Righteous Anger and Spiritual Abuse

jesus anger angryIn their excellent book, Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse, Justin Humphreys and Lisa Oakley discuss at one point the reality and pain of anger that can be felt as someone realises things are not as they should be.

Anger is often a taboo subject in churches – leading to a false sense of peace – and yet Jesus himself got angry. In Matthew 21:12-13 we read, in the context of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King (leading on to his death and resurrection) of a surprisingly violent set of actions that the Prince of Peace enters into:

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’

Jesus is rightly angry, and references Isaiah 56:7 to make his point. He appropriately and firmly references the Bible in such a way as to bring light into the darkness of what is going on in God’s house, the temple. The actions are proportionate to the problem – his anger is directed at the items and not the individuals, perhaps suggesting that merely blaming the person doing wrong is not enough. I loved the way that Justin and Lisa explained this little picture in their book:

In the Bible there is the story of Jesus being angry in the Temple (Matthew 21). We often tell this story by using the term ‘righteous anger’. This makes Jesus’ behaviour acceptable and our own anger unacceptable. However, what we see in the story is behaviour hap­ pening in God’s house which is not representative of God or of how his people should be treated. Jesus responds to this with righteous anger. In the same way when people are hurt and abused within churches or Christian communities, righteous anger is an appro­priate response as this behaviour is neither representative of God himself nor how he wishes people to be treated.

It is appropriate to be angry about situations that have resulted in abuse. Anger at the brokenness of the world that infects everything, even the church, and, yes, people who should know better. The reason for this is simple: “this behaviour is neither representative of God himself nor how he wishes people to be treated“. I would encourage anyone thinking through these issues to check out Justin and Lisa’s book, which I reviewed here.

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