Some images of God are better than others.
A popular motif for deity is one of wrath and anger. Ready to smite and punish for any and all infractions. Walking on eggshells was invented for being around this type of god. This is a god that requires total and complete submission with no questions asked. Who are we to ask why this god does what this god does?
Another popular theme is the happy go lucky, everything is copasetic deity. This god loves us and nothing we can do gets under this god’s skin. There is no right or wrong, there is only now and that now is filled with a groovy kind of love. This god has a tie dyed t-shirt and bears a strange resemblance to Jerry Garcia. Not sure why.
There are all sorts of gods in the middle of those extremes. I’m partial to the wrath and anger god. It fits me and my style. Sad, but true.
What I like about Jesus is that wrong things make him angry, livid even. He doesn’t walk around with peace t-shirt or love beads. When religious business keeps non-Jewish people from being able to worship God in the Temple, Jesus goes on a tear to make room for them. Jesus is not a big fan of religious practices that exclude people looking for God from worship.
What I really like is what Jesus does when he gets really mad. In Mark 3 the Pharisees were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal a man with a shriveled hand. Jesus asks the question of whether or not it is okay to do good on the Sabbath. They won’t answer him. Jesus is angry. Really angry.
Now, if I were Jesus, I’d blow them to bits. Then I’d ask another Pharisee the same question. His knees are knocking and he squeaks out a pitiful whisper of an answer and says, “To do good and give life??” Looking straight through him with my eyes of wrath, I’d say, “Is that a question or an answer?!” (This would sound a lot like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry)
“An answer?” He timidly replies. BOOM!!! Toasted Pharisee.
Thankfully, I’m not Jesus and Jesus doesn’t act like me. Jesus’ anger is not directed at the doubting, antagonistic Pharisees. His anger doesn’t destroy, it heals. He heals the man’s hand. One pastor said that Jesus was “beautifully angry.” I agree.
There are things that should make us angry: extreme poverty, human trafficking, slavery, oppression, war, and a lack of adequate drinking water to name a few.
What if our anger was not directed at people in the forms of protests and boycotts, or pointing a finger of blame for why something is or
is not happening, and we worked at making things better?
What if our anger drove us to heal and redeem and restore?
What would people see when they looked at us when we are angry and instead of signs and bullhorns there was an outpouring of good, kind, and gracious actions making things better?
There are enough people out there that really like the vengeful and wrath-filled God. And why not? It appeals to our sense of justice. It appeals to our desire for power and authority. I want God to deal firmly with sin and sinners. I want vindication. I want justice.
The more I think about it though, the more thankful I am that Jesus doesn’t give me what I deserve. Jesus looked at me, the chief of sinners, and had mercy on me. Instead of punishment or ridicule, he reached out and lifted me to new life. He forgave my horrible sins. He did not treat me as I deserved, but gave me mercy. His anger at sin restored me and gave me new life.
I think I could live with that kind of anger. What about you?