(Note: This post, even more than most of my other posts, reflects a thought in development. It is not a definitive statement of my opinion for all time, nor should it be read as any sort of authoritative teaching. It’s crazy that any blog post should need a disclaimer like this, but such is the reality of the internet. I do, however, think I might be right, and would love to hear your opinion in the comment section below.
Also, Warning: this post mentions the existence of—but does not describe—homicide, rape, starvation, and human trafficking.)
“You know, I don’t think I can even imagine you getting angry.”
One of my friends told me this last week, echoing a sentiment I’ve been told my whole life. And it’s true; I’ve never been very good at being angry.
My lack of rage is partly due to my naturally laid-back personality, but I think it also has deep roots in my understanding of God.
As a kid, I grew up thinking that anger was sinful, that if I got mad God would get mad at me. In other words, I avoided getting angry for the same reason I avoided any other sin—because I imagined God as constantly on the verge of losing his temper, and didn’t want to be one of those “sinners in the hands of an angry God.”
When I transitioned into adulthood, my picture of God shifted drastically. In college—perhaps for the first time—I learned that God wasn’t some cranky old man in the sky; God was love, grace, and unrelenting compassion. So I continued eschewing anger in my pursuit of godliness; if God wasn’t angry, I shouldn’t be either.
Here’s the thing, though: as I’ve been rethinking a lot of my assumptions about anger lately, I’ve come to a startling conclusion.
God is angry.
God has to be angry.
Now don’t worry; this is still a blog about God’s hospitality. I don’t think God is essentially or primarily angry. God’s identity is still love, compassion, hospitality eternally. It’s that eternal hospitality that necessitates God’s anger. A loving God must also be angry.
Let me show you what I mean:
Imagine a mother who returns home from work to find out that one of her sons had been gunned down in the street, another had been starved to death, one of her daughters had been raped, while the other had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.
Can you imagine that same woman not getting angry? I can’t. In fact, I’d say that any parent for whom this kind of news produces no anger is either psychologically unsound or utterly unloving.
And yet, each of these tragedies befalls God’s children every single day, and we expect God not to be angry? What kind of God is that? A God who cannot get angry is not a loving God.
Let me be clear: God is not abusive. Anger wrongly expressed is abuse. But, as the illustration above highlights, a refusal to get angry can be neglect, a passive form of abuse. A God who does not anger is an abusive God.
Likewise, the belief in a God who cannot be angered produces a community that has no idea what to do with its anger. Just as a community who worships an abusively angry God is likely to perpetuate abuse, a community that worships an anger-less God is likely to perpetuate neglect.
So I’m not ok with a God who can’t get angry. And I’m no longer ok with my own inability to get angry.
I’m not done thinking or writing about this topic—I’m sure I have at least a couple posts left in me, reflecting more on what makes God angry and how we can learn to share in God’s anger—but I’m sincerely interested in your input.
What do you think? Can God be angry? If so, does that give us the right to be angry? How does your (or your community’s) understanding of God’s anger (or lack thereof) shape your actions?