Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Righteous Anger Is A Grieving Anger

So I'm reading the Gospel of Mark now, partly spurred on by a book a friend gave me that attempts to interpret the gospel account through an existential lens. The result, of course, is stripping Christ of His divinity and his kingly reign.

But as Bible-believing Christians know, Mark's gospel is anything but a picture of a confused, befuddled postmodern Christ.

So I thought I'd camp out in Mark for a while, reading and re-reading the entire Gospel over the next few weeks.

Here's something that struck me the other day from the third chapter (vv. 1-6):

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, [1] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Jesus looked at the Pharisees with anger, a response with which we can readily identify. Or can we? My anger would likely be an indignant, sinful human anger, full of nothing but rage.

Yet notice Jesus's anger is not a sinful anger of man. It's an anger accompanied by, complemented by, and tempered with grief over the hardness of heart caused by sin.

Jesus does not go on to angrily rail against the Pharisees.

Yes, there are plenty of times where Jesus does preach woe unto the Pharisees and does call them to repent. But here Jesus simply goes on to heal the man with the withered hand, determined to do the will of the Father and to do what his fiercest critics are so obsessively fixed on Him not doing: violating manmade laws about the Sabbath, laws the Pharisees made and kept in order to appear righteous before men.

Here Jesus did good on the Sabbath. Here Jesus saved life on the Sabbath. In response, the Pharisees went out and "immediately held counsel" about how to assassinate the Lord of glory. It is never lawful to hold counsel to murder the innocent, yet the Pharisees are so fixed in their hatred of Christ that they set to work on the conspiracy to kill him on the Sabbath day they professed to hold more strictly than others.

Indeed, the Pharisees were demonstrating the anger of man, which does not produce the righteousness of God but rather fixates on death and destruction.

By contrast, Jesus's righteous anger is just. It is directed at those who stubbornly oppose the gracious work of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Yet it is an anger that is not a blind and unremitting rage. It is an anger coupled with and inseparable from grief over the fatal effects of sin.

Jesus knows His opponents are dead in their sins, under the just wrath of God unless they repent. Jesus is angered at the Pharisees for "shut[ting] the kingdom of heaven in people's face", neither entering themselves "nor allow those who would enter to go in." (Matthew 23:13)

Yet Jesus is grief-stricken at their hardness of heart. Jesus demonstrates that He is slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

How often does my anger exhibit grief over sin? How often do I confuse sinful rage for righteous anger? How many times am I rightfully upset about an injustice but am not motivated to pray for the sinner who commits it? How often do I neglect to cry out for repentance and salvation to evildoers, rather than wish evil and death upon them?

Father, help me to watch my tongue and to guard my heart. Help me to respond to injustice with righteous anger that is demonstrated by grief over hardness of heart caused by sin.

Forgive me of self-righteous, prideful anger that compares myself favorably against other sinners, for I am a sinner saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is He alone that is perfectly righteous, and the righteousness I have is a gift from it, I have not earned it.

Thank you for forgiving me and adopting me into your family. Make my hearts cry be for the lost, including and especially those who in their hardness of heart violently oppose and conspire against the work of the Gospel. In the name of Your Son and my Lord Jesus I pray, Amen.



Sody February 20, 2009 at 3:50 PM  

I think you nailed it with the title, my brother. I don't know that I've heard "righteous anger" defined clearly before, but it seems straightforward and (even better) true to the Word of God.

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