Today’s 10 Minute Devotional comes to us from Stephanie Belcher, host of Two Peas in a Podcast.
There my friends stood; one yelling in support of one candidate, and the other screaming in support of the opposing candidate. As their opinions echoed in the room, a civilized discussion quickly became personal. Insults were thrown, attacks were leveled, and a friendship was diminished.
While their screaming filled my ears, only one thought echoed in my head: “Didn’t we all sit in the same pew at church last week?” It seems we live in an angry world. Many try to justify their anger.
The Bible talks of justified anger. In Matthew, Mark, and John we read of Jesus showing great emotion and anger when he found that money-changers were selling goods in the temple. He became so angry that he “made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:15).
When I hear this story, it is typically in regard to someone justifying anger. The logic has turned from God becoming justifiably angry at sin in his temple, to humans believing our anger is okay if we can align it with knowledge or scripture. If Jesus can get mad at terrible things, I can too, right?
In the spirit of honesty, anger has been my biggest struggle in life. I’ve let many suns set on my anger, and I am quick to find fault in others.
I cannot read of Jesus getting angry without reflecting upon my personal version of selling wares in the temple. My Master’s degree is in sociology. In sociology, there are many things to angry about.
In Sociology 101, I learned of corporations stealing money from their employees. I read about women in the United States being abused by their husbands. I learned of children who starve because we refuse to share our resources.
I remember a time where all I felt was anger at the injustices of the world. In my anger, I would confront someone who disagreed with me because I felt empowered by knowledge to argue with them. As I argued, I’d think to myself, “People are being hurt, so I can yell at you because you don’t see that!”
Over time, and after guidance from the wisdom of others, I see the fault in my own “justifiable” anger.
Yelling at someone is wrong. While I may have gotten my point across I may have also crushed another human being. In arguing for one group, I hurt another. How many times has someone yelling at you helped you change your mind? I support advocating for disadvantaged groups, but if I’m going to advocate I have to find a way to do so without slamming others.
Instead of giving into my anger, I have tried to find other outlets for it. I started a blog where I discuss my own failings and how I have grown through them. We are never more than a mile from people in need, so I started volunteering in my own city. I began teaching Sunday school as well as serving with a group that generates funding for local non-profits.
But what about that voice that screams “This is wrong!”? The voice that tells you what is right and wrong should be the Holy Spirit, but often it is you. It’s good to practice humility in telling the difference.
Although we aim for kindness, we will always fall a little short. Jesus could turn over tables because his understanding of what is unjust was not jaded. Brant Hanson, the Christian author of Unoffendable goes on to say
I simply can’t find the idea of human ‘righteous anger’ in scripture. Yes, God’s anger is righteous, but He is sinless. He can be trusted with it. We are told, over and over, to rid ourselves of it. Right now.
Thus, we cannot ignore other parts of scripture that discuss the byproducts on an angry life. James writes,
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).
When people quote this verse they bring up the “slow to anger,” yet tend to forget the latter portion. We are not Jesus, and we are not God. When we become angry the product is often not what God intends for our lives.
The story of Cain gives us an exceptional example of anger and what God calls us to do with it.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it’ (Genesis 4: 6, NIV).
In our anger, God calls us to rule over our emotions. When we become angry at our brothers and sisters, we must ask God’s help in overcoming our temporary feelings.
Why do we let ourselves become shocked at how others choose to behave? Perhaps you are feeling shocked because Aunt Linda went on a tirade. Well, how many tirades has Aunt Linda gone on? Perhaps it’s time to stop being shocked and begin accepting that some people consistently do shocking things. We cannot control the Aunt Lindas of the world, but we can control how we respond.
In reality, we do not need to act on our anger. Sometimes we act on our anger because we believe that if we do nothing someone will be allowed to get away with something we believe is wrong.
But Isaiah tells us what happens to those who are wicked:
‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked’ (Isaiah 48:22, NIV).
If you treat others with love and grace, you live a life of peace. For those that are wicked, there is no tranquility. We do not need to angrily scream at people telling them they are wrong, for they create plenty of their own turmoil without our interference.
Never feeling anger again is an impossible task, yet I see a case where we need to stop justifying treating each other poorly because we think our anger is justified.
In times of fury, I strive to rule over my feelings by remembering the most important goal: Christians may disagree on almost everything, but we can agree on Jesus.
Although we may be a world apart by Friday, we need to unite in the fact that we shared a pew on Sunday. And if we shared a pew on Sunday then we have at least one big thing in common.
Stephanie Belcher is a data addict and a news junkie. During the day she works for a health system trying to understand how to can help people live healthier lives. She and her husband Del host a podcast (Two Peas in a Podcast) where they talk about how to be married and actually like your spouse.