The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Living in the Age of Rage

On Sunday, June 16, my sermon was about living in an age of anger. Many people identified with my assessments of our culture.

Based on theses responses, I’m providing some  general quotes on anger, followed by Ronald Rolheiser’s 3 characteristics of “honest”  anger – anger that does not cross the line to sin.

From Daniel Goleman, in Emotional Intelligence:

Quoting Aristotle, “Anyone can become angry.  That is easy.  But to be angry with the right person to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and the right way, this is not easy. [p. IX]

 The testiness of our society can be seen in the shift from saying to one another, “Have a nice day,” to “Make my day. [p. XI].

Being prone to anger is a stronger predictor of dying young than are habits of smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. [p. 170]

From Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk:

Quoting John Climacus:  “If it is true that the Holy Spirit is peace of soul, and if anger is disturbance of the heart, then there is no greater obstacle to the presence of the spirit in us, than anger. p. 137

anger 1

In an effort to understand how anger might be an appropriate response to events in our lives,  people often ask about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple.  Wasn’t Jesus angry?  And Paul adds “Be angry, but sin not” (Ephesians 4:26).  From these two biblical references, can’t we assume that some anger is not sin?  Can’t we assume that some anger is appropriate?  Clearly the answer is yes.  But I’d point you back to the Aristotle quote above.  Appropriate anger is a balancing act of character and spiritual discipline.

Ronald Rolheiser, in   Against An Infinite Horizon,  gives us three characteristics of “honest anger”(appropriate, Christian anger that does not cross the line to sin).   He says that honest anger:

1. Does not distort – It has no need to resort to “always/never” language to make its point.  It doesn’t need to spin the story to justify itself.  And it does ot need to lie to gain sympathy.

If we are all honest, our worst angers tempt us to do each of these things.  Honest anger resists them if so tempted.

2.  Does not rage – Using the cleansing of the temple as our example, Jesus was not trying to destroy anyone;, rather, his basic motive was to restore worship as it should be.  Honest anger may create a temporary disturbance, but it is for the purpose of justice, restoration, or reconciliation. Honest anger wants to make things right.

Rage wants to break something, hurt someone, or retaliate for an injury done.  Rage’s primary motive is to hurt.

3.  Has a time limit – Paul says don’t let the sun go down on our anger.  A primary example of the Holy Spirit working in our lives is self control.   Rage controls us.  Honest anger, however, can be limited by self control and submitting to the Holy Spirit.  Anger that does not respond to our desire to stop, must be sinful.  (pp. 168-170)

Consequently, can we be angry and “sin not?’  Can our anger be righteous indignation and, therefore, NOT sin?  The answer to both questions is “yes.”  But don’t expect it to be easy.  Don’t expect to be able to rationalize all your personal anger as “honest.”

Perhaps these summary thoughts can help in spiritual discipline or preparation to teach or preach about anger.


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