The Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney is unique in having two brothers to supervise it, one Archbishop and the other Dean of the Cathedral. Phillip Jensen, the dean, has just written a piece on 'Anger' in the theological journal, "The Briefing".
The opposite of love, he says, is not anger, but indifference.
He takes the example of the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Many were appalled at his execution and were dismayed that hundreds of Americans wanted to watch the execution on television. It brings back the vision of public hangings at Tyburn. There was similar disgust recently at the hanging of Saddam Hussain.
But most of those who were dismayed or disgusted did not lose their children, their wives, their husbands in the Oklahoma bombing. We did not dig human remains out of the blast site. We did not nurse injured or traumatized people. Nor were we there when whole villages were gassed or bombed in Iraq. And so we do not understand their anger.
One morning in 1972 in Aldershot, where I lived for the first 19 years of my life and where my parents were still living and working, the IRA set a bomb outside the Officers Mess of the Parachute Regiment. The parachute Regiment was abroad at the time, so Thelma Bosley, Margaret Grant, Joan Lunn, Jill Mansfield, Cherie Munton, all cleaners, John Haslar, an elderly gardener and Gerry Weston, a Roman Catholic Priest were killed. On that February morning my father, who worked in the same building, had left to go across to another building with a message. Nevertheless, his anger at this atrocity was a fine thing. Anything less would have been a sign of indifference.
Wherever innocent people have been killed, or robbed or defrauded, whenever children have been abused, abducted or killed, you will see people outside courtrooms, crying, even screaming, for justice. It is love that drives this cry. Real love must have a capacity for real anger. We are right to be angry about what happened under Hitler and Stalin, about Cambodia under Pol Pot, about Bosnia and Kosovo, about Saddam and Bin Laden.
God was angry with Israel in Exodus chapter 32. He had just led them out of captivity in Egypt. He had given them in chapter 20 a covenant that like a marriage had involved promises on both sides. Yet within hours Israel had broken the covenant, by transfering her worship to the golden calf. It was like a bride committing adultery on her wedding night. Anyone who has seen adultery knows what a betrayal of love and loyalty it is.
Many people recoil from the image of God as an angry cuckolded husband. You may think that you would never be a jealous husband calling for the death of your wife and her lover, but you do not know your own heart. Pastors who have sat beside someone as they pour out their hurt, their rage and despair at being deceived by one they loved and trusted will appreciate that there anger is understandable.
But God took the punishment on himself. He loves us so much that he could not bear to wipe us out so that justice might be done. His anger is so great because his love is so great. Only by understanding his anger can we appreciate his love.