The Interplay of Grace and Anger

During my stint as a Bible College student, I took a class in which we studied the book of Isaiah. The teacher went to great lengths to explain to us the context for which the book was originally written. Much of it had to do with the idea of social justice, and the notion that Israel was falling apart because they stopped taking care of their weak and poor. Isaiah, a prophet, became a vessel of righteous fury as he pronounced the coming doom waiting to befall the jaded nation.

Our teacher went on to say something that has always stuck with me… “Many of you may have trouble grasping that kind of anger. It isn’t every day you experience true, burning, fury. And that’s okay. You’re young. You haven’t witnessed the travesties the world can hoist upon the poor and unsuspecting. One day, you’ll find something that you can’t abide. You’ll learn something so gut-wrenching, the only response that seems real is to fight back.”

Despite the presence of thirty-five other students, he was speaking directly to my soul. I grew up in the church. I’ve gone to the conventions, heard the impassioned pleas to get involved, I’ve read the pamphlets. And yet, I’ve never been driven to act. Aborted babies? Starving children? The homeless? The gays? Animal cruelty? I keep waiting for something to finally push me over the edge, I keep waiting for something to make me angry enough that I feel the need to do something about it. Instead, the best I can muster is sympathy for those that have been wronged.

I’m smart. I know there are starving kids in Africa, I know there are homeless right here in Knoxville. I know that animals are being badly treated somewhere, I know that Wal-Mart and a terrifyingly large number of corporations are evil. I know that more and more I count America as one of them. For years, I’ve been aware of these things, and my response was to shrug and chalk it up to the system. I’ve struggled with cynicism for years, and it seems my righteous fury was the first casualty.

Lately though, things have been changing. Warming my face in the beams of God’s grace has begun to light a fire in my heart that I’ve not felt in a very long time. The radically minded high school student I used to be is beginning to break through the shell of my heart and whisper subversive thoughts into my ear. For the first time in ages, I’m feeling my stomach clench when I examine how our politicians are failing us for the sake of another digit in their bank account. I’m beginning to see the barrage of advertisements we swim through every day as the mental sludge that keeps us from being beautiful.

It seems that Grace and Anger go hand in hand. You can’t truly experience one without realizing your outstanding need for the other.  And this is what Jesus wants for us: To be so utterly fed up with this world that we’re willing to do something to fix it. I find myself wanting to watch “Fight Club” and read “Culture Jam” by Kalle Lasn. I suggest you do the same and we’ll meet back here next week.

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4 responses to “The Interplay of Grace and Anger

  1. When I was at the NACC (North American Christian Convention) there was a workshop I went to where the preacher tim harlow had a series called “What Would Jesus Hate” and he said as he read the gospels with the mind set of what is it that jesus wouldn’t like he discovered that it seems that while Jesus never hated anyone he did hate anything that that got in the way of his love. The pharisees whom he denounced as a brood of vipers, he said were the blind leading the the blind. The teachers of the law to whom he declared “woe” he said had the key to knowledge yet would they not enter nor would they let anyone else in. When the disciples told the children to get away from Jesus he became “indignant” (angry) and said if you cause one of these little ones to sin you’re going to wish i had given you a 2 ton neck tie and thrown you in the ocean. I remember the old preacher at our church quoting the KJV where it said “be ye angry! yet in your anger do not sin.” The bible speaks of man’s anger vs God’s righteous anger. God is described as a jealous God. Jealousy always seems so negative to us but it’s normally when we are jealous of/for something that does not belong to us that it’s negative. When God is jealous it’s for things he does deserve and things which he does have the right to own or take for himself. As the song goes “he is Jealous for me.”

    If I may suggest don’t just watch fight club or just read culture jam. For one thing I know you’ve already read/watched those and sometimes we want to go back to times and recreate moments when we felt like we had it all together, I know i do. I love the song by Denison Mars talking about Jesus how he always knew “when when to love, when to rage and when to keep your cool.” I’ve been trying to venture into uncharted spiritual territtory at least for myself and read the gospels and learn something new about the charecter of God/Jesus/ the Holy Spirit that way i will know when to love and when to hate and when to keep my cool.

    • I was thinking of that song as I wrote parts of this. You’re right about recreating old feelings/moments. I’ve started re-reading Culture Jam and I still heartily agree with everything the author says, but it’s just not lighting a fire in my belly the way it used to. I guess at this point the only thing I can think to do is pray that God helps me identify the causes that he wants to make mine. I know the world is filled with injustice and it’s not hard to find, but what do you do when your base reaction to it is to shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to the world being a sucky place?

  2. I will be the first to admit that most of what I do on the internet is materialistic. The main exceptions are reading about people who have gone truly moneyless, mainly Mark Boyle in the UK and Daniel Suelo in Utah. So inspirational! Your post made me think of them. Mark’s blog is at Justfortheloveofit.org and Daniel is at sites.google.com/site/livingwithoutmoney.

    No problem with righteous fury here. I think I may have been born that way! Hoping to get past the righteous fury to more love and peace.

  3. Pingback: Seasons « Hunting for God·

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