Let me introduce you to two angry men, starting with Tom. Tom has been angry for a long time. Anger is the theme that runs through each of his days, the forge that shapes the situations and relationships of his life. Tom’s wife and kids are used to his anger. They stay out of his way in the morning, because Tom greets the day like a man possessed. He allows nothing to alter his morning routine. The bathroom had better be empty when Tom needs it, and his coffee and toast had better be ready when he wants them. After all, there are only a certain number of minutes in the day, with many tasks to complete, and this leaves no time for unexpected “hassles.”
Tom’s kids have learned not to talk with Tom in the morning about money needs, or school problems, or really much of anything. They have learned the hard way not to argue in Dad’s hearing. They have also learned that when he says it’s time for family worship (the last thing that happens before Tom leaves for work), they had better drop whatever they are doing and come quickly.
Tom does a lot of talking to the traffic as he negotiates through near-gridlock conditions on his way to work. Before he hits the parking lot he is already complaining to himself about what his day will be like, about all those workers who “don’t have a shred of a clue what they are doing.” Tom’s the boss, but he doesn’t feel like the boss. He feels like a man under siege. He feels like few people listen to him and no one really respects his authority. Sure, Tom can be friendly, and he doesn’t lead like an autocrat. But when things go wrong, his anger comes quickly.
It’s not unusual for Tom to return home at the end of the day a bit disgusted—-not with his home life, but simply because he has carried the problems of the day into the house with him. His kids have learned to pick up on their father’s mood before they come too close. They know he will immediately look for the paper, which had better be there, and then ask how long until supper, which had better be soon.
Yes, Tom is a hard worker and a good provider. And yes, with his business and four children he has a lot on his plate. And no, Tom isn’t abusive or violent. But Tom is a very angry man and that anger stains everything he touches.
Story of Jim
Jim is angry too—-really angry—-but his is not an anger that makes his family walk on eggshells. Jim’s anger doesn’t make him grumble his way to work. It doesn’t make him look down on the people who work for him. It doesn’t shape the way he enters the house at the end of his work day. Yet Jim is certainly an angry man.
Jim is angry that years of political corruption have left the city, which he lives in and loves, a shell of what it once was. Jim is angry at the poverty and violence that makes neighborhoods not too far from him dangerous and unlivable. Jim is angry that art and culture have been so infected with sex and violence that it is almost impossible to be entertained without having your morals assaulted. Jim is angry that he cannot send his children to the schools his taxes pay for because those schools are so broken that little in the way of good education actually takes place there.
Jim is angry that the church has been either so isolated from the surrounding culture, or in such a war with it, that it has lost its ability to be the salt and light God intends it to be. Jim is angry at the materialism and passivity that keep him and his fellow believers from doing the transformative things that only believers could ever do.
But Jim’s is not an anger that craves more control. He doesn’t pray that things will go his way. Jim usually prays that somehow, some way, he would be part of what God is doing in the place where he has been sent. You see, Jim’s anger isn’t about Jim at all. It isn’t formed out of the plans and purposes of a claustrophobic kingdom of one. Instead, Jim is a man who knows what it means to be good and angry at the very same time. Jim’s anger is the righteous anger of a man who loves God and whose heart has been caught up in the purposes of God’s kingdom. Jim’s anger isn’t the anger of demanding tones and ugly words. It isn’t the “I’m in charge here” anger of impatience and quick irritation. It isn’t the anger that causes complaints to come quickly and dissatisfaction to be a daily theme.
Jim is angry, very angry, at what sin has done to the world where he lives. This makes his anger full of compassion, wisdom, justice, kindness, and love. Jim anger’s relieves the distress of others, rather than adding to it. Jim’s anger doesn’t allow him to be self-focused. No, it calls him to be involved in the suffering of others and to look for ways to bless them with what is good. Jim’s anger doesn’t allow him to be selfish with his time or tight with his money. Jim’s anger causes him to find joy in investing himself and his resources in the kingdom that has won his heart.
Tom and Jim are two angry men whose lives are radically different, and whose angers produce radically different results. Tom is angry because he wants to be God, so he has reduced everything in his life down to the size of his little kingdom of one. His anger is leaving a legacy of fear, hurt, and separation. But Jim’s anger honors God by putting God and his kingdom in their rightful place. Jim’s anger is leaving a ministry legacy of love, compassion, provision, and healing.
Think about yourself: there is probably never a day in your personal life and ministry when you aren’t angry in some way. The crucial question is, “Are you good and angry at the same time?” Look into your heart and humbly ask yourself this question: How much of my daily anger has anything at all to do with the kingdom of God? Then own and confess the places where it doesn’t and celebrate the places where it does. Celebrate where grace has transformed your anger and seek the Savior’s help where that transformation is still needed. Pray that you would have a heart that is able to be good and angry at the same time.