Friday, August 16, 2013

In Your Anger

Anger is such a waste of energy and emotion.

Yes, I know; Jesus got angry. But Christians use that as an excuse and they have no idea what they are talking about. Jesus getting angry over the abuse of his Father's House (the temple) is in a different universe to our getting angry. Let's consider it for a moment:

There he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple. He also saw moneychangers sitting at their tables. So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins. Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:14-16)

Jesus came into the temple, his Father's House, a place of prayer and meditation; a place of teaching and discussing the Holy Scriptures, and finds a noisy market place. Forget the fact that is was an unfair system that extorted money from the poorest of the poor. Just the fact that there was a full market in a place of prayer is bad. Man using religion for his personal financial gain was a great disrespect of our Holy God. Can you understand the anger of the Son? But look what he did with that anger.

Jesus did not allow the anger to destroy him. He did not take it out on other people. He dealt with his anger by correcting the situation, addressing the people concerned. Some people may look at this from the perspective that Jesus was mean and destructive but those people were a destructive element preventing innocent people from approaching the Father. God's righteous anger will always act against those who touch the children. But this was not the only time Jesus got angry.

It was the Sabbath and the Pharisees were watching Jesus carefully to see if he would heal on the holy day:

Jesus told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. Then he asked, “On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone’s life or destroy it?” But no one said a word. Jesus was angry as he looked around at the people. Yet he felt sorry for them because they were so stubborn. Then he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did, and his bad hand was healed. (Mark 3:3-5)

Even though Jesus got angry at the unkindness of the people, at their unwillingness to be honest about their heart, he permitted his compassion to outshine his anger. He put his anger away as he felt sorry for those who would trap him. His love was greater than his anger. And note that he did not allow his anger to prevent him from doing the right thing.

Then there was the time that his disciples tried to keep the children from disturbing Jesus. Instead of being pleased by their act of protection Jesus became angry. They still did not understand his purpose:

When Jesus saw this, he became angry and said, “Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these little children belong to the kingdom of God. I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does.” (Mark 10:14-15)

Notice that Jesus did not lose control. He did not rant and rave. He simply corrected the situation and then used it to teach an important spiritual truth. He was productive in a positive manner in his anger. Now compare that to your anger.

Let us be honest with each other. Our anger almost always comes from a self-centered root. It is a reaction to what people do against us or when something impacts us. In this case Jesus instructed us to allow forgiveness and compassion to overshadow any selfish emotion that may have been provoked in us. Easier said than done but it is easier when we walk in step with the Spirit. The further away we are from Jesus the more focused we are on ourselves. The closer we are, the more of his character shines through us.

Then we have the question of what we do with our anger. Does it become a destructive force in us? Does it kill a bit of us and anyone who is around? Does it manifest in violent action, words, attitude? This is not what Jesus did and there is no comparison to God's anger if this is how we react with our emotion. Jesus made positive things happen. He corrected the situation to the benefit of the innocent. He did not take it out on those closest to him. He did not do things he would need to apologize for later. He responded in his anger instead of react by his anger. Few of us can say the same.

The best thing we can do with our anger (and we will get angry) is learn to surrender it to the Lord. If we are not directed by the Spirit what positive things we can bring about in our anger then we need to give it to the Lord. Don't say those words you will later regret. At least ask the Lord how to impact the situation in a positive manner, which causes you to stop and think. Don't take any action that you have not spent a least an hour praying through, especially an action that will permanently impact the days to follow.

Try to be honest about this emotion we call anger and be honest about the root of it. There is no sense pretending about something that our God sees through. However, it is amazing the great things that God does with our surrender. On its own, anger is a destructive emotion in us. But in the hands of God it can become a positive force that produces positive outcomes, especially for the innocent.

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