Things That Are Above

Gospel Thinking for Gospel Living

The Folly of Anger and the Wisdom of Jesus

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Yesterday I read Jonathan Parnell’s post, “That Angry Gentleman at the Restaurant,” at DesiringGod.org. Parnell’s anecdote about a man he saw blow his gasket recently at a restaurant serves to turn the tables onto us:

Then I realized it was me.

Okay, it wasn’t really me. I wasn’t the angry gentleman in the restaurant on this particular night. But I’ve been angry before, and I must look just as stupid.

That is the thing with anger, and the thing I needed to learn — perhaps we all could learn — from a scene like the one this angry gentleman put on. Unrighteous anger, no matter where it’s at, is silly.

Anger is always telling us something [link in original post, and I recommend reading that post, as well!], and most of the time, if we’re honest, it’s saying we’re ridiculous.

Those are words I needed to read. Those are words I need to lay to heart. When I get unrighteously angry, which is the case most of the times I’m angry, I’m being sinfully foolish. Solomon puts it this way in Prov. 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” God through Solomon is clear: anger is foolish. According to Solomon, wise people control their anger, whereas fools are controlled by their anger.

How often, to my shame, do I play the fool! How often, to my shame, do I let my anger control me, when I should be the one controlling it! The Holy Spirit convicts me: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20).

Unrighteous anger is silly and ridiculous. Worse still it is ugly. It is a perversion of the wisdom to be Christlike. When Christ was angry, his anger was perfectly righteous. He never sinned in his anger. And there’s the rub: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Easy words to say, some of the hardest words to put into action.

On my own, there’s no way for me to do this. On my own, it’s impossible for me to control my anger. Thankfully, the gospel brings me hope from despair.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:31–5:2)

How am I to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? How am I to put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander? By dwelling on the fact that God has forgiven me of much more than I will ever forgive anyone else. By imitating God as his beloved child. By walking in love because Christ loved me and gave himself up for me.

Enmity, strife, and fits of anger are fruits of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). It pains my heart that they remain in my heart and overflow from it all too often. But as a Christian I’m indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. And patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are fruits that he can bear in me (Gal. 5:22, 23).

O God, bear the fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me! Prune the enmity, strife, and anger from my life. Help me to imitate you and to walk in love, as Christ loved me and gave himself up for me. For your glory, in his name.

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