A lot has been written about the importance of managing anger. Scientific studies have shown that angry people get sick easier and die younger. Blah-blah-blah-blahblah…
Because this is one of my struggles, I can quote you beautiful verses to combat anger spiritually.
- Ephesians 4:6 — Be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry. (Names of God)
- Colossians 3:8 — But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (New International Version)
- James 1:19-21 — My dear brothers, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily. Anger will not help you live a good life as God wants. (International Children’s Bible)
But here’s the problem that never gets completely addressed: When does anger the emotion cross the line into anger the sin? What actions can I take to analyze and determine a proper expression of anger?
Jesus himself got very angry at times.
Example 1: The Woe “Monologue” (Matthew 23:1-36)
There was no love lost between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day (scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees). Although He loved them, He hated the way they acted. They chose to not live to the standards they held others to. So for 30+ verses, Jesus gives them the lecture of their lives. Although He said that you couldn’t call your brother a fool without risking hell, He called these leaders hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, snakes, and broods of vipers.
Example 2: The fig tree (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21)
Jesus and His disciples were headed to Jerusalem. They walked by a fig tree that had no fruit because it wasn’t the right time of year. Jesus cursed the tree and told it to never give fruit again. When He and His disciples returned the next day, it had withered. Jesus in later verses uses it as an example of what the faith filled spoken word can do.
But I need to take a step back. I need to reverently ask a tough question. If the tree was seemingly fertile but it was the wrong time of year, why blame the tree and take away its ability to bear fruit? It seems almost too human to me to blame the tree for not having what’s needed at the wrong time of year.
Now you can search the expository writings. It is argued the tree stood in the place of hypocrites, those who teach good things but never do them.
Would this mean a real person who angers us should be ignored but we can go tear apart a pillow or destroy a room? Yes, that’s a little facetious…
The point is: Jesus got angry about actions but then expressed them in a different context, away from those who had angered Him.
Example 3: Cleansing the Temple (John 2:13-17)
Close to the Passover, Jesus and His disciples went to the Temple in Jerusalem. At some point in history, the Jewish leaders decided to collect a temple tax, buy and sell the sacrificial animals, and in general turn the holiest place in the Jewish world into a flea market. Jesus becomes highly incensed (and not with frankincense and myrrh), makes a whip for himself, and creates havoc to end the sacrilege.
Here, Jesus is directly confronting the marketplace invading the sacred space. The anger is over wrong motive and place. But he makes this shock and awe statement with a whip and two-year-old tantrum (no sacrilege intended). He physically expresses the anger in the place where the actions inciting His anger occurred.
Yes, I still have the same questions as when I began this mini-study. Yes, I’m still confused. But if you’re just as confused as I am, have no fear. Jesus is still a True and Just God. He still loves us even when we don’t understand, even when we succumb to the same sin for the “7 x 70th” time. He sees us with love, and when we accept His sacrifice, His Father sees us through the prism of Christ’s righteousness.