Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT
One of my favorite scenes in Toy Story is when Mr. Potato Head is going out help rescue Woody. As he prepares for the trip, his wife lets him know that she packed his “angry eyes”. I personally thought the spud’s voice was considerably more threatening than his optical grimace, but he didn’t want to leave home without it.
I don’t know if you have looked around lately, but there seem to be an awful lot of angry people out there. I don’t think most of them realize just how angry they are, but it is pretty apparent to people who aren’t angry that there seems to be a growing epidemic of rage here in America. From the political hill to the school yard, from the boardroom to the PTA, people are angry. Why?
- Injustice – There are things that are going on that are just plain wrong. Murder of infants, rights being taken away, taxes being used for things that we might have strong moral and religious convictions about.
- Opinion – I have an opinion, and I bet you do too! It doesn’t matter what your opinion is or what mine is, because someone is not going to agree with it. That means they actually might think you are wrong!
- Pain – We have things that have happened to us that have brought us pain, and that often brings out anger. Sometimes it is against the person that wronged us, and sometimes it is against people who remind us of the person who wronged us.
You see, I am by nature an angry person. I have touched on that in this blog before. I rage against injustice. I fight to defend my position and I seethe when I am wronged. I am a man who has strong emotions, and anger is one of the strongest. It is a very powerful emotion, and that is why we get such strong warnings about it in God’s Word.
Proverbs is full of words of wisdom regarding holding our temper and our tongues when we are angry. We have the verses at the beginning of this post telling us of the need to not let sin control us or to let the sun go down while we are angry. One of the first sins in the Bible was the anger of Cain against his brother, and we know how that turned out! If God tells us to be careful with our anger, don’t you think we should be paying attention?
You might say, “Well, Jesus got angry! He flipped tables and chased people out of the temple for cryin’ out loud!” You’d be right. He also got angry with the Pharisees on more than one occasion. The thing is, He did it without sinning.
When I pull out my angry eyes, I might start with a righteous anger, but before long, I am looking for one thing and one thing only – my right to be heard, vindicated, proven, and ultimately for my position to be elevated above someone else’s, because If I am going to be right then the other person must be…_______________. (I’ll let you fill in the blank like it’s a quiz, but I’ll tell you the answer is “wrong.”)
So, if my goal is to be right at the expense of another person, then I am wrong. If my goal is to be right to make someone agree with me, then I am wrong. If my goal is to right an injustice, that can be a little more tricky, but I can tell you that it often leads to me being wrong. At the end of the day, I keep being wrong when I try to be right.
So, let’s talk about the big one – Injustice. Is it wrong to stand up for a wrong that was done. No, but the attitude that comes with it can be dangerous. Jesus showed anger when people were trying to use a position of religious authority to hurt people. Jesus flipped tables when people were robbing worshippers. He spoke harshly at the Pharisees when they were trying to twist God’s Word to suit their purposes by shaming others. The injustice that outraged Jesus was an injustice against others, not Himself.
When a wrong was done to Christ, He simply asked God to forgive the person. Wow. He was whipped, spit on, had his beard yanked out, and spikes driven through his wrists and ankles, and as the sinless Son of God, His response was to ask God to forgive them.
A completely sinless man. Innocent yet found guilty. The very definition of the word injustice took place on the cross of Christ. It was done for more than our salvation, and that reason was more than enough. It was done as an example for living.
“My mentor/friend/”rabbi” often told me when I would be ranting about the injustices I was facing, “You need to give up the right to be right, and focus on your calling to do right.” I am a follower of Christ. I look to Him as my example for living. How can I stand here and rail against the injustices of things to the point of anger when I have a Savior who forgave the most heinous injustice in history?
I can’t. Not if I am going to do right. I want to do right.
Doing right in spite of injustice requires a couple of things:
- Prayer – Pray that God will ultimately hand out the justice that is necessary in the situation, and the He will correct it according to His will. Pray that He will give you the wisdom to know when you have pushed too hard and you are crossing the line between righteous indignation and sinful anger. Pray that the people involved will see their error and make it right.
- Let it go – It’s more than an annoying song on the radio. “Let it go” should be our response to anger that is lingering. Very clearly Paul tells us not to let anger control us. In simple terms he says not to let the sun go down while you are angry. Let it go.
The reason we need to do these things is because the anger allowed to run free will give Satan a foothold in our hearts. There is no more dangerous thing in the world than a truth with a lie wrapped up inside, and Satan loves to tell the lie to us that it is okay to hang on to anger when it is directed against a bad thing. Holding anger leads to a bitter life that will be lived out alone with a lot of pain.
You need to give up the right to be right, and focus on your calling to do right.”
I’d like to say that I have mastered this. Ask my wife, my kids, my staff at work, and they will all tell you that I have not, and they would be right. But it’s better than it was. I have gained ground in this, and while my first reaction is not going to be to forgive, pray, or let it go, I get to them a lot faster than I used to, and very rarely is an overnight required.
It’s part of growing in Christ, and having that relentless desire to be more like Him so I can give Him more praise for the work He is doing in me. This isn’t me, it is Christ at work in me. He gets the glory for what I do well, and I claim the fault of the things I do wrong.
So, I still have my angry eyes packed, and I take them with me wherever I go. There might be times that they are needed. Sometimes I use them the right way, but I also find I am using them a lot less.