My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness 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.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
-James 1:19-21, Matthew 5:21, Ephesians 4:25-27 (NIV)
Are you angry? Did you get angry today or yesterday? We have opportunities to get angry all the time.
Is anger good, bad, healthy, or unhealthy? Is there righteous anger? Do I have a right to be angry?
The Bible mentions anger many times and James has a word on anger. He shares a piece of wisdom about anger: that our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Behind this admonition and the hearers of it must have been folks who had an angry style and thought they were on the path to righteousness. We use the words “self righteous” as a negative description of someone who has religious pride in themselves and in their spirituality including lifestyle and knowledge.
This is a word to Christians who have anger mixed in with their Christian lives. Irritability is a sign of weak spirituality and not of Christ’s life in your life. Quick anger is also a sign of immature self-contentedness.
We can also have anger in our spirituality that goes above and beyond anything God calls us to. From the first century, up to today, there have been people who kill others, because of doctrinal differences. This begins with words and words come from an unrighteous heart.
Jesus makes the connection in Matthew 5, that murder stems from unrighteous anger. We don’t have a right to that kind of anger. Specifically, Jesus equates calling someone an “idiot” (you fool or good for nothing), as equal to murder.
In other words, calling people ‘idiots’ is not ok. Calling yourself an ‘idiot’ is also not ok. When we are tempted to do so, it is time to be reconciled to God and to be reconciled to that person.
When I think of anger, my mind goes to James 1:20, which says that our anger does not produce the righteousness of God. I want God’s righteousness. I don’t want to be self-righteous, but I want Jesus’ life in me.
James does not say that we don’t get angry. We do get angry. He says not to fool yourself that anger is part of the Jesus style or God’s life in your life.
Then, we have Paul’s words, in Ephesians 5, that tell us, “In your anger, do not sin”. The literal translations say, “Be angry and do not sin”. How do we do that?
We do have things that happen to us, just about every day, that can and do spark us to anger. With both small and large offenses, we do feel the “Ouch!”, which is the natural reaction to being hurt.
We “ouch”, or we “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUCH!!!”
After the experience or expression of hurt is the crucial step to take so that we do not sin.
Are you ready?
You experience anger, which is irrational: it is just a feeling or emotion. It is actually a secondary emotion: a reaction. The primary emotion is the hurt.
Beneath the anger is something and we need to feel and express that.
If we do not feel it, then we are disconnecting from it and disconnecting from God, others, and ourselves. I can tell you all about what they did to me or how I was ripped off and it is all true. I critique, level charges, accuse, judge, and make sure I get my story out there; but in so doing, I am disconnected from my pain and there is no redemption for me and no reconciliation.
There is another way of telling your story and telling it truthfully and for healing. And that is to express the loss, the sad and the bad, the shame and the fear, the hopelessness and the emptiness. That is honestly, transparency, and authenticity.
In the moment, in the midst of the feeling of anger, we must turn away from criticism, blame, and judgement. We must not yield to the temptation to set ourselves up as judges and mete out punishment. We must not take on the role of “prosecutor” or “accuser” of the other party.
You might say that there is no way I can not do that, because what was done to me was so bad, so hurtful, and so grievous. I would say, I understand that you feel pain. Passing judgement through criticism and blame, just reacting to the offence will not heal you, but make it worse.
We need to experience the pain, the loss, the sadness, and shame; with God. We need to open the door of our hurting hearts to God. That will heal you and bring wholeness.
We might need another believer to be a priest to us in these times, helping us connect with the hurts and open our hurting hearts to God, and find a deeper connection, for healing.
When you “vent”, which is a term we use (venting), are you expressing criticism and blame, making the case against your offender? Or are you connecting with your sadness, loss, pain, and even shame; and expressing that to the other?
When you have a loss, an injustice, or a person in your life that seems to be standing in your way to God’s best for you; you have a bad feeling. You have to steer that feeling towards God and surrender the hurt, the confusion, the loss, the disappointment, to God and let God into that space. You have to choose to turn away from anger, from judgement, criticism, and blame.
When you do this, you get yourself free and you allow God to move, to bless you, to compensate you. If you choose anger as a place you live, you are choosing stuck-ness. It is a cul-de-sac that you stay in, until you choose the “feel it and heal it” way of getting better instead of bitter.
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