Why Getting So Angry Might Not Help

Angry Bee BlogWhen a honey bee gets angry, it stings.  After the sting, it dies.  Literally, the bee gives its life in defense of its anger seeking revenge.  Our anger is often like that of the bee.  It is volatile and deadly.  And, like the bee, we are able to inflict only a temporary pain to the objects of our ire, yet we are likely to kill ourselves in the process.  The anger of man (or woman) does not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

Of course, I don’t mean that we physically die, as does the bee. Rather, I mean that something about us is lost when we unleash our poisonous stingers of anger against others.  We lose a right relationship with the person for one thing.  For another thing, we lose control of our own emotions.  But, even beyond these losses, we lose something else—something far more valuable than any reward of satisfaction we get by cutting another man or woman down to size.  We lose sight of God.

You see, our anger does not establish righteousness.  No matter how angry we get, no matter how many people we bring alongside of us to share in our anger, we cannot prove by that anger that we are right.  Miriam was angry with Moses. Moses was angry with Miriam and with the people in the wilderness.  The people in the wilderness were angry with God and Moses. Yet, none of these was considered righteous by God.  All their grumblings were sin.  In fact, their anger ended up making God angry with them because of their unbelief.

Did it matter that it was the majority opinion that they had a right to be angry?  No.  God does not establish righteousness by majority opinion.  He establishes righteousness by His own righteousness.  No matter how mad we get, no matter how many hornet’s nests of anger we stir up in others, no matter the size of the crowd or the volume of the protests—we will never attain to the righteousness of God by our anger.  Indeed, as with the case of the Israelites in the wilderness, our anger may only be a clear presentation of our own unrighteousness.  It does not matter that “everyone agAnger Blogrees” with our reason for being angry.  The anger of man does not—and will not ever—bring about the righteousness of God.  We lose sight of God when we curse our spouses, our bosses, our employees, our teachers, our team mates, our roommates, our siblings, or our parents.

Because we lose sight of God, we lose sight of ourselves, too.  Perhaps the worst thing our outbursts of anger prove is that we have a very unrealistic view of ourselves before God.  If we had any idea of how deeply our own private and public sins offend God, we would not dare allow our tongues out of our mouths as weapons to be employed against others.  We would be quiet and still in the presence of God’s holiness, and we would see sufficient reason for keeping our own mouths shut, lest He become angry with us, and we perish along the way.

So, anger clearly makes us think too highly of ourselves, too lowly of others, and way too little of God.  Instead of an outburst of anger, we should work to burst outwardly with grace toward others, remembering that Christ taught us “By your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3)

God simply refuses to be impressed with our anger.  He is too impressed with His Son who cleanses us from murderous thoughts and outbursts of anger (see Galatians 5).  May we be as impressed with Christ as the Father.  If that be the case, we would not exalt ourselves above others.  We would be much quieter and gentler.  And we would be more loving… and more joyful.

Restraining Wrath

The Apostle Paul was once part of a shipwreck that didn’t have to happen.  In Acts 27, Paul advises the Roman centurion and the crew of the ship to stay in port through the winter.  The ship was bound to wreck, according to Paul, if it set sail before the winter was over.  The ship’s crew and captain decided—along with the centurion—to sail anyway.  After all, Paul was merely a prisoner.  Why listen to him?


Of course, from reading the rest of the book of Acts, we know that the ship did indeed set sail, and it did indeed wreck.  The boat was a complete loss.  When the shipwreck became an imminent reality, Paul stood before its crew and passengers and said, “You should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete….”  This comment from Paul is not a hasty, “I told you so.”  He is much more sober than that, and much more is at stake here than Paul’s reputation.


Paul’s “I told you so moment” came as a stamp of credibility for him at a crucial time.  He was about to tell the centurion that no prisoner should be killed and that everyone had to stay on the ship—these were the conditions under which he knew that there would be no loss of life.  Both of these conditions were counter-intuitive to the centurion and the crew of the ship.  But Paul was right.  They listened to him this time, and no one perished.  Only the boat was lost.


