I had a conversation with someone I love earlier about anger and it’s effects on your heart, mind and body. Anger is a double-edged sword – we can be righteously indignant, or we can be self-righteously indignant. We know that it is not a sin to be angry. We are told that the Lord is “slow to anger”– we are told to “be angry and sin not” – there are many biblical references to anger.
We have all struggled with anger. I doubt there is a single person alive who hasn’t been angry at someone at some point. Like I said before, anger is not in and of itself a sin. However, it is something of which we must be extremely careful. We human beings can be led very quickly into sin by our emotions such as anger.
I was googling around about anger earlier tonight and came across a great quote. It is credited to John Ruskin (who apparently was a Victorian Era writer.) He said, “He who would be angry and sin not, must not be angry with anything but sin.” I’m not familiar with John Ruskin to know if I agree with anything else he said or wrote, but that really struck a chord with me.
So many of us are angry about something these days. Many of us have personally experienced squabbles, betrayal, violence, harassment or any number of things that awakens anger in our hearts. Our country is torn apart by anger over political controversies, crime, hatred and other things. The Christian community has experienced much anger lately over abortion practices, the endless assault on religious freedoms, the torture, imprisonment and murders of many of our Christian brothers and sisters on foreign soil and the list goes on and on.
So, what are we to do then when we are angry and hurt? We were given instructions in these matters by the Lord Jesus. “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” Luke 6:27-28 As we Southerners are fond of saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” None of us should glory in the idea of someone’s eternal damnation even if they are our “enemies”. The flesh in us often works to convince us that it might be a good thing for certain people to burn for their actions, however we are exhorted again and again to love our fellow man. That’s a tall order for many of us. There are some people that are just seemingly unlovable altogether or are hateful, selfish and taken with evil. We are supposed to love them (as men and women made in the image of God Himself) anyway. I don’t believe that means we have to hang out with them, or even be around them if they have proven themselves to have unrepentant and evil will towards us or are dangerous to us. But, we should pray for the Lord to reach into their hearts and heal their hatred. He is able to do that. He makes all things new. He creates in us a clean spirit – there’s no doubt He can do it for others no matter how bad off they are. We have read about the conversion of Paul, who had persecuted Christians most zealously. He wrote “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15.
At the end of the day, I think that as Christians who are sealed with the Holy Spirit, we cannot enjoy the peace of God that is ours fully when we have anger and hatred towards others. It wears on us, it hardens our hearts, it quenches the Spirit within us. We can truly hate sin, we can be angered by sin, but we cannot allow ourselves to hate the perpetrators of those sins. I think we should pray for them. I think we should ask the Lord to show them the evil of their ways. I think we should confront and shun sin, and I think that we should protect ourselves bodily and spiritually from toxic relationships. But, we shouldn’t forget to pray for them – we shouldn’t forget to ask the Lord’s blessing upon them. We shouldn’t wish them ill will, and most of all, we should pray for their repentance and salvation. Please don’t think that I am pointing fingers at anyone. The things I write about are most often things that I struggle with myself. I pray for the Lord to forgive me when I fall short, and guide me to do better in the future. I pray the same for any of you who have struggled with this too.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:24
“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” James 5:20
“The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Proverbs 19:11
“A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” Proverbs 15:18
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27
“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Psalm 145:8
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” James 1:20