It is far too easy to be angry. As a conservative Christian who is constantly confronted with the reality of sin in the world through the media, I struggle with anger more than I care to admit. I’m angry at abortion. I’m angry at prostitution. I’m angry at the restriction of religious freedom. I’m angry at our agenda-driven education system. It seems sometimes there is more in our nation to be angry about than to be happy about. Don’t get me wrong, we should be angry about these things. Christ Himself was angry when He saw the unrighteousness and injustices during His time on Earth. Here is the question we need to consider: is our indignation the same as Christ’s? Is our anger motivated by something other than our love for Christ?
1. Why are we angry? Is it personal or is it in defense of God’s character?
Gross sin and wickedness offend me. I hear about sexual perversions, abuse victims and abortion, and I am utterly disgusted. But how can I know that this reaction is coming from the desire to see God glorified rather than my own personal whims and preferences? Let us face these truths: If we would be content to just live in a world where these gross sins aren’t committed and everyone is respectable but still strangers to the saving grace of God, then we care nothing for God’s glory. If we do not have a deep, true desire to see the vilest offender come to Christ, then we know nothing of the love of Christ. If we are angry because sin offends us but not because it offends God then we have forgotten what it means to be a servant of the King.
2. Are we angry at the sin in the world but not at the sin in ourselves?
Often I can get so caught up with what is wrong out there that I forget what is wrong in here. This is conveniently easy. We are able to complain about an elected official playing golf instead of doing his job while we’re doing much the same thing at our own workplace. We get upset at infidelity, but are careless when it comes to our own wandering thoughts and wandering eyes. What does this say about us? We don’t really hate sin. We enjoy complaining about it. We get pleasure in being able to say with the Pharisee, “Thank you Lord that I’m not like that tax-collector!” There is no room for repentance in our own hearts because we are too busy demanding repentance from the world. A person who cannot see their own sins cannot claim Christ as their Savior; He only came to heal the sick, not those who are healthy in their own eyes.
3. What does our anger say to those who are strangers to our God?
There is a time and a place for shouting. Christ visited the Temple in Jerusalem and overturned tables. He even made a whip and forcefully drove out the merchants with their livestock. He was angry. But here’s the thing: the people He was angry at were supposed to know better. They were Jews, children of Abraham. They memorized huge portions of scripture from their youth. They even worked in the Temple, the center of the Jewish religion.
It is safe to say that the sins we tend to be angry at most are not committed or condoned by our fellow churchgoers. We are dealing with people who know absolutely nothing about our God except for how they see His followers acting. We are in a dangerous situation. We are the Body of Christ, and what we do will be attributed to Him. If our anger is misdirected, selfish and blind to the faults within ourselves, then those characteristics will be applied to Christ. God is the only one who has any right to be wrathful. Our anger must be internal. Instead of expressing our rage, let us express the truth and the Gospel.
4. Is our anger bereft of the cross of Christ?
This is perhaps the biggest difference between “worldly” anger and “godly” anger. As Christians, we have been brought from one kingdom to another, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. There is nothing in us that doesn’t belong to Christ. We are, through the cross, bought and paid for. Our anger belongs to Him. Can we stand in the shadow of the cross and truthfully say that our anger is under the rule of Christ? Worldly anger is ruled by self not Christ. Can we claim the cross, yet speak derogatorily of sinners, calling them names and treating them with contempt? Worldly anger knows nothing of mercy. Can we embrace the cross and forget that our own sins nailed Christ to it? Worldly anger makes us overlook or excuse our own sins, having no room for repentance. Nothing will stamp out worldly anger from the heart of a Christian better than a clear view of the cross.
Look to Christ
When we understand that Christ is Who He says He is, how can we be consumed with worldly anger? He sits at the right hand of the throne of God, ruling over all things and working through all things until His enemies are put under His feet. (Luke 20:43) Instead of expecting this fallen, rebel world to meet our expectations and being angry when it refuses, let us look to Christ, repenting of our own sins, and waiting patiently and hopefully for the day when His perfect and righteous anger finally destroys sin once and for all. We have more reason to live victoriously than we have to live indignantly.