Published on August 31st, 2013 | by Becky Castle Miller0
(Blog) If You’re Angry and You Know It, Clap Your Hands
I walked into the Sunday School classroom to pick up my children and spotted an activity sheet they’d worked on. A True or False game about “hiding our light,” like the song “This Little Light of Mine.”
Cute idea! But the second statement bothered me.
True or False: Anger hides our light.
Answer, according to the answer sheet: True.
Anger itself doesn’t hide our light. How can it, when the Bible even says, “Be angry”? (Ephesians 4:26)
This reminded me of a different children’s song, popular in Sunday Schools: If You’re Happy And You Know It. “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…stomp your feet…say Amen…praise the Lord.”
The indoctrination that “Christians are happy” starts young. In her article Is It Bad for Christians to Feel Bad, Joanna writes about the contrast between the Christian cultural concept of avoiding unpleasant emotions and the actual Bible, which records believers over centuries experiencing “negative” emotions.
Anger, sadness, jealousy, and other tough emotions are often deemed culturally inappropriate for Christians, yet God experiences all of them. Since we’re created as image bearers, a full range of emotion is part of who we are.
My small group recently had a good discussion about emotions. One person asked, “Does love come from God and hate from the devil?”
Someone else pointed out that “hate” is an emotion. We expanded on that in our conversation, that so-called “negative” emotions are just emotions and are given by God as part of the human experience.
Feeling them isn’t wrong. It’s what we DO with them that matters.
The Bible doesn’t offer an anti-uncomfortable-emotion viewpoint. Rather, it gives instructions for the Godly actions we can choose in the face of hard emotions, while assuring us that the experience of emotion is part of our created ability.
God hates the shedding of innocent blood. We are told not to hate our brothers. (Actions may be hated, not people.)
God is jealous for us. We are told not to envy or covet things belonging to others. (We belong to God, and we may jealously guard what belongs to us.)
God is angry about the mistreatment of those who are vulnerable, among other things. We are told to be angry but not sin in our anger. (Being angry at the same things that make God angry seems like a good start.)
This isn’t an exhaustive list—see Bible.org for a more thorough Bible study on righteous anger. But I hope it offers a starting place for your exploration of emotions and Christianity. One in which anger doesn’t hide our light, but actually might be one way we can let our light blaze.
What has been your experience with Christian culture and “negative” emotions? What is something that makes you righteously angry?