People are angry. So what’s new?
It took just one generation following Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden for the first murder to occur. Cain killed Abel in a fit of jealousy. People have been acting out in anger ever since.
Obviously, not all anger ends in murder. Some leads us to act out of character, such as Moses’ foolish reaction to the Israelite’s challenge to his leadership (Numbers 10:1-13). He drew water out of a rock, and took credit for something God did One kind of anger spares the flesh but kills the spirit. Jesus said we commit murder in our hearts when our anger toward a brother leads us to demean him (Matthew 5:21-22). James wrote, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1).
Yes, anger has been with us for a long time. So why does it seem as though anger in our culture has reached a fever pitch? At the risk of sounding simplistic, I believe it is because we have lost our way. We have forgotten God’s instruction on the subject.
Anger is not inherently sinful. Jesus was angry when He drove the corrupt money changers out of the temple. The concept of “God’s wrath” is rooted in His divine anger against sin. While we must be careful drawing parallels between ourselves and the Father and Son, as we do not possess such authority or perfect insight into life’s circumstances, it is also true we are made in God’s image. It seems reasonable that anger is one of those emotions that have been placed in us for a purpose.
Perhaps, if we wish to determine if our anger is acceptable, we should discover what stirs God’s wrath and use that as our template. Consider Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Pro 6:16-19 NIV)
God is angry when we look down on others. “Haughty eyed” people are condescending. They presume to know everything about everything and tear others down to build themselves up.
God is angry when we lie. Lying can damage reputations and undermine the good that others do.
God is angry when we cheapen life. Innocent blood includes innocent victims of violence, abortion and genocide. Our selfish pursuits should never be an excuse for ignoring the intrinsic worth of those made in God’s image.
God is angry when we make evil plans. Our fallen human nature leads us to think evil thoughts. But when we harbor these thoughts and devise a means to act on them, we are giving Satan a foothold in our hearts.
God is angry when we support evil causes. Those who “rush into evil” are those who gravitate toward sinful behaviors without asking what God might expect of them. In contrast, those who stand for God resist evil and attempt to point others to a higher ideal.
God is angry with false witnesses. If we are spread half-truths and lies about others, or gossip, we destroy lives and dishonor God.
God is angry with those who create dissention. We can unwittingly create environments for conflict. However, we sin when we purposely stir up trouble between others. Some people use this methodology when they don’t get their way. Whatever the reason, God is not pleased.
It is acceptable to be angry about the things that anger God, as long as we remember we don’t have His perfect wisdom and proceed with extreme caution. However, if we spent more time guarding against the things that anger God in our own lives, we would be sufficiently humbled and less prone to be angry at others. Jesus said it this way: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5)
I wonder how different our lives would be if we were angry about the right things?