Then the Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas (son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest) has turned away my anger for he was angry with my anger, and would not tolerate the worship of any God but me. So I have stopped destroying all Israel as I had intended.” -Numbers 25:10-11, TLB
Anger is appropriate and applauded by God in some circumstances. It is important that God’s priests have God’s heart. Here in Numbers 25 we see one figure, Phinehas, get angry, and then God explicitly applauds plus rewards this anger in a priest! God applauds a priest who is angrily intolerant of idolatry–i.e. spiritual adultery.
While I discourage you from following Phinehas’ example in action (i.e. he killed the copulating idolater with his Midianite mistress), I do encourage you to recognize how God may call His leaders and people to anger. The goal is to have the heart of God as opposed to the selfish heart of man. In other words, Phinehas did not get angry because he wanted this woman for himself (selfish, fleshly anger) but rather because what this Israelite man was doing was flagrantly worshiping another god through having intercourse with this Midianite woman (i.e. righteous anger).
Too often, I encounter or hear about pastors who take adultery lightly. It’s like:
She committed adultery. YAWN. How are you doing on the forgiveness piece? You sound angry. We need to work on that. Don’t want you getting bitter.
These sort of responses from pastors or other Christian leaders drive me nuts! When someone tells you that their professing Christina spouse has committed adultery and refuses to repent, that ought to illicit empathy first and foremost. Then it ought to illicit anger over this hard-hearted wrong. The faithful spouse has just announced to you how his spouse has defiled and desecrated the highest image in creation of God’s relationship with humanity–i.e. marriage. If you have the heart of God on this matter as a pastor, this news ought to be angering.
The adulterous spouse is committing flagrant idolatry–i.e. he/she has declared by action that something is more important and takes higher precedence than worshiping God by obeying his teachings on marriage.
It’s a big deal!
Anger is appropriate here.
What is inappropriate is a blasé response. That says your heart is not aligned with God’s on this matter. He is not neutral about this desecration and defilement of the marriage bed (see Deut. 22:22 and Heb. 13:4).
Sometimes people find passion and especially anger threatening. I find in churches, too often, this is true. Anger is treated as “bad” when the proper expression of it is both necessary and Godly under certain circumstances. Dealing with adultery is one of those circumstances.
The absence of anger in such situations for a pastor is neither good nor neutral. It communicates apathy towards adultery and suggests to its victim plus perpetrator that God sees it as “no big deal.” That is to communicate a lie. And it is harmful both to the faithful spouse and the adulterous spouse who needs to remember a healthy fear of God in order to turn from his/her sin.
Maybe if more adulterous spouses (or potentially adulterous spouses) saw anger in the pastorate over such sin; they may think twice about breaking their marriage covenant and then trying to suggest God is fine with it. Perhaps, they would realize the truth that this human representative–i.e. priest–is not half as angry as God will be on the Judgment Day if I do not turn from this sin.
So, I say, “May we find more passionate priests in the line of Phinehas and less in the line of the apathetic.”