“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ...”
~Ephesians 4:15 (NRSV)
The subject of anger within Christian circles is an enticing one. In a world that provides so many stimuli for anger, and within our humanity that bonds us to anger as a common emotional response, we can try too hard to live ‘nice’ Christian lives.
We want to be loving, caring, patient, and gentle with people, glorifying God in our bodies, yet there are a myriad of factors that will still anger us. It’s not always appropriate to repress such feelings. It’s definitely not beneficial. Unheard anger spills over into the streets of our lives in some of the most unpredictable ways.
Besides, ‘nice’ Christians—by their mismanagement and lack of processing of their anger—will not mature in the faith. And they will misrepresent their God. And, the humbling thing is, we all will do it from time to time.
Getting Beyond ‘Nice’ Christianity
Perhaps there’s nothing that denigrates the Christian faith so covertly as the duplicity of heart, which is expressed in the lack of will or ability to be authentic.
Being authentic, and specifically wrangling with our anger, requires courage. It requires a level of being comfortable within ourselves—in our skin—and open to our own enquiry.
The entire Christian lifestyle requires courage—much more courage than going the world’s flippant, often fence-sitting way. We are required, many times, to make a gentle stand on things, and many times we might be taken as angry. We may even get angry. Anger, for the right thing, which is righteous indignation, is not a bad thing; indeed God blesses it, if we can speak the truth in love. Our anger often compels us to stand up and speak the truth. Again, God goes before us and blesses our steps.
Lukewarm ambivalence is not a thing blessed by the Lord (Revelation 3:15-16) and when we cannot get beyond our nice Christianese we miss the mark almost as much is if we got uncontrollably angry and hurt people.
It may be impossible to have any intimate relationships and not get angry. We will get angry. The key is to have measures that help us manage our anger so people don’t get hurt. And we ought not to be ashamed of our anger—it’s a trick of the enemy to get us thinking that way.
Being ‘nice’ Christians, who repress our anger, is not the answer. Denial is dangerous. It is God’s will that we speak the truth in love, and by living truthfully we meet our anger where it sits. We confess it. We process it patiently. And we forgive ourselves, as God does, when we get it wrong.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.