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Matthew 5:22-24 (ESV)
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insultshis brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hellof fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
DEALING WITH OUR ANGER
Each of us can likely relate to Jesus’ words about being angry with someone or being reminded of some deep-seeded bitterness when trying to draw near to God. But is it really possible to quench the fire of anger? The answer is yes, but let’s consider a few things first.
We do need to recognize that there can be moments when anger is fully justified. God expressed this ‘righteous anger’ many times with the nation of Israel. However, if we are honest, most of our own fits of rage do not mirror God’s holiness.
James described the usual sources of anger this way: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2a).
Most of the time, anger comes from unmet desires or expectations. If we feel like some injustice has been done (whether by people, circumstances or God himself), our sinful nature quickly turns those feelings into external actions. These almost always include verbal combat with weapons sharpened by bitterness, malice, and slander. Even though Colossians 3:8 tells us to set those weapons down, it hardly seems possible.
So here are three recommendations for dealing with anger in order to move towards reconciliation.
First, stop fashioning weapons and pray.
If unjustified anger leads us into sin, we need the Lord’s direction before taking any action. This, of course, is the hardest step. Prayer is an act of submission, something that our flesh doesn’t like, especially when angry. But God promises to draw near as we humbly come to Him (James 4:6-7).
Second, we need to recognize our own sin.
If we are in a rare moment of 100% ‘righteous anger,’ then we’ll grieve over the sin and have no desire to be rude, resentful or seek revenge (Mark 3:5, 1 Cor. 13:4-5). After all, righteous anger is that which comes from God and will include a love for “the enemy.” (see Ro. 12:19-20).
However, if our feelings are seasoned with any resentment or worse, then, regardless of what occurred, we are opening ourselves up to God’s judgement. So, take time to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our hidden sins. We may even need the maturity of another Christian to help us see the “plank in our own eyes” and contribution to the problem.
Finally, we either must let love cover the offense or humbly engage with a desire for reconciliation.
Sometimes it’s best to forgive and keep loving and sometimes hard conversations must occur. True reconciliation often takes time and effort but striving to live at peace with all is part of the Christian calling (Mt. 5:9, Ro. 12:18).
Dealing with our anger is hard, but it is far better than to leaving ourselves open to the righteous judgement of God.
Lord, help us temper our fits of rage and seek your paths towards righteous and reconciled living. Through Jesus, Amen!