I’ve been teaching a class on Wednesday nights recently over the parables of Jesus. It’s been a simple yet beautiful gathering. We read through these stories Jesus told and discuss what we notice and what intrigues us.
But something has been bothering me over the last several weeks: the “God” character has often been angry. I’m not sure why it’s shocked me the way it has, but it wasn’t something I was expecting. These are not new stories to me. Maybe it’s reading them back to back. Whatever the reason, it has stuck with me recently.
This is not the way I picture God and it’s not the foundational aspect of our relationship. But there it is in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) and the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14) and the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18). God gets frustrated. He speaks angrily.
I certainly don’t believe that’s God’s default setting, but what’s up with that? What gets God riled up? What makes him angry?
Now on the other hand, America is definitely angry. I see it daily as I scroll through Facebook or my Twitter feed. It’s palatable in our political landscape right now. Just watch Fox News or CNBC for a little while. Or take a look at any Trump rally, for goodness sake. His campaign has been successful in large part because pundits did not understand the level at which so many Americans are fed up.
Why are we so angry?
I know why I get angry and honestly it’s kind of embarrassing. I’m an emotional person, so I can get worked up for any number of reasons. The brutal truth is that the reason is rarely any good.
Most of the time it’s self-centeredness. I feel like I’m not getting what I deserve or that I’m doing more than my share. Or my kids are not doing things the way I want them done. Or people are not being respectful of my time and effort.
In my worst moments, I get upset for some pretty stupid reasons. I often look back and laugh at myself. Even worse, sometimes it makes me cry.
But when I look at these stories in Scripture I see a different story. God gets angry, but at much worthier things. He gets frustrated when people refuse to use what they’ve been given, sit things out or hide their talents (Matthew 25). He gets angry when someone acts cruelly toward another when they have experienced grace and forgiveness in powerful ways (Matthew 18). He seems offended when his generous invitations are rejected and people have misplaced priorities (Luke 14).
God gets angry at injustice and abuse of power and mistreatment of the poor and suppression of the truth and all kinds of ways we cause pain and suffering for one another.
I sometimes get angry because my waiter hasn’t refilled my water in the last 5 minutes.
Righteous anger is always about something bigger than myself.
So every time I get frustrated and riled up, I need to ask myself some questions. I need to examine my heart. Even when a new law gets passed that seems to be against my values or a retailer makes a decision about inclusiveness that I think is foolish or a presidential candidate says something colossally stupid.
Am I angry for myself or others?
Is this something God would get angry about?
What would it look like for me to respond in love?
Maybe then I’ll let go of some of my self-centeredness.
Maybe I’ll find myself listening more and talking less.
Maybe I’ll find more grace and forgiveness in my heart.
And maybe I’ll get angry at some causes greater than myself.