Garry spoke last night on the subject of anger. In 1977 the song ‘Love Is In The Air’ was popular, with its line that this is ‘everywhere you look around’. Nowadays, it is a sad fact that ‘anger is in the air‘. We seem to be a nation of angry people, whether this is manifested in road rage, vitriolic debates on social media, political hatred (which resulted in the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016, for example) and a general intolerance within society.
In the eyes of many people, this anger is justified and justifiable. Some even cite God as an example of someone who is often angry, as if this excuses their selfish and uncontrolled anger (presumably overlooking the many differences between humanity and God, including mankind’s sinfulness and God’s holiness). The Bible does talk of God’s anger, but when we look at this, we see that this is manifested when people deliberately ignore or rebel against His commandments.It is not a ‘first response’. In 2 Sam 6:1-7, we see the death of Uzzah for reaching out and touching the Ark of the Covenant, something many feel to be disproportionate to the act. If we look further into this incident, however, we see how God had given His people clear instructions about how to carry the Ark, which was the symbol of His holy presence, so that the priests would carry it with poles, never actually touching the chest. God’s anger arose out of the people’s insult and disregard for His commands and their lack of respect for all that the ark represented.
In Exodus 4:14, we are told that the Lord’s anger burned against Moses. In this encounter (when God calls Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian slavery), Moses makes many excuses to God about why he cannot fulfil this commission and God is exceedingly accommodating! It is only when Moses begs Him to send someone else that God becomes angry. God is far more patient and long-suffering with people than we are!
Some also justify their anger by saying that Jesus got angry, often citing the fact that He overturned the tables in the temple as a proof of this. This incident (see Matt 23:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, John 2:13-7) shows us Jesus overturning tables to make a definite point and talks of the zeal of God consuming Him, but there is actually no mention of anger. It is only when we see Jesus confronted with the stubbornness of the Pharisees, who would rather their interpretation of the Sabbath laws be honoured than actually see a man healed and delivered, that we read of Jesus being angry (Mark 3:1-6). Jesus’s anger was not vindictive or vengeful; His response to their hardness of heart was still to go ahead and heal the man!
So often, our anger arises when we are wounded, hurt or feel wronged or insulted. Jesus did not respond to insults or personal hurt with retaliation and threats and anger (see 1 Pet 2:21-23). We can be passionate in our beliefs and fervent in our zeal, but this does not have to tip us into anger.