Anger is one of those emotions that terrifies us. It invades us with unique strength and energy, an energy that overwhelms our senses and engulfs our self-control. We end up doing things that we never imagined we could do, saying things we never thought we could utter.
Anger is an emotion of power. Unchecked, it easily transforms into rage. Because of its raw power, and the difficulty of taming it, we hide from anger. We cover it up and do all we can to suppress it.
Today we focus on facing our fears. Today we learn how to stand with anger instead of fleeing from it. Today we stop viewing anger as a rabid mountain lion looking to tear us limb from limb and begin viewing it as a wild horse that we will one day tame and saddle.
Humanity has lost touch with the concept of anger that God created us to feel. It became corrupted during the Fall and we have allowed it to splinter and destroy relationships since then.
Humanity’s Corrupted Anger
In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offerings but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Here we see the first account of man’s anger. We are not told exactly what his anger is directed at so it’s hard to tell if it started with any righteousness behind it. If his anger was from the damaged relationship between him and God because of his improper offering, then his anger could have been a righteous anger. If it was at God for not accepting his offering with favor or at Abel for having a more pleasing offering than him, then it was a corrupted anger.
What we do know is that Cain did not respond righteously with his anger.
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Wherever Cain’s anger originated from, he allowed it to turn into spite. Whether it started good or not, Cain did not properly use his anger. His anger burned within him and pushed him into action, but he did not allow his anger to push him into righteous action.
Action is the natural response to anger. Yelling. Clenched fists. Throwing and smashing. Punching and kicking. Murder. Look at humanity’s release of anger and you see how it makes us do things. It makes us act, or react, to whatever sparked that anger.
Anger is a fuel that, once lit, releases vast amounts of energy. It feels like sitting down in a race car and putting your foot through the floor. It’s a rush, and often times it feels so good to release that anger.
We see from the first biblical mention of anger how dangerous it can be. This warning resounds through scripture.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
James explicitly points out how man’s corrupted anger does not bring about a life of righteousness. Corrupted anger does not fit into a God-centered life.
Luckily, he is nice enough to continue on and tell us why our anger is corrupted. It’s because of the moral filth and evil that is in the world around us. It is because of the Fall.
The Fall occurred from our decision to live outside of God’s will. The Fall happened because we chose to believe that we were above God and knew better than Him. The Fall was caused by pride and selfishness.
The pride and selfishness that humanity chose to corrupt the world with is the same pride and selfishness that corrupts the emotion of anger.
Cain was angry because of a broken relationship between him and God. Abel chose to maintain his relationship with God by acknowledging that God provides for him and responding with trust and respect which was displayed through the offering of the firstborn of his flock. Offering the firstborn of his flock showed trust in God that He would provide Abel with more than just the firstborn.
Cain did not show the same trust that Abel did. He did not offer his firstfruits. He kept them for himself and offered God the leftovers. That lack of trust broke the relationship between Cain and God. This angered Cain even though his actions of selfishness and lack of trust caused the break.
This anger could have been good. It could have pushed him to change his actions towards God and restore the relationship, but Cain’s pride would not allow him to react this way. Since he could not lash out against God, he lashed out against his brother. Cain was jealous of his brother and his anger caused him to break Abel’s relationships by killing him.
This is why corrupted anger has no place in the kingdom of God, because it pushes us to act in ways that break the relationships God formed us to have.
God’s Righteous Anger
But anger does not have to push us to break relationships; anger does not have to lead to destruction. Anger can push us towards actions of restoration.
In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
As Christians, I think we tend to want to view Jesus as a peacemaker. We like the image of the lamb that was led to slaughter without fighting back. We like a Jesus that calms storms instead of starting them.
But here we see an angry Jesus; a Jesus so angry that he makes a whip and starts flipping tables. Talk about anger pushing us into action. Here we see Jesus as the lion of the tribe of Judah; we see his ferocity.
How is this a display of righteous anger? He kinda sounds like a madman!
Here we see Jesus becoming angry for the right reasons and responding with righteous actions that lead to restoration.
Jesus’ anger did not derive from pride or selfishness. Jesus’ anger spawned from sadness about the relationships between God and between people that were being broken in that moment.
It Jesus’ time, it wasn’t uncommon for people to sell animals in the temple courts. They sold them to those who needed animals to sacrifice because they had sinned. But the merchants would often sell them for unreasonable prices because they knew people would have to pay. They took advantage of people’s repentance.
This broke Jesus’ heart. An act that was meant to help restore a relationship between God and His children was being used to break relationships between God’s children.
Jesus was angry because relationships were being broken. Jesus was angry because people were being taken advantage of. Jesus was angry at the state of oppression.
So Jesus’ response was to disrupt the oppression. He cleared out those that were responsible for the broken relationships. His anger caused him to stop the breaking of relationships. His anger pushed him to stop sin.
That is the difference between corrupted anger and righteous anger. Corrupted anger pushes us to break relationships. Righteous anger pushes us to restore relationships.
Taunted by all, he is stripped of his pride
Where was I? I should have been by his side
Bullied by the masses, his hope is cracked
Overcome by anger, I have to act
Bloodied and bruised, he’s curled up in the sand
As his only friend, I reach out my hand
Already broken, he is only ten
From anger I promise, “Never again.”
Comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!