Rachel texted me yesterday. She spent last night in the village of Nekwaya and should come home this afternoon. Three of her best Mozambican friends went with her to continue teaching through the Sermon on the Mount with women in that cluster of churches.
This was her text: "A neighbor here was just beating his wife bc she questioned why he took her cell phone and gave it to his mistress. Another neighbor supposedly poisoned his mother last week. Lots of sadness in the dark..."
Rachel and I texted back and forth about how the four of them can serve as lights in the dark and how Jesus himself had something to say about that in the Sermon on the Mount.
I have to be honest, sometimes my motivation for working in Mozambique wanes. And it has been important for me, especially as we rounded the "10 years in Africa" mark, to identify ideas and emotions that can serve to fuel and sustain me. I've written elsewhere how the longing for home has tapped into a source of love and has become a surprising reason for me to stay. And trying to wrap my head around the idea of calling has been helpful, too. But sometimes the darkness is overwhelming. Especially when those fuel tanks (love and calling) start flashing "E" for empty.
Lately I've been watching the Nooma video series and this morning I watched one called "Store." In it Rob Bell is talking about anger. He notes that while anger is often rightly seen as a destructive force, when harnessed it can fuel us for acts of healing and restoration. He references this story from the life of Jesus:
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.Mark 3:1-5 (TNIV)
Bell says, “There is a response to anger that’s essentially all about us. Our pride, our ego, all of the ways we work so hard to prop up and protect and defend our selfish little kingdoms. But that isn’t what’s going on here with Jesus. Jesus has identified himself with an injustice larger than himself. There is something divine about his anger because some things are worth getting angry about...When we’re talking about calling and mission and vocation and purpose, what we’re going to give our lives to, one of the questions we often ask is, ‘What do you love?’ But there’s another question that we can ask. ‘What makes you angry?’”
Poverty can and should make me angry.
Hunger can and should make me angry.
Infidelity can and should make me angry.
The fact that our friends in Mirate need a bridge should make me angry.
Sin, death and Satan should make us angry.
The darkness makes me sad... and it should make me angry.
There are times when the proper response to darkness is anger.
And sometimes, like Jesus, we need to tap into that fuel source, careful not to let anger become a seething, boiling, rage. Instead we should use that anger to help us act in ways that are healing and restorative. Instead of being burned out on the inside by carrying around the "low-grade boiling rage" that so many people lug around with them, Jesus channeled his anger for kingdom purposes.
His anger at injustice led him to act in righteousness. The injustices we've seen here lead us to act, as well... and hopefully we're following Jesus' lead by acting in holy and productive ways.
May God provide all the fuel we need (be it love, calling and even anger) to ignite us and help us act in ways that bring truth and light to those in the dark.
Grace and Peace,