Leadership

November 27, 2014

Angry Leaders

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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As we noted in the last several blogs, anger can be good as it initiates reaction to injustice’s two forms: apathy and abuse.

Anger can rally our emotions and juice up our soul to make us aware that something is wrong and motivate our lives and those of others to act. It can wake us up from our sleep of ignorance or lethargy or indifference.

It can also be a stimulus to raise our hands to block the blow of abuse given to ourselves or others. It can motivate us to die trying to fix injustice or apathy as we stand up for the right. It gets us to take action to change abusive systems or vote an abusive leader out of power.

Anger, however, can quickly run out of track.

It can also quickly run off track.

It is especially dangerous when it is in the heart, head, and hands of untrained leaders.

We probably all have examples from our own lives when our leadership toward a spouse or as a parent got off track and we engaged in rage gone mad. We have also seen leaders who continue to foster abusive systems or hurl insults and injustices at others. It should make us cautious about the natural beauty of own anger. Anger needs a diet, a workout plan, and clear training in the rules and ways of God if it will move from passion to success.

There are many leadership examples in the bible of anger gone bad. There are also examples of leaders who were taught by God how to channel their anger.

We could write of David when he heeded the cool hand of Abagail when David wanted to “rightly” kill Nabal. Or we could write of Paul who felt he was right in killing Christians, doing God’s will. He just needed more light. We can also write about Peter, who correctly resisted the arresting of the most innocent BEING in the universe, Jesus of Gethsemane.

All right to be angry….all leadership with passion and vision…and all on deadly wrong paths. Bad methods do good anger injustice.

Hot heads inside leaders need some serious Jesus time, Cross time.

I will comment briefly on Moses to clarify this point.

Moses was God’s chosen man born to God’s chosen nation and born in slavery.

He knew the story of abuse. He also soon learned the story of privilege. No slave and maybe no other being at that time had more privilege. What would one expect living in Pharoah’s house. But talk about serious training. Historical studies suggest extreme discipline mixed with abundant resources.

But, to Moses credit, he kept alive his identity as a slave, his memory, his sensitivity to powerlessness. He did this while accepting the training and power of privilege.

God was in Moses’ life. Anger was kept alive and I believe that was the voice of the people mixed with the concern of God that fostered that anger in Moses mind.

It was a beautiful work of anger.

But that was not enough, that is never enough. Without a deeper wisdom about the work of God in humanity, without a clearer picture of the process of restoration and reconciliation, and without a personal experience of forgiveness, Moses was not yet under the full patience and submission to God.

That natural outcome of natural anger is naturally more anger. That is what happened around Moses’ 40th birthday.

His anger did not work the will of God but the way of Satan. It was God’s anger turned to Satanic deliverance. (I fear the movie about to be released in a few weeks on Moses and the Exodus will be another one of Hollywood’s use of the drama of scripture without the meaning of God. If this latest depiction is anything like the depiction of Noah, we will have a further distortion that will feed more racism and have bad outcomes for race relations).

While feeling the pain of his people, Moses saw injustice but had not learned the system of God. So instead of God’s system, Moses enacted Satan’s system and killed the unjust Egyptian.

“Be angry but sin not” (Eph 4:26) has always been the eternal command. But the record reports:

“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.” (Exodus 2:11-14).

It was the response of a person who was simultaneously in power and/or felt injustice but didn’t have the third ingredient needed to move either these two–power or pain–to resolution.

We will discuss that third ingredient more in the next post. It has become the main story of my life.

But it is hinted at in the Hebrews response: Who made you the Judge over us?

It is judgment that makes anger useful. Anger gets us to the court room of God, but seeing and understanding God’s justice and judgment process gets us to a new type of angry leadership.

Without judgment the only result is immature justice or what can be called judgmentalism—premature or primitive justice. It is the nastier cousin of racism.

God spent the next 40 years developing Moses’ understanding of divine judgment. What do you think the sanctuary service was all for. It was a revelation of what God does with His rightful anger to humans. All those symbols and the cloth and the rituals…especially  the day of atonement, the sacrifices. These mixed with those long starry nights in the dessert taught Moses about the ANGER OF GOD.

Anger can only get anyone, including God, so far. There has to be something else.

God wanted to show Moses that something else was a steady hand of work of “redemption,” a process by which the one being wronged, in the ultimate case, God, works for the salvation of those who wronged him.

It is a crazy upside down justice. But not if you read or live the scripture of Micah 7:9. See my other posts on that.

This is crucial. But until one’s life is poured out for helping others grow from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom, from starvation for the lack of God to seeing God, anger will only bring more death and bloodshed, not the deliverance we had hoped it would bring.

God is the Master. He alone can channel anger into the long ark of justice, the tedious work, the physically and emotional draining work of shepherding. Sour muscles and vast wilderness vistas and long hours recounting God’s work and our own feeble attempts can change us. Ask Moses. God did make him a judge. But a different type of judge.

Anger attached to judgmentalism, filled with racism and bias, kills first and asks questions later.

Anger attached to judgment—God’s judgment—focuses on processes of expiation. These are the sanctuary, atonement processes Adventists have correctly revived in time for our modern world to understand better. Its just might save them from their evil anger.

It is not apathetic to be slow to anger, it is anger channeled through the Sanctuary of God. It is the wrath of God at work (more on this in the next blog).

The sheer long hours of leading as a servant, the sheer weight of remember where our impetuous mistakes of past poor judgment have gotten us, the sheer demands of caring for crippled and dying sheep was what Moses needed and what every angry leader needs.

It drags out of us the evil of self-righteousness and buries us in self-forgetfulness. It brings us to the leadership of God, a God so wronged by humans He should have wiped us out a long time ago, but a God who is pouring out Himself for the human race.

We each have in our heritage and destiny a blend of slavery and privilege, but only an identity in God’s salvific and sacrificial work can save us from our short track of anger.

Just ask Moses, or Paul, or Peter, or …….

Anger is only good when it passes through the vortex of God’s hot judgment of reconciliation.

I encourage the reader to see in Peter’s life the same power of mentoring that we need in all those who are getting angry about what is happening in the world: either in Ferguson or in ISIS lands or in Afghanistan.

Look at Paul. The one who persecuted, after enrolling in the school of Christ, could come to seek this life:

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:23, 24.

Be angry….. and go feed God’s sheep.

Be angry…. and learn what the Judge of the whole earth does when He is the only one in the right.

Be angry…. and go to His sanctuary and see the painstaking detail of His labor to save us all from our sins and clean up our mess.

To the black leaders who are angry, to the white leaders who are angry, to all of us with our deep anger…. do you need a trip to the desert. If that is what it takes, He will help you.

By faith, it may be easier to you and those around you if you instead submit and just come to the Hour of HIS Judgment.

But if you need a desert, that too is an option.

What I see coming is more angry leaders, who will all be right about something, but maybe all wrong about methods.

Christ work of judgment is worth closer examination before engaging in your own.

Feed my sheep.

Go the wilderness of love.

Cling to the fact that God works vengeance.

See what Moses’ angry murdering leadership got him. Do you want that?

Prayer: God, we abhor ourselves. We are sinners. You alone are worthy. Purge us in your wilderness.

Date: Thanksgiving day. November 27, 2014



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




2 Comments


  1. Dee Robinson

    Very insightful, Duane! When we follow Christ’s model, as you rightly outlined, we can’t go wrong. Taking the short-cut of anger never gets leaders (or anyone) anywhere. Great read.



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