Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Be angry but…

It’s not easy to remain unperturbed by the events in our world. As I write this, Boko Haram has attacked another town in Northern Nigeria. Behind the statistics of the dead and wounded are precious lives; fathers, mothers, sons, daughter, friends… 

My cousin’s husband is a soldier stationed in one of those areas, and every day she fears for his life, just as we do too. What’s happening there is unfair and evil. No one deserves such horror, yet innocent people are going through that on a daily basis. What can we do as Christians? Pretend everything is well or seethe with rage?

Some time last year, I became overwhelmed by anger. As I read about the atrocities of Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Shabab, I lost it. I became very bitter. I had just read a survivor’s story of the brutal execution at the hands of one of these groups and I was livid! The whole day I walked around with rage in my heart and great bitterness. Verses from the Bible reminding me of anger and prayers did not dissuade me from this course. I refused to accept Biblical injunctions that said, “pray for your enemies…” I felt like cursing them instead. If I could, I would have prophesied instant and brutal death on them!

And so I continued in my anger. But you see, my anger, justified as it was, was causing me pain. Firstly I was anxious and did not have peace, and consequently I made my environment unhealthy. My poor kids could not deal with my short temper and impatience. It was becoming unwise to remain angry.

So I went to the Lord in prayer and I cried to him about what I was feeling in my heart. I let Him know that it was unfair to pray for the murderers who did not care about their innocent victims. I asked Him why He did not protect those precious innocent lives, I asked Him why He allowed evil to prevail…. After I finished I meditated on some scripture verses which gave me some insight into my questions. But more than anything, I felt relieved of the burden I had carried all along. I left it at the feet of the One who has the power and will to handle it.

So this is what I have learnt about anger. There is nothing wrong in being angry about injustice. Jesus was angry at the oppression of the poor and vulnerable, God too is angry at the acts of wicked people, He hates violence. So there is nothing wrong in being angry, its the right reaction to evil and injustice.

But, in our anger, we are not to take matters into our own hands and sin. In my case, my anger made me impatient with my family members, it also made me judge all Muslims as potential terrorists. But that is not true, Muslims are also victims of these terrorists.

So as justified as our anger is, we need to see the cause of our anger through God’s perspective. And when God tells us to pray for our enemies, He doesn’t want us to pray for them to be blessed. No, not at all!

We have to remember that some of the people who kill innocent people in the name of religion are truly brain-washed people who have been abused by those in authority or their society. Their sense of right and wrong has been fundamentally altered and they cannot be helped except by God’s grace. They too are victims of exploitation. Others are recruited to kill as a result of hunger, or by threats of violence to them and their family members. In many cases, these foot soldiers are vulnerable people who have been groomed by violent men using a warped ideology as a justification to kill. The real enemies are their teachers and of course the devil who is a father of murderers and all violent abusers. So our anger should be directed at the real enemy.

Our prayer for the brainwashed zombies is for God to open their eyes to the truth. Not for Him to smite them, but for Him to save them. Of course if after revealing truth to them and they refuse to change, because they have become accustomed to killing, then they will be removed. God is love, but He is also a God of justice. If after repeated warnings and revelations, people refuse to repent, but insist on hurting His precious innocent and helpless children, He will say “Enough!”

We also should pray that what was meant to destroy will bring about salvation for unbelievers and revival among backslidden/lukewarm Christians . I remember reading the story of the Kenyan Bus massacre, and the only Christian survivor who watched as his wife and friends were murdered. In his story available on BBC, he said he has forgiven the killers. I was shocked! But that is something I have seen in recent times. Many Christians who survived such massacres become stronger in their faith and show love and forgiveness to their enemies. That can only be the work of the Holy Spirit and a deepening of their faith.

So yes, it is not irrational to be angry at injustice, but in your anger do not sin (Ephesian 4:26). Take
it to God, He will avenge the injustice that His innocent children suffer at the hands of violent men and women, but He will also make something beautiful come of the pain they have suffered. Just like Romans 8:28 says, we can be confident that God will work out everything (even the bad things) for ultimate good, if not here on earth, then surely when we step into eternity.

May we be comforted by His assuring promises, and also by the examples of great men and women who stood unwaveringly in their faith even when they suffered persecution and great injustice. Like Hebrews 11:35b-12:1, we have a cloud of witnesses who have experienced the same worries, anger and pain, but they stood firm, even to the point of death. We are not alone, and one day, God will say "Enough" to those who delight in evil. 

In the mean time, may we live our lives shining brightly like the Light of this dark world so that people will see our good works (love, mercy, empathy for the oppressed, kindness, justice, speaking the truth, etc), and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" - Philipians 2:14-15.

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