People might expect a pastor to say the Bible says anger is a bad thing. Let me say the opposite. In this case, you should be angry. For so many reasons. You should be angry that an image bearer of God was violently attacked. You should be angry that he was attacked for no good reason. You should be angry that an innocent person was beaten. You should be angry that seven people thought that ganging up on one person was not unfair or wrong. You should be angry for the racism behind this as some of the attackers mock the Chinese kid for not speaking English. You should be very angry about this.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. -- Ephesians 4:26-27
There absolutely are things that should make us angry. And this is one of them. But in our anger, we must be sure we do not sin.
Let anger lead you to...
Like any emotion, anger was designed by God. In fact, God feels angry at sinful things. Like other emotions, anger is designed to stir us to something good. For example, the emotion of love can stir us to encourage one another and serve one another. The emotion of fear can stir us to wear our seat-belts and not text while driving. The emotion of anger should also stir us to good. When you are angry, make sure you channel that anger into something good. What should my anger at this act of violence lead me to do? Here are some examples...
- If you know the victim, let your anger drive you to actually do something for him. Call him, encourage him, support him. Do something for him.
- If you know someone who has been treated similarly, let your anger drive you to do something for them.
- Let your anger at this act of violence, bullying, and racism drive you to stand against other acts of violence, bullying, and racism. Cut your friends off when they start telling racist jokes. Defend the kid at school that everyone picks on, get your friends to stop bullying them, and befriend them. Don't look the other way when this stuff happens at your school, go get a teacher or security guard or someone to help.
- Let your anger drive you to seek justice. If you know the people responsible, call the police and tell them what you know. If you don't know who did this, write a letter or E-mail to the mayor and the appropriate police department insisting that they find all of the attackers and hold them accountable.
- Let your anger drive you to God in prayer over this matter. Pray that God would bring justice and aid the police in finding the attackers. Pray that God would help the victim to heal physically, emotionally, and mentally. Pray for the victim spiritually that he would turn to God in this ordeal and find comfort from Him.
- Let your anger drive you to desire the attackers to be changed people who would see the error of their ways. Let your anger drive you to pray for them.
Don't let anger drive you to...
However, just like our other emotions, anger can be perverted and lead us to sin. For example, the emotion of love can be twisted into obsession to the point where two people become each others' worlds and they stop spending time with family and friends. The emotion of fear can be taken to an extreme that is crippling and prevents a person from ever getting in a car out of fear of having an accident. Likewise, anger can be taken to an extreme and twisted into something awful. Specifically, anger often leads to two sinful things: Hate and Revenge. We get it twisted in our heads and sometimes it feels right to hate people and seek to hurt them back. But listen to what God's Word has to say about this...
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." -- Matthew 5:43-45
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -- Romans 12:19-21
God commands us to love. Not just those who are good to us, but even the bad people, even our enemies. This is demonstrated by our actions. This is shown by doing good things for our enemies like feeding them, clothing them, caring for them, and praying for them. This is a difficult thing to do, especially for people who do things as heinous as the violence in this video. But this is what God commands us to do.
God also commands us to leave revenge in His hands and not to take it into our own hands. Revenge is something that we humans simply cannot handle properly. Its not a bad thing in and of itself, but its just beyond our capabilities to do right. How much revenge is enough? Who gets revenge and who gets mercy? When should revenge be served? We in our anger and with our imperfect way of thinking just can't handle that. Revenge is like a scalpel. In the hands of a surgeon, it can be used to remove sickness and make us well. In the hands of a freshman in high school, a scalpel is just plain dangerous. Things will not end well for that patient and more harm will be caused than good. Revenge in the hands of God, who knows perfectly how to use it, is a good thing. But revenge in our hands is a terrible thing that causes more harm than good.
So make sure that your anger does not lead you to hate or to revenge. What should I stay away from? Here are some examples...
- Don't say things like, "They should burn for this"
- Don't desire to see the attackers punished because you want them to suffer. You should only desire for them to be punished because you want them to change and never do that again. Think of your child or younger sibling, cousin, nephew, etc. When they get into a fight for bullying someone at school, you should punish them. But because you love them, you don't punish them because you desire them to be in pain and because you desire to torture them. You punish them so that they can learn that this behavior is unacceptable and is taken seriously and they need to change.
- Don't go looking for these people to start your own fight with them.
- Don't pray that God would send them to Hell. Pray that God would change them by His grace through Christ as Saul who murdered Christians was transformed into Paul who served Jesus til the day he died.
I really am shaken up and angry about this attack on this poor kid. And you should be too. But we need to make sure that our anger leads us to the right actions and not the wrong ones. We need to love these attackers and desire for them to be punished so that they would change. More important than external change of behavior, we should desire for them to repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus to be saved. We must leave revenge in God's hands and not take it into our own. We should let our anger at this act drive us to stop acts of bullying and racism in our own lives, do what we can to stop it in our schools, workplaces, and other circles, and befriend those who are victims of such things.
Finally, lets take our attention off of this story for a moment and think about the issue of anger in our own personal lives. Who has wronged you or people you love, whether recently or ages ago? Are you angry? What are you allowing your anger to drive you to? Is it driving you to respond in a godly way? Is it driving you to hate or revenge? What do you need to do in order to be angry, but not sin?
As always, let me hear your thoughts on this. And may God bring healing in every way to the victim in that video and give him deeper hope in Jesus or new hope in Jesus if he does not yet believe. May God aid the police and authorities in bringing justice on the attackers so that their violence can be stopped and their actions can be corrected. May God help all of us to stop violence, bullying, and racism in our own words and actions and to stand against it everywhere we go. And may God do what He deems right in the area of revenge and may we trust it into His hands entirely.