Posts tagged ‘Anger’

A Tale of Two Lamechs

Credit: “Lamech and His Two Wives” by Phillip Mendhurst / Wikimedia

A week ago on this blog, we looked at the genealogy in Genesis 5, which recounts the lineages of the first humans. We focused on one member of this genealogy in particular, Enoch, who, we are told, “was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). Though Enoch’s life of 365 years may seem outrageously high compared to our contemporary lifespans, compared to the other people in the genealogy, many of whom lived nearly 1,000 years, his life could be said to have been “cut short.” We discovered, however, that a life cut short is not an indication of a curse. God can bless a short life with eternal life, as He did with Enoch.

This week, I’d like to focus on another character in this genealogy – Lamech, a descendant of one of the sons of Adam and Eve, Seth, and the father of Noah:

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:28-31)

This is the second Lamech we meet in Genesis. The first was a descendant of another one of the sons of Adam and Eve, Cain. This first Lamech was filled with anger and vengeance:

Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:19-24)

Here we find history’s first instance of a polygamous relationship and the second instance of a murder. This first Lamech walks in the footsteps of his forefather Cain as he kills a man, just as Cain killed his brother Abel. This Lamech even refers to his ancestor Cain, to whom God gave the promise of protection in a stroke of grace even after his heinous murder of his brother. After punishing Cain by sending him to a distant land, God promises him: “Anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over” (Genesis 4:15). This Lamech tries to outdo God’s vengeance with his own vengeance, threatening vengeance seventy-seven times over (Genesis 4:24).

This leads us back to the Lamech of Genesis 5. This second Lamech serves as an antithesis to the first Lamech. Whereas the first Lamech willingly participated in the curse of death brought on by sin, this second Lamech seeks to stymie that curse. When God first cursed Adam after he fell into sin, He said:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:17)

This Lamech says his son Noah will:

…comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed. (Genesis 5:29)

The second Lamech seeks righteousness and comfort while the first Lamech sought vengeance by death.

Notice also his lifespan – 777 years. God’s vengeance on Cain’s behalf was seven times over – one seven. The first Lamech’s vengeance on his own behalf was seventy-seven times over – two sevens. But the second Lamech’s righteous life is 777 years – three sevens. It turns out that righteousness and comfort outdo vengeance and violence. The second Lamech’s three sevens crush the first Lamech’s two sevens.

It can be easy to follow the way of the first Lamech. When someone hurts us, we reflexively want to take vengeance. But the way of the second Lamech is where hope is found, as we yearn for someone to undo the curse sin has brought into this world. The second Lamech’s son, Noah, survived the curse of a flood, but was ultimately not unable to undo the curse of sin. But there was One who came from this line who did. Indeed, He reverses the curse of the first Lamech. When one of His disciples, Peter, asks Him:

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

The first Lamech’s vengeance is overcome by Jesus’ forgiveness, who is the second Lamech’s hope. May He be our hope, too.

July 12, 2021 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Slow in Anger and Full of Grace

When God appears in a burning bush to Moses and charges him to lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, Moses is fiercely skeptical of God’s rescue mission. He begins by expressing skepticism that the Israelites he is called to rescue won’t express some sort of skepticism:

What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The LORD did not appear to you”? (Exodus 4:1)

God responds by giving Moses the power to perform some miracles to back up his divinely mandated mantle – he can turn his staff into a snake, make his hand leprous and then heal it again, and turn water from the Nile into blood.

But Moses is still not so sure. He is not only skeptical that the Israelites won’t be skeptical; he is also skeptical that he will be able to deliver God’s message:

Pardon Your servant, LORD. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. (Exodus 4:10)

God insists that Moses will do just fine. After all, He created Moses’ mouth, and He will speak through Moses’ mouth.

But Moses’ problem, it turns out, is not one of Israelite skepticism or a fear of public speaking. Instead, it is simply an old-fashioned stubborn will:

Pardon Your servant, LORD. Please send someone else. (Exodus 4:13)

Moses simply does not want to be bothered with God’s mission. And God is not happy:

Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses. (Exodus 4:14)

Usually, when the Lord’s anger burns, He acts accordingly. When the Israelites build a false god in the form of a golden calf, God says to Moses, “Now leave Me alone so that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them” (Exodus 32:10). By the end of the chapter, we read: “The LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made” (Exodus 32:35). When the Israelites grumble against God immediately after He provides them with a superabundance of quail, we see that “while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and He struck them with a severe plague” (Numbers 11:33).

