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Unjustified anger

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
- Luke 15:28

Eugene Peterson said: “Anger is a most useful diagnostic tool. When anger erupts in us it is a signal that something is wrong … Anger is our sixth sense for sniffing out wrong in the neighborhood. What anger fails to do, though, is to tell us whether the wrong is outside or inside us.”

The older son heard the news that his younger brother had returned home and was receiving a warm, celebratory welcome. The floodwaters of resentment and bitterness rose in this older son’s heart. And he became angry.

Here, we see an adult huffing in the field; arms crossed and chin up, protesting the party by denying it his presence.

From his perspective it’s just wrong to throw a party for the younger son. The younger son acted irresponsibly. He brought shame onto the family. He put them through the wringer. Why are they throwing a party for him? It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem just. It doesn’t seem right.

Anger can be a blessing, a good God-given gift. Feeling anger in the face of injustice or evil is a totally appropriate response. Even Jesus felt anger. But our anger isn’t always justified.

In the parable, the father pokes and prods at the older son’s anger, attempting to defuse and correct it because it’s operating in a destructive way (more on that next week). At times, we need to do this as well.

When you feel anger, how willing are you to question whether your anger is justified? What help do you need to take an honest measure of your anger? What can you do if you discover that your anger is unjustified?

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