If Anger > Offense Then Injustice

“But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Matthew 5:22 (NLT)

For those whom Math seems a distant and/or unpleasant memory, the symbol > means greater than.

In many cases, anger is a justified and very reasonable response. Senseless crimes perpetrated against others, including innocent children, discrimination that tramples others’ God-given right of equality, the gut-wrenching betrayal of those who we open our hearts to… All and any of these can cause us deep hurt that might lead to anger, understandably so.

We have often heard that anger is not bad, it is not a sin – even Jesus got angry. All true… But there is a dangerous side of anger that Jesus warns us about. Anger that festers inside us is often used as fuel to justify our response, leading to far more damaging consequences. James 1:20 tells us, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires,” (NLT). Another translation puts it this way, “An angry person doesn’t do what God approves of,” (GW). Meditating on these verses and the key verse from Matthew 5:22, I had to confess, my relationship with anger was a big issue in my life… particularly in my most important relationships.

As I reflect on my angry responses toward my family, I can see that many times the damage/pain caused by my anger far outweighed whatever effect or infraction my children’s missteps resulted in. My angry responses led to broken relationships and were dishonoring to God because my angry words were often laced with insults hurled at His created children – how can that ever meet God’s approval? Inevitably, whenever I responded from my anger, it always resulted in an injustice toward my children because my anger was greater than their offense ever warranted… In utter remorse, I agree with Jesus’ words that I was “in danger of the fires of hell,” and truth be told, I deserved that fate…

So, the question I had to answer is, how do I keep from being controlled by anger? Trying to deny my anger or avoid getting angry is doomed to fail, which I can confirm from personal experience! For me, I cannot rely on self-control when I am angry, because once I engage in dialogue when I am angry, I am very susceptible to rapidly escalating and allowing myself free reign with destructive, hurtful words. No, in my case, the process starts way before encountering a situation that provokes anger in me. It goes right back to my thoughts and how I think about others.

Firstly, I must see others as God’s masterpieces. By fully embracing this truth, that we are all God’s handiwork, I am compelled to see my treatment of others as directly connected to my reverence for God and His creation. Secondly, my thoughts about others are informed by accepting we are all imperfect, all in need of forgiveness and mercy. This is not a free license for us to deliberately be hurtful to others and chalk it up to our broken state of being as imperfect creatures. No, this is more about understanding the grace I live under and then in turn treating others the way I want to be treated – it is in essence living out the commandment to love others as I love myself. Would I want someone to respond to me in anger the way I have responded when I am angry? No… These thoughts give me immediate pause and beckon me to yield to God and let His grace and love guide my responses instead of getting hooked on anger’s howling bait.

Prayer: Lord, You said blessed are those who realize their need for You. I am always in need of You and I am desperate for You to keep me from sinning in my anger. Lord, help me to not inflict injustice on others by responding from my anger. Instead, teach me how to treat others with the grace and love that you lavish on me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.    

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