“You can’t have righteous anger without holy fear.”
Would you go to a dentist or a doctor who had no training? Could you trust someone who didn’t have experience with the tools of the trade? Could you – having never touched one before – pick up a chainsaw and create a beautiful ice sculpture? Probably not. These might seem like silly examples but I believe anger is one of those things that is like a tool that requires some training and a lot of care when using. It’s easy to get angry. Anger eagerly follows every offense – whether real or perceived. As Christians, we toss around this idea of ‘righteous anger’. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I’m just saying it’s a tool we better get some training on before we start hacking something up.
The root of righteous anger is that it isn’t about me. If I’m angry because of an offense to myself – it’s very likely not righteous anger. I’m too close – its too personal. As much as I’d like to cry foul and see vengeance repaid…can I really say my motives are righteous?
“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.” Romans 12:19 NLT
Perhaps God is the only one truly capable of wielding something like righteous anger. Oh, we get close. Even an unbeliever can see injustice and fight for the downtrodden and abused. We can read about children being raped and beaten and people being sold as sex slaves and we can get close to real righteous anger. But how easily we cross the line to hatred and judgement and lack of compassion and lose the righteousness. You see, I have to accept the whole truth – not just the parts that work for me. And God’s truth is that the perpetrator of such offenses is also forgivable, lovable and redeemable. Oftentimes, that is just too big for me to handle!
That’s where Holy Fear comes in. The fear of the Lord is a recognition of who He is. It is the act of giving reverence to a God who is capable of governing life and death, of healing broken things, of speaking to the wind and making it obey, of holding the sun in the sky, of loving the unlovable and forgiving those who deserve anger and vengeance. It is recognizing how much lower than Him we are and the audacity of us to try to wear His shoes.
If we don’t know God and have a healthy reverence for all that He is and is capable of – we can’t possibly know how to even recognize righteous anger let alone wield it.
Yes, you will be offended. Today. Many times. And anger will be there to keep you company. It’s a powerful thing. But only inasmuch as you give it power. So consider your heart and mind and tread carefully when you get angry. Remember that God is a very powerful God who really understands anger – so much better than you and I. Can you trust Him? Hand that over to Him and see what He will do. I can guarantee you it will be righteous!