On Anger as Love

One of the lines I have used from my wife’s counseling background is that couples who are fighting have a much better chance in marriage counseling then couples who are no longer speaking to each other.  Her point is that the couples who are arguing still believe there is something worth fighting for.  In our therapeutic culture, we have attempted to scrub anything that would suggest anger.  Thereby creating an unbridgeable chasm between love and anger.  The result, however, is that we have created a tepid society that embraces passivity instead of passion.

Where this shift is most noticeable, and actually detrimental, is within the church.  American Christianity has scrubbed most references to God’s wrath, due to our unease and pop-pyschology inability to understand how love requires anger and evil to exist.  Popularly this is witnessed in Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, Carlton Pearson’s shift towards a Gospel of Inclusion, the PC(USA)’s Hymnal Debate about In Christ Alone, and the lack of robust training on theodicy, evil, Satan, and Hell in major seminaries in America.

In his commentary on Mark’s Gospel, however, Tim Keller wonderfully describes the necessity of God’s wrath, and how if God is good, then he must be angry at evil.

The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God.  Please think about it.  Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it.  In fact the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get.  Have you noticed that?  When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad.  If you see people abusing themselves, you get made at them, out of love.  Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other…the more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved.  And the greater the harm, the more resolute your opposition will be…If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil–angry enough to do something about it.

Rather than scrubbing evil out of our theology, we actually need to acknowledge and identify where evil exists.  There would be no story of redemption without the Serpent, Pharaoh or Judas (who Karl Barth once called the second most important character in the Bible).  Denying their importance, undercuts the story of God’s loving grace.

This is why most of American Christianity has become passive, limp, uninspiring and pointless.  Removing evil, anger, wrath, hell and Satan from our vocabulary has turned the Christian faith into a therauptic dullness with neither a motivating anger nor the comfort of true love. Instead, this tepid faith becomes like a lithium pill to dull our senses and experiences, removing any challenge to live a life worthy of the gospel.

This weekend, I joined 160 other men of F3 to view the Lone Survivor.  As we silently left the movie theater, I was shocked and bothered by the brutality of war.  Then God put John 15:13 on my mind that “Greater love has no one than this; to lay down his life for his brother.”  This sacrificial demonstration of love requires the existence of evil!

As one friend commented after the movie:  “Evil exists, and will win over good unless men place themselves firmly in harm’s way with intent to wreak havoc.”

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