Scripture: John 2:13-22 (NIV)
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
In The Phantom Menace, Yoda famously says, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” In The Empire Strikes Back, he tells Luke that “Fear, anger, aggression, the Dark Side of the Force are they.” Anger seems to be a major sign that you are going down the wrong path. If you are getting mad, you’re getting bad, as it were.
Yet today we see Jesus…angry? While many have the mental image of Jesus as always being like the calm and meditative Jedi we see throughout the Star Wars saga, being fully human meant He had emotions as well. After all, He taught us to turn the other cheek, right? As He was without sin, obviously this means that anger, in and of itself, can’t be evil. But how is that possible?
We tend to look at Yoda’s maxims above as a progression or as individual emotions, but I think it’s possible that, for them truly to be evil, you need to have some of all three in your actions. If your anger is based in fear, often that will lead you to hate and aggression, trying to control the situation and not reside in fear any longer. We often feel we have to push back against the fear and, being imperfect beings, we don’t do it with equal force but with exponentially more. Much of our political discussions these days, it seems, come from fear-based anger. It’s a very human response to lash out when things start to overwhelm us. Our fear leads to anger very, very often.
Jesus had no fear, only the anger of a righteous person who saw a wrong and moved to right it. There was aggression, but only in the service of a greater cause, the glory and honor of the Lord. We can and should get angry over injustice, over evil triumphing, over sin. There’s no shame, no harm, no darkness in doing that. There’s more darkness in not. When we see suffering in the world, when we see things that aren’t right, we should get angry–not necessarily at someone, but at the situation–and do what we can to improve things.
As with many things in life, the reasons behind the anger–for good or ill–determine which path you are on, not the anger itself. After all, the Lord can use any tool at His disposal to advance His kingdom!