When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. - Luke 4:28
I have heard said that anger is not an emotion. It is a response to an emotion. Under our anger responses is often something else like sadness, loss, betrayal, rejection, shame, or fear. To some degree, anger is a choice in how we process more difficult and vulnerable emotions.
When the people in Jesus’ hometown “church” heard him describe his sense of justice and who it applied to, the text tells us they responded with rage. The anger response was so strong they attempted to grab him from the pulpit, drag him outside, and pitch him off of a cliff. It is tempting for us to disassociate ourselves with Jesus’ congregation in this story. But, before we do that, we may profit from pausing at this spot in the story.
In this story, Jesus let his people know that he intended to love and minister to their fiercest enemies. He even went so far as to point out that this had been God’s intention all along. So, the anger response Jesus received is not surprising. Perhaps we can even empathize with his hometown congregation now. If so, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to back us into our own healing.
Even though not many of us have tried to literally kill a preacher, we are all familiar with the response of anger in our lives. We can also see how someone challenging understandings and expectations of God could lead to a response of anger, if not rage.
The way I have described it, anger is a secondary emotion. If we think backwards, we can begin to see how it is also a red flag that speaks of a hidden (at least in the moment) primary emotion. With this understanding, our anger response becomes the key to our healing. All it takes is pausing the story enough to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us backwards and assess the underlying reason for our anger.
“Jesus, why am I angry? What am I protecting? Will you show me where my wound is? Then step with me into the true pain with your grace, your love, and your acceptance.”
There is a good deal of anger in our world. There is anger in our relationships. There is anger in the ways we view ourselves. There is anger in our politics and in response to other people’s lives and ideas. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to begin to use our awareness of our anger to bring the healing and wholeness that Jesus came to bring to everyone… us and our enemies.
Jesus, we acknowledge the ways that we use anger to protect ourselves. We invite you into our anger responses and ask that you would help us to acknowledge and confess our pain. In your grace, free us, heal us, that we might be able to follow Your love and justice wherever You might lead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.