This week I watched parts of a Congressional hearing. Words fail me in an attempt to explain my response as I observed people with power over my life showing such explosive anger. Was I sad, mad, dismayed, contemptuous, scathing, angry, fearful… yes, all of the above and more. The rage in that room overwhelmed the issues that were supposedly under investigation. I thought, “These people make the laws and policies that govern my life. How can it be?” It brought back memories of another hearing, when Justice Kavanaugh was before the Senate Judiciary committee accused of sexual assault when he was a student. Then, too, whatever your political convictions, it was impossible to miss the fury that turned leaders into people who appeared on the edge of madness.
Pity the person who is incapable of anger. Where there is injustice, oppression, bigotry, hypocrisy, or a refusal of God’s direction – we need the depth of passion that allows us to feel anger that presses us into action. We need to know, at the same moment, that anger is an extremely dangerous emotion! Anger can fuel us with boldness, can move us to sacrifice, cause us to serve without thought of personal cost.
Remember the story of young David? He showed up at the encampment of Israel’s army to hear the Philistine champion, Goliath, mock the Israelites and the Name of God. The teenager’s response was anger: Who will “remove this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised (godless pagan) Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17) David went onto the battlefield armed only with faith, a slingshot, and five small stones – and he took down the giant of a man that day. Yes, anger served a purpose.
Anger, like fire, must be kept only where it belongs. When either are out of control, they cease to serve us and begin to destroy us. The anger that we feel in these times should drive us to our knees in fervent prayer for the defeat of evil, for guidance as the people of God. Anger that makes us reactionary turns us into fools, or worse!
Yes, to use an old illustration, Jesus, our Example, did release His anger when He observed profit-making in the Temple that was a barrier raised before people who wanted to pray and worship. He turned over tables, drove the profiteers out, and shouted about making the Temple into a ‘den of thieves.’ Christian, we cannot use what Jesus did that day to rationalize our rage over personal insult or perceived slights. Jesus’ anger was centered, like David’s in my previous example, around the honor of God.
Christians, filled with the Spirit of God, will generally set aside anger and pursue peace. Knowing we are held in God’s hand, kept by His promises, and assured of eternal life – we can put away anger and meet those around us with an open heart.
Jesus said that ‘peacemakers’ will be called “children of God.’ God reminds us, “Live in harmony with each other. … And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:16-20, NLT)
Not much of the anger that boils around us has much to do with God’s honor. Mostly it comes from fear and a desire to be ‘first.’ Those of us who follow Christ need to put ‘protecting my rights’ as a reason for anger far, far down the list.
A passage to memorize, one to which we can return frequently is this – “For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.” That is why we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT) Here is another one: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4, NIV)
When we choose to live in the serenity that comes from deep faith, that peace becomes a source of life for our family, friends, and the whole world in which we live. Let’s spit out the poison of rage and choose to drink deeply of Living Water that satisfies the soul.
Ah, friend, Jesus says “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38, NIV) Make it your passion (Lord, help me!) to overflow with the Spirit, renewing and refreshing those who live in a parched land.
Are you angry today? Are you frustrated? Before you blow up, kneel down! You can attempt to vindicate yourself and punish the offender. If you do, everybody loses. Or you walk with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with transforming grace. When He lives in us, love wins although sometimes at great cost!
Here’s a word from the Word. Let’s live it. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. ” (Proverbs 16:32, NKJV) So, “Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.” (Colossians 3:13-15, The Message)
Abba, hold me close. Speak peace to my mind and heart.
These troubled times bring fear and
I am tempted to slip into a defensive, angry posture.
Help me to trust You, to seek the best, the highest, in faith.
Give me a vision that sees beyond protecting
what I perceive to be my rights,
that pursues Your kingdom aims for others.
Keep me from hiding in apathy, too.
Make me passionate for You and
the things of God even as I seek to
reconcile people to You and one another.
I thank You for loving me even when I ignored You,
for that triad of Your gifts – Grace, Mercy, and Peace.
Oh, Lord, I praise You for Your kindness to me.
Lead me, keep me from the Evil One.
This I pray in Jesus’ holy Name. Amen