I have put off writing on wrath for as long as I could, and a little longer, because it is not one I want to write about. While the other topics I felt some leading one way or another, this one I simply don’t. It would be easy to write it as “don’t be angry.” That misses the problem entirely. It also disobeys the command to be angry but not sin.
*edit: it has been pointed out to me that I should note here that the reason I am not particularly interested in thus topic is that I am not particularly wrathful right now although it might sound that way from the writing.*
I have always like that particular command. Be angry and do not sin. Another way to translate it could be (though I warn you my Greek is rusty), “be exasperated, but don’t miss the mark.” Or, if we wanna go really loose on it, “Be angry, but only the right amount of angry, about the right things, for the right reasons, at the right time.” Wrath then becomes getting the wrong amount of angry or getting angry about the wrong things or getting angry for the wrong reason or getting angry at the wrong time.
Now is when I could start listing all the ways to do this wrong. I could throw in some of the tweets from First World Problems as witty examples of how we get it wrong. It would be a self-indicting. Rather than that I would like to present an example of what it looks like to get anger right.
“The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, ‘Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!’
‘And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me.
So the Jews replied to Him, ‘What sign of authority will You show us for doing these things?’
Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.’
Therefore the Jews said, ‘This sanctuary took 46 years to build, and will You raise it up in three days?’
But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made.”
I often times see the sister passage to this from Matthew used and quoted, but I think there is a key part of this passage from John 2 that stands out to me:
“After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!”
And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”
Here is how I think this demonstrates the criteria that is implied by Paul. Jesus is “consumed by zeal” because people are peddling salvation–the right amount of angry. He is angry about God’s house being turned into a marketplace where people can buy peace of mind instead of being a place to worship God for the salvation that only Christ’s death could buy–angry about the right things. He is angry because He loves His Father, certainly, but also because this practice led people not towards God, but away from Him–angry for the right reasons. And Jesus doesn’t jump straight into action nor does He wait until tomorrow, He sits down and weaves a whip of chords then drives them out–angry at the right time.
I can’t say I have ever met all four of these criteria–in fact, I can say with confidence I never have–but I am going to continue to lean on God’s grace and pray for wisdom.