Injustice tears at our souls. When we sense inequity in treatment, anger surges within us. We cry for reprisal, and strike out in anger. Our will to forgive fades, eclipsed by “righteous” anger. When the injustice gains paradigmatic status in our mind, we conclude that the overwhelming wrong merits an equal and violent response. We shout, we throw, we do what we think we must do to register our complaint. We have witnessed, and have experienced the consequences of such thinking. The thinking described here drives terrorists to destroy; such anger sparks outbreaks of anarchy. It also ignites social change and religious revolution; the Boston Tea Party and Jesus’ overturning the vendors’ tables in the temple come to mind. The positive responses remain focused in targeting. When people and properties that had no connection with the perceived injustice are damaged, then the Christian must pause and pray, “God, what is your will? What should I do? What words and what actions will produce results most in alignment with your will? Subdue my anger and strengthen my faith in your power to bring justice and exact revenge.”
How does one pray when it seems more productive to ask for ammunition? How does one forgive when the safety of one’s family seems at risk? The angry laments of Psalms 13 and 137 come to mind; the latter psalm inspires praise songs with its beginning, but horrifies with its final call to dash the enemy’s own babies against rocks. Anger has a place in prayer. When we voice anger or lament in prayer, we reflect; we may gain more insight into the validity or fallacy of our petition. Taking a moment to pray and to review facts may reveal more productive avenues for action, courses of action that reconcile rather than avenge.
Working for justice demands taking the time to learn what is right and what is true in the circumstance that arouses our anger. Job’s grieving and painful cries for a hearing from God resolve into an awareness of God’s power and justice. Habakkuk’s horror at social injustice within his own society and disbelief that God would use pagans to execute his will end in faith that God’s will works for justice, even when we cannot see the righteousness in the resolution.
God, open our eyes to your will. Calm our fears and our anger so that we may review facts more fairly. Sharpen our sense of justice so that we may discern rightly when a call for action overrides surrender to compromise. Help us to love and to forgive when we feel hated and abused. Stop us from destroying when you want us to build hope and opportunity. Drive us to remove what precludes reconciliation or denies truth. Mold us into a people that truly are your own. In Jesus’ name, Amen.