“Be angry, and do not sin” Ephesians 4:26a
I have a temper. This I know. I’ve struggled with it for most of my life. More than lust, more than anything else I get angry. I see red.
Especially when someone I love has been hurt.
But not exclusively.
Anger gives place to the enemy in my life. It always has done. I have a mean streak that can be downright sadistic at times, and it’s not something I’m proud of. This is a confession, not a boast. It is the source of my greatest weakness, but when channelled correctly it can be a source of great Godly strength.
Unfortunately for me, most of the time it get misdirected.
We all have an aspect which allows the enemy to get a foothold in our hearts. Mine happens to be my temper, but I know people who struggle with greed, lust, envy and all manner of things that can be positive attributes if we use them the way God intends.
What it comes down to at the end of the day is pride.
It’s a sense of being wronged either by a perceived sleight, or someone else getting the promotion, the raise, the lotto win or anything where we believe ourselves to me more “deserving” than the other.
Sometimes it’s not wrong. I have had several people through the last 30 years come to me for help because they have been raped, assaulted or abused in some way. It’s not wrong to feel anger about the event. Nobody deserves that kind of tragedy in their life. It’s not wrong to be angry that cancer has afflicted a member of your circle. God hates those things. When Christ returns and the World is destroyed and reborn they will cease to exist. All pain and anguish will vanish and we will be left with Joy.
The problem for me – and many others – is the inability to separate the action from the perpetrator. Christ drove out the money-changers and traders from the Temple (twice) because He was overcome by zeal for the Holiness of God, not hatred for the men themselves. He went to the Cross as much for the traders as He did for the Disciples. Some of them may have been in the 5000 added to the Christian numbers after Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts. Others may have never returned to the job. For all we know, Zaccheus may have been among them.
Anger in itself is not sinful. Consider Jesus’s actions:
- He sees the Temple court being used for decidedly ungodly trade
- He looks around for cords and takes the time to braid them into a whip
- He takes the whip and marches into the Temple
- He starts a riot. Tables are overturned. Animals are driven into a frenzy.
- His anger is controlled. He gently releases the doves rather than throwing the cages to the floor
There is nothing pacifistic about the actions of Jesus that day. The Renaissance paintings portraying Jesus as about 120lbs soaking wet cannot be accurate. Could such a man single-handedly cause such a riot? This was a freight-train power, unstoppable and immutable. Hardly a nine-stone wimp’s actions. I weigh over 200lbs and I doubt I could do what Jesus did that day.
Yet there was no sin in His behaviour. It was a measured, calculated and controlled use of force. There are no recorded injuries from His actions (except the pride of the traders). Even the animals are unhurt, if a little panicked. Sinless anger.
Would that this were my skill.
I don’t fare well when I’m angry. And people get hurt. Usually emotionally, but I’ve been known to throw a punch (although not in the last 26 years or so). But that capacity is constantly present, just below the surface.
Paul says we need to take our thoughts captive and submit them to Christ. It’s something I struggle with. I remember Tony Campolo, a man whom I respect but don’t always agree with, at a festival in 1990 in England saying he was once asked “Would you be free from your burden of sin” and his response was “Ya know, it’s not really that much of a burden. Actually I like it. I wouldn’t do it so much if I didn’t enjoy it!”
I can identify with that when it comes to anger. It’s a place I feel comfortable. It’s familiar to me. Anger has been a refuge for me for 30 years. I hide in it and let my sheer physical strength and mental brute force run amok of anything that gets in the way.
But we are called to control ourselves. Or rather we are called to submit ourselves to God before we react. For me that’s a work in progress.
But we can make progress.
I have more peace in my heart now than I did when I began writing this post a few hours ago. Nothing externally has changed, in fact in some ways things have got more complicated.