With the Lord’s anger burning against Moses in Exodus 14, we would expect God to take decisive discipline measures against Moses. What will God do? Strike Moses with a plague? Swallow him up into the earth? Turn the burning bush into a flaming inferno that consumes him?

God does none of these things. Instead:

He said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.” (Exodus 4:14-16)

God, instead of destroying Moses because of his lack of confidence in Him, gives Moses a companion in his brother. God’s anger may burn, but so does His grace.

When Moses is up on Mount Sinai meeting with God, God proclaims His character to Moses:

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Exodus 34:6-7)

It turns out that not only is God slow to anger, He is also slow in anger. Yes, sometimes His anger results in disciplinary action. But in Moses’ case in Exodus 4, God’s anger was subsumed by God’s grace. In place of judgment, God gave Moses his brother.

When we sin, God can – and, indeed, does – get angry. But as with Moses, God’s anger is ultimately subsumed by God’s grace. And in place of judgment, God gives us a brother:

Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.” “Who are My mother and My brothers?” He asked. Then He looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” (Mark 3:31-34)

God is slow in anger – even with us.

May 17, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Anger and Forgiveness

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

A new study published in the Oxford Journal of Gerontology finds that those who work to resolve arguments quickly – or avoid arguments altogether – improve their long-term health. Researchers from Oregon State University found that the longer a person lets an unresolved conflict linger, the heavier and more significant it begins to feel. Robert Stawski, the senior author of the study, explains:

Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren’t going to stop stressful things from happening. But the extent to which you can tie them off, bring them to an end, and resolve them is definitely going to pay dividends in terms of your well-being. Resolving your arguments is quite important for maintaining well-being in daily life.

The study found that, if possible, it is best to resolve a conflict the same day it arises. Dr. Stawski added:

The extent to which you can tie off the stress so it’s not having this gnawing impact at you over the course of the day or a few days will help minimize the potential long-term impact.

Of course, this insight of resolving conflict within a day is not new to this study. Long before there was this study, there was the apostle Paul who wrote:

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Unresolved anger is dangerous, Paul writes – not only emotionally, but spiritually. It gives the devil himself a foothold in your heart.

As a pastor, it is not uncommon for me to have a conversation with someone who is nursing a grudge and stewing in anger. And, to put it bluntly, they’re miserable. The problem is it’s difficult to stop a feeling. When I become angry, I don’t consciously choose to become angry. Anger just, well, happens. But even if I don’t consciously choose to become angry, I can consciously choose to calm down. I can talk to a friend who I trust to give me perspective. I can talk to myself and remind myself that my anger solves nothing. I can talk to the Lord and ask Him to bring me peace. And I can forgive. To quote the apostle Paul again:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31)

In other words, even if you can’t stop anger from bubbling up in your heart, when it does, you are called to get rid of it as fast as you can. But how? Paul tells us in the very next verse:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Anger, Paul says, is nothing forgiveness can’t fix. Yes, forgiveness is hard. Choosing to release a grudge against someone when they have hurt you is a heavy task. But anger is dangerous. And it’s heavy, too. So, choose what is better for them – and for you. Choose forgiveness.

April 26, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Less Anger and More Smiles

grayscale-photo-of-laughing-old-man-156731.jpg

According to Guinness World Records, we have a new world’s-oldest-male:

A Japanese man with a sweet tooth who believes in smiles has become the world’s oldest male at 112 years … Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born in Niigata in northern Japan in 1907, received a certificate for his accomplishment on Wednesday at a nursing home in the city. The previous record holder, Masazo Nonaka, another Japanese, died last month. 

As is often the case with aged people, Mr. Watanabe was asked about to what he credits his longevity. He answered, “Don’t get angry and keep smiling.”

In a society that has no shortage of anger, Mr. Watanabe certainly offers some contrarian advice. And yet, medically, Mr. Watanabe just might be right. Study after study has shown that, although anger can be helpful in flashes to solve big problems, sustained anger, if not directly, is at least secondarily damaging to your health. Dr. Michael Kutcher, an interventional cardiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, explains:

It’s kind of an adjunctive risk factor. It’s not of and by itself a cause of coronary artery disease or a cause of heart disease. But if the anger is sustained and the blood pressure is affected and the heart rate is affected, that indirectly can lead to coronary disease or disease of the heart muscle.

John Schinnerer, an anger management coach in Danville, California, links anger to a whole host of health problems:

It’s been linked to obesity, low self-esteem, migraines, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, sexual performance problems, increased heart attack risk, lower-quality relationships, higher probability of abusing others emotionally or physically or both, higher blood pressure, and stroke.

