I was taken back by this one. Anger is one of my biggest struggles in life. I have fought hard to find I have only cut off a finger of its menacing hand. How could this possibly be a good quality?

Influenced by a mushy culture that idolizes acceptance and embracing everything, I at first recoiled at the idea that a leader should ever be angry. Yet, looking to King David and King Jesus, it is easy to see that anger was a good and healthy thing. In a world where things aren’t what they ought to be–rapes, slavery, injustice, hate–anger flares in the face of disgusting reality. A leader who does not sugar-coat life with a polished smile, will find himself living in the sweet tension of joy and anger.

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more {Psalm 10.17-18}

Anger and justice are the flip-side of the coin of beauty. They are the chisel to the harsh rockface of wickedness. As Sanders says, “Holy anger has its roots in genuine love” (p.67). Let these two words dance in your mind: anger and love. How often have leaders been noted for their anger. . . and not because it is rooted in genuine love, but because its roots are sunk into the manure of self-love.

Sanders goes on to say, “Great leaders–people who turn the tide and change the direction of events–have been angry at injustice and abuse that dishonors God and enslaves the weak” (p.67). I cannot imagine that Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr. were not angry at injustice. Any person worth their salt will find their blood pressure rise when a child is abused, when a wife is hit.

A good question to ask yourself regarding your anger is whether you are angry because of something done to you or someone else. More than likely if done to you, it is not holy anger. I found David Powlison immensely helpful in dissecting my anger. He wrote two articles on the topic. If you are like me, finding your temperature rise too frequently for frivolous faults, please read these two articles. It will be the best hour you spend today:

Anger Part 1: Understanding Anger

Anger Part 2: Three Lies About Anger and the Transforming Truth

And here’s a 6 minute video that will get your appetite whetted and your anger checked:

The Heart of Sinful Anger (David Powlison; CCEF) from Desiring God on Vimeo.