November 30, 2014.
Today I would like to discuss something that is close to my heart, not the topic specifically, but the lack of it in a mature attitude in Christ. Anger is an emotion that so many people struggle with from time to time. I have been there, and I’m sure you have been there as well. It’s almost in our nature that we are prone to anger when something doesn’t work out the way we think it should. I would even venture to suggest that anger is often used as a defense mechanism that we put up to mask our true feelings and guard our heart. This subject is near to my heart because I have learned what anger can do to relationships and I have tried very hard to be the kind of person that has a long fuse. I can’t say that I have always had success at this, but I do think it is an important characteristic for which to strive (perhaps I’m biased because I hate conflict…). I think one of the best ways to guard our heart from anger is to better understand anger, along with the rest of our emotions, and what it does to us in the moment. I have four points that I think we need to consider and think about when we contemplate anger and how to control it. These four points are in no way all inclusive, but I think they are a good start.
1. Anger is not a sin. But it can quickly lead to sin.
The first thing we need to recognize about anger is that, in and of itself, anger is not a sin. None of our emotions are sins. We were given emotion from the Lord Almighty. In fact, we are made in the image of God, and in so, we have emotion because God has emotion. There are many times in the Bible that we read about God displaying some kind of emotion, including anger (ref. Num. 22:22 for just one example). Then you have the time that Jesus had righteous indignation when he cleansed the temple, overturning tables and driving out the money changers with a whip (ref. Matt. 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 2). I think one of our problems with anger is that we think its in and of itself a sin, and we try to guard so much against it that when it comes out, it comes out in a big way. It is not wise to bottle anger up. Paul writes this to the Ephesians:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
It is indeed possible to be angry and not sin. It might even be a good thing to be angry (without sinning), as it would let it out of the bottle, so to speak. But we must be very careful, for anger often goes hand in hand with sin. You can be angry without sin, but anger can quickly lead to sin. I think this is what Paul was talking about in the latter part of this passage. When we get angry, we should let it go before the night is over, lest it fester, and we give opportunity to the devil. He sees our anger and I’m sure he gives us plenty of opportunities to sin because of it. We often play right into his trap. So, it is okay to be angry, but we need to keep it in check and not let it lead us into sin.
2. Anger clouds our judgement.
When we get angry, there is amply opportunity for us to be lead into sin for the simple reason that anger often clouds our judgements. How many times have you gotten angry and said something you would later regret? Or perhaps you even did something that you lived to regret? I think we all have been there. We get angry and then make rash decisions. Anger does not often allow us to think about what we should do before doing it, thus our judgment is hindered. The story of Cain and Able is a good example of anger leading to sin (murder). You can find it in Genesis 4. But I think one of the best biblical examples of this is the story of Naaman the leper. For the sake of time, I won’t quote the whole story (it can be found in II Kings 5), but Naaman was the captain of the Syrian army who had leprosy. When a Hebrew servant girl told him about a prophet in Israel who could heal him, he went to Elisha to be healed. But Naaman did not like the way Elisha told him to be healed:
“So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.”
(II Kings 5:9-12)
Naaman was angry with Elisha because he didn’t come out and preform some show, yet told him to dip in a dirty body of water. His anger almost cost him his chance to be healed. Fortunately for Naaman, his servants reasoned with him and he realized his mistake and went to dip in the Jordan river seven times to be healed. Naaman’s judgement was impaired because he was angry, and he went away in a rage. Are judgment can be just as cloudy in our rage and we need to be careful not to let our anger get the best of us. It is always a good idea to take a few minutes to cool down after getting angry before you make a decision to say or do something. I think it is also wise to surround yourself with level headed people who will help you cool down and not make decisions you will later regret. Naaman’s servants were there for him. I think we can take a lesson from this.
3. Anger and pride go hand in hand.
I think one of the biggest causes of anger (and being led into sin from it) is pride. Pride is one of those sins that we all know about, we mention, but we don’t really talk all that much about it. I am convinced this is because it is one of the “worst” sins, and we all deal with it. Well, maybe not all of us, but most of us. And if you are thinking right now “Yeah, not all of us,” then I would probably say that you are included (did you just get angry at that statement? … ). I know I am. Pride does a lot of bad things to our soul, and one of these things is makes us prone to anger.
How? Pride states “I’m right and you’re wrong!” when someone disagrees with us. With this mentality, then anything they say is a personal attack and is not even worth considering, because they are wrong. “But they keep on disagreeing… I’m right, but they disagree! THEY’RE SO WRONG! WHY CAN’T THEY SEE HOW WRONG THEY ARE…” And thus we have anger. Any attack on our pride makes us angry.
“There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.”
4. God will be the final judge.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
I think one of the best ways to quell our anger is to remember who is in control and who will set things right in the end. Someone does you wrong? It’s okay. There is no need to get angry, they will get their reward. But it is not for you to give it, nor is it for I. They Lord is the final judge. Someone doesn’t agree with you? So what? There is no reason to get angry. The Lord is the final judge. Anger just leads us to do things without thought or things that we shouldn’t do. It hardly ever offers a good solution to a problem. I said at the beginning that we are made in the image of God and that’s why we have emotions, but we also need to remember that God’s emotions are perfect. We have twisted ours, and polluted them. When God gets angry, it is a pure anger, a justified anger, for He alone is righteous. The same goes for jealousy. That is why God can be a jealous God, yet we are not supposed to be jealous of our neighbor- our jealousy is marred, unjustified and corrupted by sin. God’s isn’t.
Thus, God can be the final judge to bring vengeance on the evil one. Vengeance is His, not ours. So, when bad things happen or things don’t go our way, let us take care to calm our anger before it leads to sin. Let us strive to be people with long fuses, able to remain calm in enraging situations. We will not be perfect at this, but we must strive towards this goal. It will make our relationships with others so much better and relieve tensions that so often arise in conflict. Remember, it’s okay to be angry. But it is not okay to allow such anger to provoke sin. Let us strive to walk in the example of Christ and keep in step with the Spirit.
Suggested Daily Reading: II Kings 5, Isaiah 53, Romans 12, I Peter 2.
Grace and peace.