In short, anger is something you don’t want to mess around with.

Perhaps Jesus’ brother James was on to something when he wrote: “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). And perhaps Solomon really was wise when he wrote: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

Although Christians sometimes talk about a “righteous anger” at the sinfulness and brokenness of this world, we must admit that our appeals to “righteous anger” can be, at times, just thin justifications for anger that is far more sinful than it is saintly. Our anger can be more often self-interested than justice-oriented. I would also point out that, even when the Bible does speak of “righteous anger,” it is immediately followed by a warning: “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). The line between righteous and unrighteous anger, it turns out, is razor thin.

Living life with joy rather than anger seems to be a much safer proposition. The apostle Paul encourages us: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)! Joy is so good, Paul says, it is something we should have “always.” Why? Well, I can’t guarantee that it’ll help you live to 112. But it will be a blessing to those around you. And they’re reason enough to smile.

February 17, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Rejoice! Don’t Rage


Anger does strange things to people.

A couple of years ago, a country song came out called, “I Pray for You.”  In this song, the artist recounts a recent breakup with his girlfriend.  It was tough, but even with all the pain and heartache she caused him, he says he still prays for her.  And, according to the song, this is what he prays:

I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill,
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill
And knocks you in the head like I’d like to.
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls,
I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls,
I pray all your dreams never come true.
Just know wherever you are, honey, I pray for you.[1]

Do these lyrics strike anyone else as wholly inappropriate?  Whenever I would hear this song on one of our local country stations, I always had to change the station.  The bitterness and resentment which comes seething from this song was just too much for me.

No matter how unfortunate the lyrics to this song might be, they do give us a window into the havoc anger can reek in a person’s heart and soul.  Anger does strange things to people.

In our text from this past weekend, we read about the anger the religious leaders directed against the apostles: “They were furious and wanted to put them to death” (Acts 5:33).  As I mentioned in ABC, the Greek word for “furious” is diaprio, which means “to saw in half.”  The religious leaders are so angry with the apostles, they want to lay them on the sawmill and cut them in two.  This is the stuff of which horror movies are made!  In Luke 6, the religious leaders become angry with Jesus because He has the audacity to teach it is lawful to do good deeds on the Sabbath, even though the Sabbath calls for rest:  “They were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might to do to Jesus” (Luke 6:11).  In this instance, the Greek word for “fury” is anoia, from the word nous, meaning “mind,” fronted by an alpha privative negating the nous which follows it.  Thus, to be anoia means “to lose one’s mind.”  The religious leaders are so filled with fury, Luke says they can’t think straight!  They have lost their minds!

Yes, anger does strange things to people.  This is why the apostle Paul calls us to put off anger in Ephesians 4:  “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).  We should not allow anger to rule and pervert us the way it does ancient religious leaders and modern country stars.

So how do we break the vice anger can so quickly get on us?  In ABC, I spoke of alternate responses to anger.  Rather than getting angry, we can love, we can steadfastly resist evil while not bludgeoning evildoers, we can be patient, and we can even rejoice.  Perhaps it is this final alternate response that is most mystifying.  Rejoicing in the face of evil that should rightly make us angry hardly sounds reasonable or desirable.  And yet, this is precisely what Scripture urges: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).  We ought to respond to trials – even those brought forth from evil circumstances – with rejoicing.  But do not overlook why we are to rejoice in these trials:  “the testing…develops perseverance.”  In other words, it is not the evil trials themselves in which we rejoice, but that which the trials produce in us, namely, perseverance.  Finally, then, we rejoice not in evil, but through evil.  For God works through evil things to bring about His great good for us and for others.

Finally, rejoicing is a much more powerful tool against evil than is anger.  Anger simply decries the inequity of wickedness.  Rejoicing, conversely, puts wickedness on notice:  Wickedness can be laughed at because wickedness will not win!  It has been conquered by Christ on the cross, it is used by Christ to develop perseverance in us, and it will be utterly destroyed at Christ’s return on Last Day.  Wickedness does not stand a chance.

So what enrages you?  What angers you?  Because Jesus wins, take some time to rejoice today.  After all, His victory is worth your joy.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1]I Pray for You,” Jaron and the Long Road To Love (Big Machine Records, 2010).

September 26, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Keeping Your Cool

When it counts, I am cool, calm, and collected.  When my mother-in-law passed away earlier this year, I did my best to make sure everything was covered for my family.  When a dear woman wept in my office as she recounted the grievous way she had been sinned against, I offered the most sober solace I could muster.

