Romans 1:18, 2:4-11 But God shows his anger against all who suppress the truth by their wickedness . . .
One day I was walking home with my kids from their school in São Paulo when we witnessed a theft. A short distance in front of us, a young man grabbed a woman’s purse and took off with it. In a flash, my young son Danny took off after the robber, but his shorter legs were no match for the robber’s long ones. When I caught up with Danny, he was shaking with anger at the injustice of the situation and his helplessness to do anything about it. We circled back to the distraught victim, and Danny offered her his allowance. His pennies didn’t concretely solve very much for her, but I bet she has never forgotten his generosity and his anger on her behalf.
A similar thing happened one beautiful sunny afternoon on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. My parents were visiting us, and after seeing the major tourist sites in Rio, we relaxed at the beach. Dave and the kids were swimming, my dad was taking pictures of them from the shore, and I sat chatting with my mom on a blanket further up on the sand. Suddenly from every direction a gang of teenagers armed with long knives swooped down on us. One grabbed my mom’s purse while several others knocked down my dad and pulled his wallet from his pocket. They all pounded down the beach, with Danny and my husband Dave in hot pursuit.
Having seen the knives at close range, I was relieved that Danny and Dave didn’t catch the robbers! As they ran, the thieves pulled and tossed from Mom’s purse and Dad’s wallet the things they didn’t want—pretty much everything, other than money and credit cards. Danny and Dave picked things up out of the sand as they ran, including a number of quetzal bills (the currency of Guatemala, where my parents lived), which the thieves didn’t consider worth keeping.
This time, I was the one shaking with anger. Stealing is one thing, but knocking down an old man in order to do so is another. The violence was totally unnecessary to their purpose.
In my work with sexual abuse victims, many times I was flooded with anger at the perpetrators and the damage they caused. The only way I can handle all of the violence and abuse and injustices I have witnessed and heard about is to remember that God cares enough to be angry when he sees people intentionally hurt each other. Unlike us in the stories I’ve mentioned, he CAN and WILL do something about it. And in his wisdom and compassion, on the day of judgment, he will judge wisely and fairly, taking all the factors into account. At that “but God” event, the world will be set right!
P.S. Interestingly, this month our son Dan graduated from the Metropolitan Police Academy in DC!