Like relentless waves, the news keeps crashing: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Each one, an image-bearer of God. Each one, beautifully woven by their Maker and bestowed with brown skin. Each one, senselessly killed.
These three people, three deaths, three situations point to a larger issue with broad implications. It is godly to get angry.
I’ll say it again: it is godly to get angry.
Lest you worry that I’m dismissing the many references in Scripture which call us to repent of sinful expressions of anger, I’ll be the first to admit that I must repent of it often. By God’s grace, I pray I continue to put such sin to death. There is, most certainly, ungodly anger in all of our hearts requiring repentance.
But there’s another kind of anger: righteous anger. An anger against sin and evil which is rooted in a love for what is good and just. And I worry that we sometimes fail to embrace this Christian virtue because we view all anger as rooted in sin, when it is actually rooted in our image bearing of a righteous God and has only been warped by sin.
God, who never sins, gets angry. And we are called to be like Him.
God hates injustice. He hates racism and oppression and abuse and greed and corruption. And so should we. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil…” How interesting, that the very first instruction to demonstrate genuine love is to hate what is evil. It is ungodly to be apathetic. It is unloving to not be angry in the face of evil. Mere sympathy towards the oppressed isn’t enough. If I found out that one of my children had been molested, I would be filled with intense grief and anger—and it would be a righteous response! If I wasn’t angry, there’d be good reason to question the depth of my love.
Godly anger doesn’t mirror public outrage culture, where crowds fume for a few seconds and then move on with their lives until a new headline grabs their attention. Such reactions are worthless.
Godly anger is meant to elicit a response. When we see injustice, the anger we feel should drive us to action.
Though tangible steps are not always clear, we can always start with prayer. In the Psalms, there aren’t just prayers for the oppressed to be delivered, but for oppressors to be judged. “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (Psalm 72:4). There is a call for vengeance, “O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!” (Psalm 94:1-2).
Crying out for justice—for the vindication of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty—is as important now as it was then.
Do you think abolitionists were merely sympathetic towards slaves? No! They were angry! It is godly anger that fuels the pursuit of justice. It is godly anger that rouses a right response to abusers. It is godly anger that calls corruption to account. Godly anger against injustice spurs the pursuit of justice.
What evils have gone unabated because of our passivity, when we’ve chosen superficial “peace” over godly anger (which is easy to do when the brutality at hand doesn’t impact us). When we’ve traded justice and righteousness for a shallow deposit of “nice.”
Refusing to get our hands dirty in the messy pursuit of justice only ends up staining them with guilt. Oh God, have mercy on us!
These callous hearts of ours must be changed! We must beg God to kindle godly anger in our hearts. For in a world wrought with racism, violence, corruption, crooked justice systems, oppression, exploitation, and abuse, it is the heat of angry love that will enflame our resolve to keep contending for justice.
But while we engage, we must look to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as our ultimate hope. For in the darkest hours of history—when it seemed like evil had triumphed—it was Christ’s suffering that won redemption and vanquished evil. The cross brings hope to the mistreated, for while evil plagues the earth, Christ’s victory ensures that justice will prevail. And the cross brings hope to the guilty, for God’s mercy is great enough to cover even the most heinous sins.
If you are buckling under the pain of injustice, remember that Jesus sympathizes with you. If you are fearful, find hope in your Victorious King. And if you are guilty—complacent towards or complicit in evil—turn to Christ for forgiveness. While we have breath, it is never too late to repent and receive His mercy.
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