Martin Luther and his wife often had friends and students living in their home or visiting for dinner. It was often a packed house. The students and friends of the Luthers would not only enjoy their hospitality, but also Martin’s thoughts from day to day. They so enjoyed Martin’s thoughts that they began taking notes of the various things he said. Hence, Table Talk. Table Talk is a collection of quotes recorded by students or friends of Martin Luther from his dinner table (or home). I have been reading through the Table Talks of Martin Luther and came across this little snippet that caught me off guard and I thought to share it with you.
I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.
Now it goes without saying that the anger Martin speaks about here is anger directed at error, heresy, heretics, or anything that stands in the way of the gospel. He isn’t talking about anger directed at petty things (the barista who spelled your name wrong) or anger that turns to evil (gossip, bitterness, etc.). He is talking about a righteous anger directed at evil. Anger toward falsehood, lies, murder, greed, pride, corruption, etc. Anger directed toward things worthy of hatred. Anger toward anything that stands in opposition to God’s holiness, righteous, and beauty.
The Helpfulness of Anger
As I read, after the initial shock of hearing anger spoken of so positively, I began thinking about various times in my life where righteous anger about evil actually spurred me on to do work I otherwise may have not done with a focus and passion I may not have otherwise had. I think of…
Sermons I prepared for and preached that were actually helped by anger of evil.
How anger of evil has kept from me having a laissez faire attitude toward sorrow-inducing, joy-killing sin in counseling appointments; how it kept me engaged and desirous to fight for the joy of my counselee.
Anger has compelled me to avoid cowardice and confront evil even when it was scary and could create more hardship for me.
Yes, I too have benefited from righteous anger. Righteous anger has been for me a refining fire that keeps me from casually meandering through my Christian life. It reminds me that I am at war and my enemy is to be shown no mercy (Ephesians 6:12). It beckons me to take up the Sword of the Spirit and fight like heaven (Ephesians 6:10-17). Righteous anger wakes me up from slumber (Ephesians 5:14), it sobers me up from spiritual drunkenness (Romans 13:13-14), and it gives light to my eyes that are dimmed by surrounding spiritual darkness (John 3:19-21). Anger against evil is not my foe, but my friend.
Love Produces Hate
It may here be helpful to add a little word on where this righteous anger comes from. It doesn’t come from a dark place in one’s heart, but actually from a good place. It is an anger not born out of hatred, but out of love.
When you love something, you will naturally oppose anything that threatens it. If you love your wife and kids, you will not feel kindly toward anyone who wants to harm them. If you love your dog, you won’t feel warm and fuzzies toward those who want to kick him/her. If you love truth you will hate lies. If you love integrity you will despise duplicity. Our love for certain things produces anger toward anything that opposes them.
In this way, Christian anger comes only from Christian love. Our love for God and His truth compel us to become angry at anything that opposes Him and His truth. Our love for righteousness makes us angry at wickedness. Our love for purity makes us angry at that which defiles. Our love for joy makes us hate all bringers of sorrow. Christian anger is an anger that is not centered on self, but on God. Christians are a people who love God deeply and, because of that deep love, hate righteously anything that opposes Him and His character.
Hatred Produces Evangelism
This is what brings Christians to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hate the evil in the world and want it to cease. How do we do that? With swords, guns, bombs, and violence? No. That isn’t radical enough. As you know, humanity is no stranger to war, but wars haven’t helped the world come to the peace that all so desperately desire. No. The only thing that will change the evil in the human heart is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Men don’t need to be repaired, counseled, educated, or employed, they need to be made new. They don’t need a new lifestyle, they need a new life. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that sinners can be forgiven and made new (1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian’s desire to see evil come to an end is one of the great motivations for evangelism. Our hatred of evil compels us to preach this very good news because that is the only way (other than Christ’s final judgment) to bring evil to end.
So, there are some good questions to ask. What do you hate? What do you find yourself angry at? Are they things worthy of anger and hatred or is your anger spurred on by petty and sinful things? How does your love for Jesus affect what you become angry at? Do you hate the things God hates? How does that anger help you? Does it at all?
At the end of this post, this is the prayer I find in my heart, “Father, fill our hearts with anger that we may live lives of true love. Help us abhor evil that we may live lovingly.”