When it counts, I am cool, calm, and collected.  But then I lose my car keys…and my demure demeanor crumbles.  “Where could I have put those stupid things?” I grumble as I stomp around the house, making sure everyone within a fifty-foot radius of me knows exactly how incredulous I am.  “This is ridiculous!  I set something down for one second and it up and disappears.”  Melody, of course, tries to provide some perspective for my not so precarious plight.  “It’s no big deal, honey,” she says.  “They have to be around here somewhere!”  But I am inconsolable.  “No!” I retort.  “I’m already running late to this appointment.  This just makes things worse!”

In our text from this past weekend, Solomon writes, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).  “Having good sense means having a long fuse,” Solomon says.  Apparently, then, minor annoyances can cause me to check my good sense at the door.  I can get far too frustrated far too fast.  I not only react, I overreact.  But it ought not be this way.

In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word for the phrase “slow to anger” is macrothymeo.  This is a compound word made up of macro, meaning “big,” or “long,” and thymeo, meaning “an outburst of passion or wrath.”  I remember thymeo’s meaning by thinking of a thermometer.  Like a thermometer, our anger can get hot and boil and bubble over.  To be macrothymeo, then, means to take a long time to get hot under the collar.  It means, to borrow a phrase from bestselling author Richard Carlson, to “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

But all too often, I do sweat the small stuff.  And my guess is, you do too.  In fact, maybe it’s not so much the small stuff that you sweat, but the big stuff.  Maybe someone has cheated you out of what is rightly yours.  Maybe someone has hurt you in a profound way.  Maybe someone has sinned against you and the damage feels irreparable.  It’s at times like these when we can be tempted to let anxiety and anger take over.  And such anxiety and anger seems justified enough.  After all, anger at sin seems not only acceptable, but called for!  But Solomon says that a wise man “overlooks an offense.”

How could Solomon say such a thing?  Is he encouraging us to just let sin slide?  No.  But he is encouraging us to let God take care of sin for us.  The apostle Paul explains it like this to a group of pagans in Athens: “In the past God overlooked ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed” (Acts 17:30-31).  Even as God overlooks the ignorance of unbelief out of His grace, we are called to overlook the offenses of others against us by God’s grace.  Now this does not mean that God will not judge the world for its sin.  He will.  But judgment will be carried out not by you, but by “the man He has appointed.”  And that man is Jesus.

Finally, God “overlooks ignorance” not because he does not care about sin, but because He is giving those who are ignorant of Him time to repent and trust in Him.  As the apostle Peter says, “Our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).  This is why our God does not immediately judge sin and sinners, including you and me.  This is why our God is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).  Like our God, may we too be slow to anger.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Josh’s
message!

August 8, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Being Subject to Judgment – Matthew 5:21-22

In Adult Bible Class this past weekend, we continued our “Fit for Life” series with a look at our relational health.  As with emotional health in last week’s ABC Extra, I thought some statistics might offer a telling aperture into the state of our relationships:

  • As of 2003, 43.7% of custodial mothers and 56.2% of custodial fathers were either separated or divorced, giving credence to the oft-quoted statistic that 50% of marriages will end in divorce.  Many marriages are broken.
  • According to The State of Our Unions 2005, only 63% of American children grow up with both biological parents – the lowest figure in the Western world.  Families are broken.
  • A 2006 study in the American Sociological Review found that Americans on average had only two close friends to confide in, down from an average of three in 1985. The percentage of people who noted having no such confidant rose from 10% to almost 25%.  Friendships are broken.

Between the breakdown in marriages, families, and friendships, it is clear that our relational health is on life support.

Jesus knew all about the disaster that results from relational sickness.  Divorces, grudges, and loneliness are devastating.  Indeed, from the very beginning, God spoke of the importance of relationships and relational health.  God says of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).  And so God makes Eve for Adam.  God desires that we be in relationship with each other and with him.

It is with this in mind that Jesus offers us a stark and sobering warning about the damage a fractured or fissured relationship can bring: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment’” (Matthew 5:21).  Notice that Jesus says those who murder are “subject to judgment.”  What judgment was rendered for murder?  Moses explains:

If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.  Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.  Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.  The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death.  If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at him intentionally so that he dies or if in hostility he hits him with his fist so that he dies, that person shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. (Numbers 35:16-21)

No matter what the means of murder, the judgment against it is the same:  murder invokes capital punishment.   But now, in Matthew 5, Jesus takes this dire judgment one step farther: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).  In other words, those who are angry are subject to same judgment as those who murder.  Both anger and murder result in death.