So, I hear this story and see in it a very practical lesson for my own life—a theological lesson.  I gave input recently to another brother about a situation.  I persuaded him of my position.  He agreed to follow my counsel, but he later had a change of heart and, unbeknownst to me, reversed the decision.  He only told me after the fact, when it was too late to do anything about it.


For the past several days, I have been stewing over the matter in my own heart.  I have prayed about it, and, as much as possible, I have given it over to the Lord.  Inside, I feel sort of like Paul must have felt:  I see a shipwreck coming that could have been avoided.  Why didn’t you listen to me?


After being stunned for a time and then angry, I formulated all the reasons I was right: There were 4 clear reasons my position was right.  I also anticipated every counter argument the decision maker might try to make, and I had answers for those arguments as well.  I went back through the reasons I had for making the decision, and I remained more convinced than ever that I was right.


Amazingly, the Lord used this situation to teach me something glorious about Himself—something unexpected, yet intensely practical.  The Lord is slow to anger.  Now, I know we all know this about the Lord.  He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.  Yet, I had never thought of God’s wrath being a comforting thought.  In struggling through this issue, I thought of the justice of God which is a fire in Him for truth and righteousness.


God is both full of wrath toward sinners and patient toward sinners.  In other words, God is always right in His judgments.  Every time one of us goes against His word, we go against His righteous judgment.  This rebellion is called sin, and it makes God angry.  So, the feeling of rage I have against this decision maker who went against my better judgment is a feeling somewhat akin to the outrage God rightly feels against sinners when they go against His word.  Yet, God is patient with sinners because God’s kindness is meant to lead sinners to repentance (Romans 2:4).


So, here is the unexpected lesson I learned from the wrath of God.  The fact that God does not pour out His wrath every single time a person sins is an assurance that I don’t have to pour out my wrath every time something doesn’t go my way.  God’s patience is a sure sign that—in His strength—I can be patient, too.  I am thoroughly convinced that I am right in my judgment, but I might still be wrong.  God, on the other hand, cannot be wrong in His judgments.  Yet, He does not unleash His wrath at every offense of His righteous judgments.  So, in the Spirit of Christ, I don’t have to unleash either.  I, too, can be patient and slow to anger.


I think the Apostle Paul must have understood this.  He did say “I told you so,” but it was only to remind them that his judgment was correct in the past, and, so, it ought to be followed for the future—which it was.  No one died in the shipwreck because Paul’s counsel was followed.  It was followed because he was patient.  Time proved his righteousness.  It will prove ours, too, if we are righteous.


So, we must live rightly in the righteousness of Christ and trust that over time folks will hear what we are saying because our judgments are true.  We don’t need to exercise wrath.  We simply need—like Paul—to live by faith.  Our credibility will increase over time as our faith continues to work itself out through our actions and judgments.


Like Paul, we may have to suffer a shipwreck while we are building credibility, but, also like Paul, we might later be able to save lives by pointing people to the Christ we love.  The “I told you so moments” may come, but they should be followed by, “let’s follow Christ this next time so there will be no loss of life.”

A Better Response

Pat Robertson made reference today to the supposed voodoo pact that Haitians made with the devil more than a century ago.  The insinuation was clear.  Haiti deserved the judgment she got.  This seems a wrongheaded response, particularly in such a tragic time.

A much better response is offered by Dr. Mohler, who asks whether God hates Haiti.  Dr. Mohler answers the question by stating that God hates sin.  Our response to tragedy is not to say that God must hate those who suffer; rather, our response should be (as Christ taught the disciples) “do you think they were more guilty than others” (Luke 13:4).  No, there is a judgment for all men.  There is condemnation for all men.  Death will reach to all men.

The glory and goodness of God is on display in the reality that love will reach to Haiti.  God’s people will spread God’s love to Haiti.  The gospel will reach Haiti.  God’s love is being poured out now on the people of Haiti.  Making assertions that Haitians deserve God’s wrath is forgetting that we do, too.