HAVE YOU ANY RIGHT TO BE ANGRY?
J. N. Manokaran
Anger is a common human emotion. There are various degrees of anger and it is expressed in various ways. It could be a violent reaction, suppression, sulking, murmuring, etc. The Bible also has records of a few people who were angry with God. Their anger was justified from their own perspective, but God says that these people do not have any basis for anger against Him. Here are some of the biblical characters who were angry: Cain was angry that Abel’s offering was accepted by God and not his. The elder brother, in the well known parable of the prodigal son, was angry with his father and brother, and did not join the celebration. Jonah was upset that God had forgiven the citizens of the wicked city, Nineveh. He sat outside the city in a dharna (strike) against God. The workers in the vineyard who came in the first batch in the morning were angry that, while the owner of the vineyard gave the agreed wages, he gave the same to the late-comers also.
In all these contexts, people reacted in their respective way. What were they upset about? What provoked them to be angry?
God’s mercy to someone creates anger in the minds of ‘righteous’ people. The ‘righteous’ think that they do not deserve any mercy. Unfortunately, they do not remember they are righteous only because of God’s grace and forgiveness. Jonah could not digest the fact or imagine that God could forgive the citizens of a wicked city. According to Jonah’s understanding, the wicked city deserved God’s punishment and judgment and not His mercy and forgiveness. The elder son also was upset that his father could show mercy to his younger brother, who had wasted all his inheritance and assets by unwise and imprudent ways.
The workers who arrived in the first batch had agreed to the minimum wages. There were other batches of workers who came later. But in the evening, the owner gave equal wages to all. There was no special consideration for the first batch of workers, who toiled the whole day. The boss was fulfilling his contract to the first batch of workers, as he had promised. He gave equal wages to others who came later out of his own volition.
The first batch of workers thought they should not be treated at par with the later workers. They also imagined that their wages would be increased as late-comers received the amount promised to them. So, they could not accept the ‘generosity’ of their master to others. In fact, they were envious of co-labourers who were paid equally with them.
Cain could not understand how God could approve his younger sibling’s sacrifice and ignore his. He behaved as if God had to get prior permission from Cain before He could approve anyone else.
God’s paradigm of justice, love, and mercy is not the same as understood from a human perspective. To measure God’s dealings with finite human mind and wisdom is a risk worth avoiding. His justice is based on His holiness, righteousness and wisdom that takes all hidden (to humans) and unhidden contexts into consideration. His love is unfathomable as nobody can measure its breadth, length and depth. God’s mercy is bestowed upon those who are undeserving according to the human value system, with the intention of transformation of human beings. So, to understand God’s dealings becomes complex and incomprehensible.
Christian maturity is to have absolute trust in God. His sovereign will and rule, His grace, His justice, His love, His goodness and His wisdom are perfect. So there is no injustice meted out. Trusting God in all circumstances is the result of absolute surrender. Christian maturity also alters the attitude towards others. Others in the kingdom of God are not seen as competitors or rivals. Jonah could not accept the new believers in the living God from the city of Nineveh. The first batch of labourers could not accept the new batch of workers on an equal footing. Learning to accept others as God accepts them is an important step in faith and maturity.
Self-centred Vs God-centred
Christian attitude is developed from God-centred thinking. As long as ‘self’ is the centre of thinking, it sees apparent imperfection. This is due to blurred and clouded vision. Human thinking in itself is imperfect, as it has been tainted by sin. So, perfect perception is not there. Hence, Christians should learn to have ‘God-centred’ thinking—which is a step in faith.
Anger against God has no real basis. It is based on assumptions, wrong perceptions, imaginations and misunderstanding about God’s faithfulness. God’s wisdom, timing and love are perfect and He cannot commit any mistake, wrong or evil. Accepting God’s mindset and embracing others as He does is a difficult, but exciting task.