2005-08-12 - Anger
The Seven Deadly Sins Series, Part 5
As we continue our series on the "Seven Deadly Sins," we come to anger. Anger in itself is not inherently sinful; it's what we the source of the anger, and what we do with the anger, that count.
Our Lord Christ was angry at times. For example, when money-hungry tax collectors* were disrespectful to our Heavenly Father's temple, Christ angrily overturned the tables and evicted them. This was righteous anger - the same anger we might feel over hearing about someone who is abused by another human being, someone who is murdered etc. It's right to feel this anger; in fact, it would be wrong NOT to be upset over this. It is borne of a value for the precious life God gives us, that only He has the right to take away.
In fact, God often uses our anger as a catalyst to bring about good, from assistance for child sexual abuse victims to the reform of unjust sytems such as slavery, both in former times and now (there are actually more slaves in the world at the present time than in 1800s America).
Proverb 29:11 teaches us that "a fool gives full vent to his anger."
The key phrase here is "gives full vent." If someone cuts us off in traffic, and we lay on our horn and make an obscene gesture, that is an impulsive, selfish expression of anger. If we pray for that person, and perhaps blow the horn gently and briefly as a reminder (because they are endangering people's safety), that is righteous expression of anger (and respsonsible citizenship!).
If we are angry at how someone has conducted himself in office, and we spread lies about him during an election, that's sinful expression of anger. If we support a better candidate and emphasize the positive about him or her, that is righteous anger at work.
Paul teaches us to "be angry and sin not." Note the wording. We are to deal with our anger responsibly. If someone's behavior or words anger us, we are to go to that person and tell them. We are to forgive them, but forgiveness and the other person's responsibility are not mutually exclusive. In fact, to "let the person off the hook" with no consequences isn't doing them a favor. If you truly love someone, you can't honesly act like nothing happened; that's pretty much ensuring the incident will be repeated. Loving parents don't allow children to get away misbehavior. Children don't learn that way, and neither do adults. It hinders growth - spiritually and emotionally.
For example, if a spouse breaks a trust and betrays their partner, the injured spouse should forgive the spouse. But that does not mean enabling future betrayal, or acting as if nothing has changed. What it means is that both parties bear responsibility: The injured spouse needs to give the betrayer the chance to prove himself or herself trustworthy again. But the person who did the wrong must understand that he/she has to earn that trust back and do his part.
Christ was angry at how children were mistreated. Feeling anger on someone else's behalf can be one of the purest forms of love. Anger can be a positive or negative force; it all depends on what we do with it.
Comments or Questions?
*This in no way slurs Internal Revenue Service workers. As the wife of a federal worker, and someone who has faithfully paid taxes for 20+ years, I have high respect for the work guys you do. As long as people are within the law, they have nothing to fear anyway.