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When Anger Meets Love
When Anger Meets Love

A Surprising Command

Friday, March 1, 2024

Be angry but do not sin. —Ephesians 4:26

Theologian Allen Dwight Callahan writes about a compelling biblical verse:

There are two imperatives in the opening phrase of Ephesians 4:26—two. One is a prohibition against sinning. The other is an exhortation—an exhortation to anger.

That’s right: The Bible commands us to be angry.

“Be angry. That’s an order.”…

Now, you may object that we’ve already got more anger that we know what to do with right now, and, of course, you’d be right. There is indeed a surplus of anger out there. With increasing frequency and intensity, people are voicing their anger, venting their anger, even voting their anger.

But there’s anger, and there’s anger.

Yes, there’s the anger of being cut off in the turn lane, of having a wait time that exceeds four minutes, of being berated in the comments on your post by a misanthropic troll….

Then there is the anger that leaves us shaken and shaking because a sacred trust is being treacherously broken; because those who have done no harm are being gratuitously harmed; because those who have too little now have even less, and those who already have much too much now have even more; because egregious wrongs are being perpetrated, and the perps don’t even admit that the wrongs they’re perpetrating are wrong.

What has happened—is happening now, here, and everywhere—is not merely a sin and a shame. It is an outrage, and outrage calls for rage, rage that ought to come out. Anger in such instances is not merely permissible. It is obligatory, imperative.

Thus, the imperative: “Be angry.”

Faced with an outrage, anger is the price we pay for paying attention. It is the rage that ought to come out, because, when faced with an outrage, it is a sin not to be angry. [1]

Richard Rohr honors the wisdom contained in powerful emotions like grief and anger:

Great emotions are especially powerful teachers. I’m so aware of this in the experience of grief, after experiencing the deaths of my mother, a teenage niece, and my father. Even anger and rage are great teachers if we listen to them. They have so much power to reveal our deepest self to ourselves and to others, yet we tend to consider them negatively. Yes, they are dangerous, making us reactive and defensive, but they often totally rearrange how we know—or if we know—reality at all.

Believe it or not, such emotions are ways of knowing. They have the capacity to blind us, but also the power to open us up and bring us to profound conversion, humility, and honesty. People who are too nice and never suffer or reveal their own negative emotions, usually do not know very much about themselves—and so the rest of us do not take them too seriously. Consider if that is not true in your own circle of relationships. [2]


[1] Allen Dwight Callahan, “The Virtue of Anger,” Oneing 6, no. 1, Anger (Spring 2018): 29–30. Available in print and PDF download.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2020), 124–125.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Anger is a spark that motivates us forward. Love is a pathway that funnels our motivation in an impactful direction.

Story from Our Community:  

Recently at a retreat, I experienced the gift of truly seeing my “Wounded Self”…. Instead of reacting as I usually do—anger and disappointment—I felt the utmost compassion for him. He has been struggling through life the best he knows how. So many of his actions come from the wounding of childhood which he has been attempting to heal his whole life. Only now am I able to speak now from the “Unwounded Me”; the one who has never been—and never can be—wounded. In other words, my True Self, my Soul, that which comes into the world pure and remains so. This realization has changed everything for me. —Ed E.

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