Wrath – it’s one of the seven deadly sins. Yet, it’s a righteous attribute of God.
I was inspired to write this after hearing a sermon at my church on this subject. It was a feeling I had been struggling with at the time, and although there were things that perhaps gave good reason for the anger, I had lost the ability to distinguish between unjust anger and righteous anger. So where had I lost it? Where was the line to be drawn?
I’m going to talk about this in two parts, first talking about unrighteous anger and then about what righteous anger looks like.
In Scriptures, God shows the imperfections in all His people so that we can see the amazing perfection in Jesus. He also shows these imperfections so we can realize we’re not alone.
When this was preached on in my church, we read I Samuel 25:1-39. [Read it here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2025:1-39&version=NIV1984] In this passage, David is insulted by a man named Nabal whose land he had looked over and protected. He comes with his men and asks for the courtesy of spare food. Nabal refuses to give anything away. David is angered, and tells his men to pull their swords and swears to kill Nabal and every servant he has. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, hears of what happened and runs to David with plenty of food to beg forgiveness and rebuke his anger. David is calmed and praises God for Abigail’s intervention. When Nabal is told by Abigail of what she did, he is struck dead by God.
At the time, I had found it hard to find patience for people around me like I used to, and I couldn’t figure out why. I was able to deal with so many other different things in and out of school, and I even had plenty of reason to be content, calm – even joyful. People just got on my nerves so easily. If I had a very simple plan, such as just getting something accomplished, and someone got in the way, that was it. If I wanted something that could easily be mine, like permission for something or a moment of peace, and someone dared to deny me that, the line had been crossed. I could feel my insides turning upside-down, my face heating ever so slightly. Other times, it was when people would create tension. They would complain, whine, curse, have selfishness and endless pride – you name it. And it frustrated me to no end. I wanted to confront it and make it right. In all these situations, I felt angry.
What was going on? Here’s the first thing I found – I had fallen back on my devotions. I was dismissing my time with God because I was tired or I didn’t know what to read, and I thought I could do okay without it. It obviously didn’t take long to see damaging results in my attitude. The other stress-inducing things that I thought I could deal with were the other problem. They were taking a toll. Satan was using these things to strike when I was weak. I found myself becoming bitter and easily angered, even to the point where I wished ill on others for their wrongdoings to me. I wasn’t trusting God to take care of the problems with other people in my life. I wanted to lash back and give them my own judgement.
David was experiencing a similar situation. He was being chased around by Saul to be killed. He undoubtedly was stressed. It just took a little insult to push him over the edge and make him want to take matters into his own hands. Boy, could I relate. Perhaps not as extreme (I certainly wasn’t being chased to be killed), but I still understood his anger.
Obviously, this is a problem that has been around since the fall of man. So what do we do?
Sometimes, God will send someone to intervene when things get out of hand. In David’s case, Abigail was given courage to confront him and stop him. Other times, though, it may be a matter of simply coming back to God. Whichever route it is, the end will be the same: praying for patience and trusting God to make things right in His own time and His own way.
If you have been done wrong, there is no reason to punish them for it yourself. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous, anyway? You punishing someone for their wrong to you? But lashing back, gossiping about them, even giving them a cold shoulder are all ways that we try to punish someone on our own. Let God defend you. Let Him make things right. Let Him judge those who offend you.
Besides, when I fail to show love and patience, I’m really no better than the one who wronged me. James says in chapter 4 of his book, “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Who are you to judge your neighbor?
Pray for patience and strive to exercise it. Don’t take the matter into your own hands, but go to God and let Him sort it out. People will irritate you, insult you, and get in your way. But if you are a child of God, you should demonstrate His love. Besides, you can’t control others, but you can, by God’s grace, control yourself.
But isn’t there a righteous anger? God is an angry God as well as a loving One.
To be continued…