Believers should endeavour to be angry at the sin and not necessarily at the sinner.
One of the ways we can control our anger is by overlooking offences. Solomon counsels: “A wise man restrains his anger and overlooks insults. This is to his credit.” (Proverbs 19:11). Your busybody friend who is a news-broadcaster asks: “Do you know Ngozi says you are a cheapskate?” Simply reply: “Good for her.” Jesus says: “I do not accept praise from men.” (John 5:41). If so, neither should we accept insults but should ignore them.
David provides a practical response: “I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a mute who does not open his mouth. Thus I am like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no response. For in you, O LORD, I hope; you will hear, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:13-15).
Pay no attention to insults. Don’t allow the pettiness of others to bother you. Leave everything to God, our Father.
Unfortunately, many of us harbour bitterness in our hearts because of offences. As a result, we become prone to malicious acts, contrary to the ways of Christ. Yes, when someone sins against us, we may be offended. Nevertheless, we should endeavour to be angry at the sin and not necessarily at the sinner. Anger at sinners often leads to bitterness and hatred, which can destroy us from within.
Anger is wrong when it is cherished and heightened by reflection. When you have had time to dwell upon the wrong done to you, you end up by embellishing and broadening it. In the process, you may recall that the head of the offender is actually bigger than usual and thereby abuse his creator. “Look at that stupid head of his!”
The devil will always try to influence you negatively and irritate your spirit. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance the word of God. Our adversary, the devil, on the other hand, brings to remembrance every wrong done in the past, the better to agitate and aggravate the wounded spirit.
Thus, anger is wrong when accompanied by an unforgiving spirit. This becomes even worse when it leads to the determination to revenge and exact the utmost satisfaction for the injury. This is presumptive because vengeance is God’s exclusive purview. He says: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Hebrews 10:30). It is dangerous to arrogate to our self what belongs to God.
Amnon raped Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Absalom became incensed, but he hid his anger in his heart for two years. Thereafter, at an opportune moment: “Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Have not I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered.” (2 Samuel 13:28-29).
From that time, Absalom entered a slippery slope that ended in his death and destruction. The object of anger should not be to injure but self-protection.
The Absalom type of malice is most distressing in its prevalence among Christians. Some are malicious because a person is rich, or beautiful, or articulate, or skilful. Others are malicious because of inferiority complexes. They are insecure and cannot stand those who do not seem to have the problems or difficulties they have.
Thus, they end up “speaking lies in hypocrisy.” (1 Timothy 4:2). “Why don’t you like Ojo?” “I love him with the love of God.” Of course you don’t. But you cannot answer truthfully because it would reveal a part of you that you don’t want to admit, or are inclined to hide.
“Do you have feelings of malice against Fred?” “No! God knows that I have forgiven him.” Well, pull this other leg. When you see Fred what happens? He just suddenly comes into a room and your stomach turns. Suddenly you notice that his ears are like flying saucers and his teeth like cutlasses.
Unresolved malice is the foundation of an evil heart. You simply resent everything the other person does. He cannot seem to do anything right as far as you are concerned. This easily leads to outbursts of temper against him, which is called wrath. Wrath becomes anger, which is a state of negative emotional agitation. Anger can easily lead to clamour, which is quarrelling. Quarrelling leads to habitual evil-speaking about someone.
This progression takes you out of the kingdom of God into the kingdom of darkness. Therefore, the tendency must be avoided and resisted through the efficacy of prayer: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Make no mistake about it; in any quarrel, you are not blameless. We need to be reminded of this time and time again. It often takes two to quarrel. You can refuse to take the bait even when provoked. In any case, as some have offended you, so have you offended others. Anger, then, is sometimes born of self-righteousness. We are fully convinced we are in the right. But what we want is Christ’s righteousness and not self-righteousness.
In his self-righteousness, David unwittingly pronounced a death sentence on himself. When Nathan told him about a rich man who took a poor man’s lamb: “David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.’” (2 Samuel 12:5-6).
It took David a while to realise he was the proverbial wicked rich man. We are often especially angry at those things we ourselves are guilty of. David was angry that someone whom God had prospered would be so selfish. But he failed to recognise he was the man in question. When we do something wrong, there is usually a good excuse for our actions. But when the wrongdoing is by someone else, it is inexcusable. This is hypocritical.
Grace of God
A believer should be slow to anger. Solomon says: “It is better to be slow-tempered than famous; it is better to have self-control than to control an army.” (Proverbs 16:32). If you have dealt harshly with someone in anger, go to the person and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes when you do this, the person concerned is not magnanimous. He might become uppity and inclined to aggravate you the more.
“So you have finally come to your senses and have now decided to apologise?” he asks. Don’t be distracted. Keep your eye on the ball. It is the kingdom of God you seek, so don’t be provoked anew.
Have you really received a free pardon from the Lord? Have your sins been forgiven?
Then it behoves you to forgive seventy times seven times. If you were in the wrong, you must pray to God to give you the grace to admit your wrongdoing. If you were in the right, you must equally ask for the grace not to be conceited.
Do so right now without delay.