Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Look At Anger

Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:20

In the Bible, we regularly come across the term “God’s wrath”. It is used to describe God’s anger at injustice and profane acts. It is always seen as the righteousness of God in antipathy, as a holy God, to the impiety and unrighteousness of his people whom he has called into a covenant relationship with him. God’s anger is never seen as unjustified. Man too has anger, but are there circumstances and situations where we can say man’s anger is justified?

It is common for a person to justify his anger by saying “after all even Jesus displayed his anger.” Rhetorically speaking, that is true. However, if we examine the Bible and look closer at the incidents in which Jesus was angry, we will find it hard to justify our own anger. Let us look at two situations where Jesus was angry. The first is where he cleansed the Temple by driving out the merchants and moneychangers (Matt 21:12-13). The second is seen in the many occasions where Jesus rebuked the combined group of Pharisees, scribes, etc., for raising their own unjust regulations to the same level as the Laws handed down by God to Moses (Matt 23). He also termed them as honor- and applause-seeking hypocrites (Matt 6). Jesus was angry at them because of the way these parties exploited the name of God for their own gain. Moreover, their acts were unjust and resulted in the people under their care being oppressed and down-trodden. As we can see, Jesus’ anger was directed at people who perpetrated injustice and dishonoured God’s name and this compelled him to act against such acts.

Can we say our occasions of anger are of the same ilk? If we examine ourselves, we should honestly say that most of the times, we get angry only at ‘injustice’ performed against ourselves. Our anger normally begins with someone saying an unkind word about us or getting an unfair promotion over us or acting meanly to someone close to us, etc. We get upset, we seethe with resentment and sometimes we boil over into raging anger. But the example of Jesus was never to get angry at unjust acts directed personally at him. The greatest injustice done to him was to crucify him. As he hung on the cross, Jesus could have called down 10,000 angels to defend him. If he had done so, he would still have been found righteous. Instead, Jesus chose the path of meekness and prayed for our Heavenly Father to lavish his forgiveness on those responsible for his death. We tend to act the other way. We normally remain quiet when injustice reigns and afflicts people unrelated to us, responding and retaliating only against acts done to us or our family and friends. We can therefore conclude that our anger is a self-centred anger but Jesus’ anger is other-centred.

The Bible views our anger negatively. Yet there will be times when someone else's wrong words or actions harm us - a gossiping friend, a manipulating neighbor, a bullying colleague. The sting of their deeds can hurt terribly. But God’s desire and will is for us to forgive those who hurt us. Unforgiveness is a bitter root that poisons only us, not those who hurt us. Therefore, we should endeavor to channel our energy, when offended, in positive and not negative ways. Instead of using energy to nurse resentment and grudges, let us think of creative solutions to the problem and ways to improve our relationship with people who hurt us. God wants us to release our pain to him in prayer and commit the offenders to him. Let us pray for the people who have hurt us, even when they have not reconciled to us. Let us ask God to give us the grace to interact graciously with them when we encounter them.


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