We are pondering the emotional life of the Christian. Today, let's think about the topic of sinful emotions. And let's take anger as a case study.
How do we know if we’re justified in the anger we feel and express?
Anger is not always sinful. God gets angry.
"Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'
Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored (Mark 3:1-5).
To be clear, I believe in the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. If that's a given, Jesus' feeling and expression of anger in this story are perfectly righteous. To cut to the bottom line: righteous anger occurs when God doesn’t get what he wants. That is, righteous anger occurs when God’s will is violated. I think the clearest examples of that in the Scriptures are the imprecatory Psalms where the psalmists prayed curses on God’s enemies over their oppressive injustice.
But we need to be honest with ourselves here, most of our anger or outrage is not aroused because God’s will has been violated. It is aroused because our will has been violated.
"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2a).
Anger is: there’s something I want, but people or circumstances or life aren’t acquiescing to my desire. The result is I feel frustrated or irritated or angry. The root of it is “I want…my will is being violated.” It’s sinful anger. If we were uncover anger's sibling "fear", we'd discover something similar: "There's something I want, but I might not get it." Anger looks into the present or the past. Fear looks into the future. It is because of this, I believe the secret to a happy life is humility.
Incidentally, this series of blogs is based on a sermon series I preached several months ago. More is said there than I will cover here. But if you're interested, those sermons can be found here.