Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Danger of Anger

Fire extenguisher
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matt 5:21-22a).

Your anger is a fire, and you are the first person you burn.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us about real righteousness. He doesn’t want us to be superficially good yet dirty inside. He called those people “whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:27). No, our righteousness should go all the way down to the core.

And he starts with anger. You know not to commit murder. But anger is the first step down that path. As NT Wright put it in Matthew for Everyone, “the point of the commandment against murder was not that you should stop short of killing someone, but that you should never get near even the thought that you wish they were dead.”

At first glance, Jesus seems to say that all anger is wrong, but that can’t be true because we know Jesus experienced anger (eg, Matt 21:12), so there is righteous anger. The question is why you’re angry and what you do about it. “In your anger do not sin” (Eph 4:26a). Do not let your anger make you do things you shouldn’t.

Such as insulting people. Jesus continued his instructions: “Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt 5:22). Do not let anger bring ugliness up from your heart and out your mouth. Some people truly are fools or white washed tombs, but usually anger leads us to say things that are not even true and are definitely meaner than necessary. “In your anger, do not sin.”

Paul adds: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:26b-27). Don’t leave your anger to fester. Deal with it. Make peace with the one you are angry with. And make peace with the one who is angry with you.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matt 5:23-24).

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:26).

We’re supposed to be people marked by love, and love is not easily angered (1Cor 13:5). “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20), so “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph 4:31).

Instead, be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Like God.

Image via Pexels

Part of Christianity 102

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