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Anger is a fire which can consume everyone in the path of its flames. Yet, angry energy can also be harnessed and focused toward a specific task. This primeval force can be used for nefarious purposes, or from its vigor one can achieve a great harvest of good things.
Motivated by His love for the Father, Jesus, in a burst of angry energy drove the money changers from the temple, turning over their tables. He used His zealous anger to cleanse the temple and leave a permanent example to us that God’s wrath is a righteous anger. It is the heart behind the anger which determines either its rightness or its wickedness. “Be angry, yet do not sin…” Ephesians 4:26 ISV
Determining factors for gauging which type of anger one employs is found in the heart and in the mind: the attitudes behind that feeling. Malicious rage is born of hatred, and that hatred invariably is birthed through a wrong understanding of who and what we are, hence, what we deserve. Rage is usually a product of a person’s perception that someone else has done something wrong to them, or perhaps have deprived them of what they feel they are due. Many are enraged by what they perceive as injustices that are perpetrated against another. Sometimes the injustice is real, and at others it’s only our skewed understanding of the truth which causes us to erroneously conclude that a wrong has occurred.
Should we be angry when an injustice has been done? I think so. Should we have feelings of hatred and bitterness toward the perpetrator? Never! Our concern is justice, and always reconciliation, not retribution. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that, and hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.”
Love is the antithesis of hatred and rage, it is the cure. Love is like a panacea which can spread to encompass and transform all in its path, extinguishing the fires of rage along the way.
However, love can also produce a righteous anger, just as Jesus’ love for His Father’s house summoned up zealous anger in Him. Scrutinizing these two opposing types of anger, one producing hatred and rage, and the other justice and good purpose, the indignation of two particular women paints us a clear picture.
A drunk driver lost control of his vehicle and careened into a sedan killing a young boy of seven. Understandably, the boy’s mother became enraged, directing her ire toward the sop who’d smashed into their car and took her son’s life. A week later her anger intensified into an uncontrollable rage. The mother picked up a gun and shot the man responsible for her son’s death. Being convicted of the killing, she destroyed her own life as well.
In contrast, another woman had the same thing happen to her. A drunk driver killed her 10 year-old son. But this woman used her angry energy to form an organization called: “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers”. This group has played a vital role in legislating for more stringent penalties for driving while intoxicated. They did something good with their angry energy.
Perhaps the outcome of our anger is the best test for whether or not it is a righteous wrath. Anger that brings bitter rage is of the flesh—it is a sinful human response, and it is in opposition to godly anger. “…Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:20 NIV
As Christians, we will, no doubt encounter people and situations which threaten to bring our ire to the boiling point. Yet, dying to self (see Luke 9:23) means we’ve surrendered our rights to Christ. Wrongs done against us are no longer just against us, but against the Lord. He holds our rights, and when someone tramples those rights it’s an affront to God, more than it is to us. Bearing this in mind helps us; surrender the situation to the Lord, forgive the offender, and become an active participant in bringing about the glorious promise of Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” KJV
When we become angry, pondering two important factors will help facilitate a Christ-like response. First, we too have committed injustices against God, yet He loved us regardless. And, God also loves the one who has offended you. So when a conflict arises, simply talk to the Lord about it. Thank Him for forgiving your offenses, and tell Him that you forgive your offender. Jesus is more than capable of handling that situation. Put on the love of Christ, and then respond.
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