I suppose we know about the two incidents of cars beating the same traffic lights and crashing onto taxis. One crashed his Lexus and thankfully no one was killed. However, his father was very angry after a court hearing and yelled at reporters for making a big thing out of a small thing. This finally prompted me to install a camera in my car just in case I have to show some angry people that it is no small thing at all. And when I thought that taking the train might be a better option, an elderly auntie yelled angrily at the young lady who gave up her seat. And I suppose we also know of another elderly auntie who got shoved off a bus by an angry young guy.
Anger is a huge problem in the society and also in the church. Christian marriages break down because of abusive anger and churches break up because of uncontrolled anger. No wonder Paul writes to the churches in Ephesus, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV) But is it possible for Christians not to get angry at all in this fallen world? Surely there will be occasions and incidents that demand us to be angry, like how God was angry with the Israelites for their disobedience and how Jesus was angry with those who turned the temple into a market. That’s why Paul also writes, “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV) So there is a time to be angry and a time to put away anger. But when is it right for us to be angry and how should we deal with such anger so that we do not sin, especially within the Christian community, which is the context of the passage in Ephesians?
God hates sins because sin destroys people and so righteous anger is always a reaction to sin or injustice. Therefore when you know of a maid who is being abused, you should be angry. Unrighteous anger that we need to put away is often based on selfishness and pride, like how one may flare up because he signals to change lane and only for the other car to close in and prevent him from doing so. That means we will need to grow in the faith in order that we may put away all our unrighteous anger and yet be angry over sin and injustice that displease God. So if you are someone who is not serious with the spiritual disciplines of bible-study, QT, prayers and worship, chances are that you may be angry for the wrong things and sin over it. Then we need to deal with all righteous anger promptly, i.e. do not let the sun goes down on your anger so that you do not give the devil a chance to make things worse. Paul is not saying that we must deal with it before the day ends but to deal with it promptly, carefully and biblically. But how can we do so in the church?
First I suppose we need to control our anger. People who explode in anger will usually excuse themselves by saying that they cannot control it. In the final of a recent tennis tournament, one player was trying to return a ball and only to hit it wide. In frustration, he kicked an advertisement board which in turn caused a deep gash on the shin of a line judge. He was promptly disqualified. In a post-match interview, he excused himself saying that he couldn’t control his anger. And so he hurt someone else. That is why we need to control our anger so that we do not sin as a result. But is this possible? Of course it is. If not, why would Paul say that a fruit of the Spirit is self-control? So let us not use the lack of self-control as an excuse. If you cannot control your anger, the truth is that you are not growing in the Spirit. And if so, you need to get back to the basics of discipleship! So anger, like lust, can be controlled if we allow the Spirit to take control over our lives.
After controlling our anger, we need to tackle the problem but not the person. As we so often said, love the sinners but hate the sins. We must remember that our aim is to restore the one who is in the wrong. So we may need to clarify, investigate and understand what is the root cause of the problem and deal with it in a manner that will bring glory to God. And for that, you may help, be it from the pastor, a mentor or a close friend who is mature in the faith. Put the problem away and not the person down so that there may be repentance and reconciliation if need be. The point is this: when we submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and discipline ourselves in the faith, we will be able to control not just our anger but also all the others like bitterness, wrath, clamouring, slandering and whatever that is not right before God as we seek to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.
Now let us get back to the camera that I have installed in my car. I remember posting a snapshot of a car beating the lights on Facebook and someone commented that they have to be more watchful now or else they will be caught by the pastor. Thankfully or not, the pastor’s car can only be at one place at a time. But not so with the Almighty One who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. So if we fear God, we should be watchful at all times and deal with our anger promptly so that we do not arouse his holy anger.
Pastor Ronnie Ang
July 15, 2012