an appropriate amount of anger. Anger is intended to motivate us to make right the wrongs and injustices we come across in life. When we hear of God being an angry god, we must remember that God is righteously angry.  This is evidence we are made in God’s image – that we show some concern for righteousness and justice.  

Anger can, however, be misplaced.  According to Thomas Aquinas, anger comes from an overdesire for a good thing (which could be seen as another way of saying idolatry).  If an injury or insult is not handled properly, it can lead to antagonism, and then anger.  So how do we deal with anger healthfully?  To contribute to a culture of life rather than a vicious cycle of revenge, we must process antagonism. We must 1) acknowledge anger, 2) restrain our immediate response (Proverbs 29:11), 3) locate the focus of the anger (who is the anger directed towards?), 4) analyze our options, and 5) take the constructive action.  This will lead towards restorative justice.

“Good” anger is anger towards any genuine wrongdoing, sparked by a violation of a law or moral fabric. To be angry for the right reasons means that one should be able to answer the questions, 1) Was a wrong committed?  and 2) Do I have all the facts?  Once these questions are answered, we can handle the situation healthfully by either overlooking the violation (if it was minor/petty), or confronting the person gently.

If we don’t have all of the facts about a situation we cannot wholly and truthfully be angry in a healthful sense, and our anger is likely to be misplaced.  

When dealing with injustices that are deeply embedded in society, it may be challenging for some people to identify the wrongs that have been committed, and for individuals to find out the facts about what led to particular situations, if they were not directly affected nor yet involved in seeking change.  People might need to do a lot more digging and researching than they currently do.  But if everyone were to approach wrongdoings in this way, more people would learn about and join the various movements for change. There would be a lot more clarity about the root causes of injustices throughout society, leading more people to be involved in demanding change and restorative justice. As followers of Christ, we are not called to be followers, but leaders and disciples. We are not called to sit back and accept unjust situations, but to approach those who have committed wrongs through nonviolent resistance. If we truly want to contribute to a culture of life, we must process antagonism rationally and with radical love, patience, and understanding.  In "Common Prayer," we hear that "peace is about being able to recognize in the face of the oppressed our own faces, and in the hands of the oppressors our own hands."  We are called to not avoid conflict but speak honestly to one another - recognizing one another's humanity and fallen nature just as we recognize these things about ourselves.