As I mentioned in ABC, the Hebrew word for “murder” in the fifth commandment is rasach, a word that denotes murder in particular over and against killing in general.  Thus, this word describes not only the act of killing someone, but the intention behind that act. In other words, if you slay someone on a field of battle in self-defense, it is not rasach.  If you kill someone with malevolent intent, however, it is rasach.  Thus, when Jesus speaks against being angry with your brother, he is picking up on the intention behind the action in this commandment.  And so Jesus says, “Be it the action of rasach or the intention behind the action, the result is the same:  you will be ‘subject to judgment.’”

But can Jesus really be serious here?  After all, the judgment rendered against the act of murder is death.  Certainly the judgment rendered against the anger that accompanies the action can’t also be death!  Indeed, in first century Jewish communities, save the reclusive Essenes, there were no standardized punishments for anger.  How can Jesus now levy a punishment as harsh as death on a mere emotion?

Anger leads to death.  Sure, it may not lead to the kind of death that happens with capital punishment – a lethal injection or an electric chair or a noose – but it can certainly lead to its own kind of death.  Anger can lead to the death of a friendship, the death of community, the death of a marriage, the death of joy, and finally, if unchecked and unrighteous, the death of your soul.  This is why Jesus is so concerned about letting go of anger – because he knows the consequences for unrighteous and unrepentant anger can be devastating.

In truth, God has every right to be angry with us because of our sin.  And yet, because of Christ’s of propitiatory work on the cross, we can rejoice that “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  God’s wrath at our sin was placed on Christ at the cross.  God let go of his anger on Christ.  And now, even as God’s wrath has been turned back at us, we are called to turn back our anger at others.  As Paul says:  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).  May it be so with us.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

March 8, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment

ABC Preview – Righteous Anger – Matthew 5:21-22

This weekend in Adult Bible Class, we continue our “Fit for Life” series with a look at relational health.  Jesus addresses the perils of relational sickness in our text for this weekend: “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” (Matthew 5:21-22).  Jesus says anger is antithetical to healthy relationships.  And yet, again and again, we read in the pages of Scripture of a God who gets angry.  Indeed, the Psalmist says: “God rebukes [the peoples] in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath” (Psalm 2:5).  God gets angry.  But Jesus cautions against anger.  So how can one who gets angry teach against anger?

The syntax of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 is instructive.  Jesus warns against being a person “who is angry.”  In Greek, this is a present tense participle, denoting not an incidental reaction to sin or injustice, but an ongoing temperament.  In other words, the person “who is angry” is continually angry, perhaps with no good reason at all.  Anger forms the core of this person’s character.

Our God does indeed get angry.  But his anger is always with good reason and as an incidental reaction to our sin.  Indeed, it would be an egregious miscarriage of his character if our holy God did not get angry at our ugly sin.  God’s anger is a righteous anger.

Perhaps the best description that I have read concerning God’s righteous anger comes from J.I. Packer:

What manner of thing is the wrath of God?…It is not the capricious, arbitrary, bad-tempered, and conceited anger that pagans attribute to their gods.  It is not the sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans.  It is a function of that holiness which is expressed in the demands of God’s moral law (“be holy, because I am holy” [1 Peter 1:16]), and of that righteousness which is expressed in God’s acts of judgment and reward…God’s wrath is “the holy revulsions of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness”; it issues in “a positive outgoing of the divine displeasure.”  And this is righteous anger – the right reaction of moral perfection in the Creator toward moral perversity in the creature.  So far from the manifestation of God’s wrath in punishing sin being morally doubtful, the thing that would be morally doubtful would be for him not to show his wrath in this way.  God is not just – that is, he does not act in the way that is right, he does not do what is proper to a judge – unless he inflicts upon all sin and wrongdoing the penalty it deserves. (J.I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood, 35)

Blessedly, as Packer goes on to note, God makes provision for his holy anger in the cross of his Son, Jesus Christ.  As Paul writes:  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Christ’s] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).  God’s righteous anger at our sin is put on his righteous Son on the cross.  In theological parlance, we call this propitiation.

Thus, there is a place for anger.  But it must be the right kind of anger.  It must be righteous anger.  So confess the times that you have fallen prey to the “sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans,” as Packer says.  And thank God for his righteous anger.  For sin deserves and even demands wrath from a righteous God.  But praise be to God that he poured out his wrath not on us, but on his Son.  Why does God do a thing so terrible as pouring out his wrath on his Son?  Because God’s anger never stands alone.  It is always coupled with his love for you and me.

March 4, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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