This week for a work event I found myself at a wedding reception for 350 people at a big hotel in Los Angeles. The bride and groom carried foreign names and their guest list was diverse: young and old, single and married, first-generation immigrants and long-time Americans, some who spoke English and some who did not. This was not an atmosphere – or a people group – that I normally find myself in. I love having experiences like this because there is always something that reminds me of the universality of humanity. Laughter. Language. Music. Affection. Family. Love. On this day however, I experienced an emotional element common to humanity but rarely seen in its proper expression: anger.
After about an hour of standing at my station, a group of five men, ages ranging from 55 to 70 stood nearby enjoying drinks and dessert. It’s difficult not to eavesdrop at events like this for a few reasons: everyone is yelling over the wedding band, people are interesting, and frankly, I sometimes have nothing else to do. All three were the case this time. In their foreign accents I heard a few words and phrases that stuck out above the rest: “Cruel idiot.” “I could shoot him myself.” “There is no human explanation for his behavior.” At first I thought they were probably just gossiping about a crazy uncle who was drunk and acting a fool at the reception. That would not be too abnormal for any wedding reception. But then I heard a few more words and phrases that narrowed the subject matter to an event that disturbed all of us this week. “Connecticut.” “Shooter.” “Tragedy.” As the men continued, I listened more closely. One man – probably 65 years old – lowered his voice, and spoke intently to his listeners: “This kind of thing makes me angry. Very, very angry. Now that I have 6 grand-kids, it makes me nauseous.”
The massacre in Connecticut, and others like it, are not supposed to happen. Children are not supposed to die. No life is supposed to be lost in this way. In truth, life is not supposed to be lost in any way. And the anger that we feel is right. In fact, if we don’t feel anger then something is wrong. If we don’t encounter the evil of the world – the harming of innocent life – the taking of what should not be taken – without good, just, righteous anger, then something is definitely wrong.
This week as I prepared to write something else, I happened to read John 2:12-22. In this passage the Gospel writer recounts Jesus’ clearing of the “merchants” in the Temple. Jesus makes a whip – a real, pain inducing, whip – and literally chases them out of his Father’s house. Jesus is angry. Good angry.
Our politically correct glasses – you know, the ones we frequently wear to try to make everything “ok” and “happy” and “copacetic” – are overused: in our world, and when we look at Jesus. We want him to be passive. Easy. Lovely. Calm. Emotionless. But Jesus is none of these things. Jesus is love. Love does not turn away from evil in order that the evil-doer’s feelings are not hurt. Love does not let evil run rampant because confronting it will cause distress and discomfort. Love hates evil. Love fights to protect what is good and innocent. Love becomes angry at the broken, harmful, and evil things of this world.
In light of such horrific tragedy, I’m thankful for the shared humanity I see in random groups of people like at the wedding on Saturday night. I’m thankful for people who have allowed themselves to feel and express anger – the just response to the evil that has fallen on Connecticut this week. And I’m thankful that Jesus’ love allows room for anger at what is wrong.
We are praying for the families and friends of the victims in Connecticut, knowing that we can’t fully understand the pain, confusion, loss, and anger.