You don’t hear me preach much about “the God of anger” on Sundays, as I prefer to emphasize the “God of love” in my sermons. Certainly, the entirety of the biblical witness describes God primarily as “loving grace,” despite the fact that the church, for centuries, has used the image of a vengeful, punitive God to “scare the hell” out of people and enforce compliance with the rules and expectations of the church. There are, however, many instances in the Hebrew Bible and even in the New Testament in which God’s “anger” takes center stage. The question is, “what provokes the “wrath” of God and is that “righteous indignation” ever justified even by the followers of the Prince of Peace.
It is clear that the thing that really makes God’s mad is injustice. Even more so, injustice perpetrated or supported in God’s name and by those who claim to be God’s people gets God’s blood boiling. Just a few of the dozens of relevant biblical texts are found in the prophets Amos, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Amos said in 5:21 in response to those who were abusing their own people, “I despise your feasts and take no delight in your solemn assemblies” The epitome of God’s righteous indignation against religious hypocrisy at the expense of the poor, the oppressed, the most needy and most vulnerable is described in Isaiah Chapter 58. Please read that chapter in its entirety as you reflect on the latest current events. Even Jesus, at times, could not hold back his anger when it came to taking advantage of the most vulnerable and powerless. When he overturned the money changer’s tables in the Temple he was calling out economic injustice. He could have just as easily been in a modern payday lending office.
Yes, the God I know is a God of love but this same God seems to have a pretty short fuse when it comes to using his/her name in defense of doing things which hurt other people, especially the “least of these.” One of our own government officials recently appealed to the Bible to justify the unjustifiable practice of separating children from their parents. I don’t think God would be to happy with this, in fact, I think it would make him downright mad. What makes you mad? Do you get mad when somebody steals your parking place or cheats you out of a few dollars? Maybe we’re getting angry about the wrong things. This past week there has been a groundswell of indignation regarding the separation of immigrant families. The right kind of anger is not necessarily bad. Paul himself said to “be angry and not sin.” I challenge you to become more “Godlike” by getting upset about the things that matter most and then channeling that anger into constructive, redemptive action which can, in small ways, bring some light into the world.