Wednesday, October 14, 2015

On Handling Anger

In the movie, ‘The Hulk’, the main character is a mild-mannered scientist. However, whenever assaulted, he would turn into a raging 9-foot green giant and punch out those attacking him. My friends and I used to watch the TV series of this movie when we were young. Being young, we loved to see the Hulk punch their lights out because that was how we would express our anger - by retaliating.

However, is expressing our anger by raging or screaming right? Someone said the only way not to sin in anger is to be angry on the right grounds, against the right persons, in the right manner, at the right moment, and for the right length of time. That’s impossible. Almost always, our anger is a destructive anger, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). We should always aim to be very slow in getting angry because it does not bring about the righteous life that God expects of us. Since God does not want us to sin by expressing our anger, it is best then to resolve it. Paul helps us with some wise words in Eph 4:26, 27.  “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Paul is saying that while anger is an inevitable emotion sin should not entangle us in our anger. Nurturing anger results in bitterness which allows the devil a foothold in our life. When someone hurts us, let us not brood and nurse that anger. Instead pray to God for self-control and grace and that God’s love will overflow from us to the person.

Often the best way to deal with anger is to learn to forgive. Since expressing or suppressing it does not help, the best way is to replace it with Christlike qualities. Paul teaches, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph 4:31). He is saying “Don't choose it. Get rid of anger.” Then, he says we are to replace it, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph 4:32). Forgiving one another and committing the hurt received to Christ is the best solution.

In 1955, Jim Elliott and four missionary friends landed in the Ecuadorian jungle. They wanted to reach out to the Auca Indians but were speared to death by the very Indians they were trying to befriend. Elliot’s death must have shaken his widow, Elizabeth. However, her response mirrors what Paul is teaching us in Eph 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Later with her daughter, Valerie, she went back to the Ecuadorian jungles to reach out to the same Auca Indians who killed her husband. In time, through her witness, she won many Auca Indian souls to the Kingdom of Christ. Her husband’s death and her sacrifice worked for the good of the Auca Indians who came to know Jesus Christ. She was definitely a very Christ-like person, filled with grace and love. She could have responded to her husband’s murder with malice, bitterness or rage. She could have instilled those feelings in her daughter and many of us would have thought her justified in doing so. But she chose to follow the guidance in Eph 4:32 and replace anger with kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

We don’t have to be angry and sin. With God’s grace, we can glorify our Lord by choosing to replace our anger with something that will edify. 

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