Heat and anger go together. “His anger burned hot.” “She burned with rage.” That seething, roiling feeling you get feels like something boiling. Even your face gets warm and red, like sunburn from the inside.
This makes anger dangerous. Like any fire left uncontrolled, anger can destroy and harm, causing irreparable damage to people and organizations. Too much fuel or a breeze from an unexpected direction will cause a smoldering anger to blaze and burn out of control. It’s a short trip from bonfire to forest fire.
But that same heat makes anger useful. Think of a blowtorch, white hot but not raging uncontrollably. It is almost a surgical tool for welders and metal workers. A blowtorch can trim and shape hard substances that otherwise are immensely difficult to cut. Controlled anger can do the same. Aim it, regulate the heat, constrain and concentrate it, and dial it off when the job is done. And of course beware where the sparks land.
A spotlight is the product of heat too. A bulb burns with enormous energy then is reflected in a specific direction to illuminate a defined area. Spotlights aren’t like the bulbs in your living room lamps that cast a glow all around; they are aimed and precise. Anger should be the same, not spreading its glow in all direction but rather used to reveal and illuminate dark areas. It’s heat remains covered and distant, but the light cast off serves the purpose of uncovering things in the shadows.
I think such examples are part of what the Bible refers to when it says “be angry and do not sin.” Anger must be controlled, contained, and expressed well. But it does not need to be suppressed all the time. Sometimes it is the heat God provides to accomplish things – necessary cutting or illuminating. Yes, this takes discernment and self-control. No it is not license to rage at anyone you might find to be a problem needing fixing. (That would be more of a flamethrower approach than a blow torch or spotlight.) It is a reminder that anger, like all emotion, is a gift from God, broken at the fall, but still with a place and a use.