Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Be Angry But Do Not Sin

                Anger is not an emotion that I like to experience, whether it is being directed towards me, or I am directing towards someone else. Usually when someone speaks to me in anger or comes at me in anger I cower. In my inward man I cower and go off into a little shell where I am safe from what is happening around me. But, on the other hand, when anger comes from me- recipient bewares-
because I have a temper! Lately, it seems that every little thing has been setting me off. Everything and everyone seems to be getting on my nerves that the next thing I know things are flying out of my mouth. Words of anger, words of retaliation, frustrations and fretting are taking over every part of my thoughts and heart. After these outbursts I am heart-broken. Even this morning after one of these outbursts, I came into my secret place and I cried out to the Lord to help me. I know that this attitude of anger is not what He wants from me, yet there it is like a volcano bubbling under the surface of my heart, spewing out hot lava to whoever gets in my way. It is not like me to be this way for any length of time, and I do not like to be this way ever. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me, to take these angry emotions away from me, and to forgive me for all these outbursts that have hurt so many people I love.
                “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32
                Let’s face it; our anger gets the best of us sometimes. We try to be patient with others, we try to be understanding, but we all have those moments where our anger just overtakes our hearts and the next thing you know Mount Vesuvius is pouring over your tongue and down your lips. The writer of Proverbs tells us; however, that to be slow to anger means that we rule our spirit and our spirit does not rule us. Our flesh is supposed to be under our rule, not ruling us. But, when I am angry and that anger is popping up in my heart, my flesh is in complete control.
                Paul tells us also that if we are angry, just don’t sin in that anger. (Ephesians 4:26) He tells us that if we are going to be angry, don’t sin and don’t let that anger sit there all day and all night. We must let it go, we must release the anger that is welling up inside of us or else what results are sinful behaviors and attitudes towards those whom are among us. Even those who we are not angry at will feel our wrath if they come near us because we have not let it out and gotten it away from us. As I was praying this morning, I prayed for the Lord to cleanse me from anger. But anger in and of itself is not all bad. Anger can be righteous, and it can be godly, but how we respond and react in our anger is where sin comes in to play.
                When we react to something that is happening around us we are reacting in a negative way most likely. When I think of reacting I think of a volcano. It looks dormant from the outside, but inside there are rumblings and things are heating up, and then finally it just explodes. When we choose to hold onto those feelings of anger, those feelings of being wronged or mistreated, what happens in us is the same that is happening to that volcano. Sooner or later though, if we are not aware of the issue that we are holding onto, what happens will be an eruption of great proportions. I feel very sorry for those who get in my path when this volcano erupts. We must learn to still and calm those rumblings before they happen. We must learn to take a deep breath and recognize that in this moment we want to react, but God is asking us to wait and respond.
                When we respond to something or someone, we tend to do so in a positive way. We respond in love and kindness. We respond with prayer, compassion, and sometimes with gifts of service. When we react we do so negatively, but when we respond we do so lovingly, in godliness and with grace. When I picture these two words I see one as hurried and exploding and the other as a gentle, peaceful river that quietly calms my soul. When I react I jump into whatever emotion I am feeling and I run with it. I let that emotion take over every part of my being at that moment, and I have no self-control in regards to any of it. When I respond, however, I do so patiently and am not hurried in any way. “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26), be aware of your emotions and do not sin in them. It is not the anger that is the sin, but how we react or respond that becomes the sin.
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                James tells us that we are to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” because our wrath does not produce in us the fruit of righteousness that God desires us to bear. (James 1:19-20) Someone who is slow to wrath or slow to anger is someone who can control their emotions. They do not react to the situation or circumstances that are happening around them, instead they respond patiently; ready to forgive those who have wronged them, or the injustice that may have just taken place. Many times the reason why we are angry is because our pride has been wounded. Anger is not just an emotion; it is also a branch from the tree of pride that grows in our hearts.
              One thing I have learned these past few weeks about my anger is that God is not concerned with the way that person reacted, or the way that person talked to me, all He is concerned about is the way that I responded to the situation. He is not looking at their actions and excusing mine. No, He is looking at my reactions and holding me accountable for them. We do have control over how we respond or react to the circumstance of our life. We have a choice to respond in anger or frustration, or to respond in patience and love. But we live in this flesh, you may be saying, and as long as I live in this flesh I will struggle with this. Yes, that is true, as long as we are in this flesh we will struggle with fleshly things, but they do not have to win, nor control us any longer.
                Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that he disciplines his body and keeps it under control. He does not allow his flesh to rule him, he rules his flesh. We have to understand and see that we also have the same ability that Paul had. We too have the same Holy Spirit that Paul had and we too can control our flesh, making it do what we want it to do, which is to live in subjection to Christ. We cannot just continue to give into our emotions, and excusing them by our flesh. We must choose to lay these emotions at the feet of Jesus Christ and respond to His desire in that moment, not react in anger to the situation.
                We must seek to have rule over our own spirits. “For the conquest of ourselves, and our own unruly passions, requires more true conduct, and a more steady, constant and regular management, than the obtaining of a victory over the forces of an enemy.” (Benson Commentary Proverbs 16:32) Just like the diligent care that a Captain would have over his army to win the battle before him, we too must pay careful attention to rule our own passions, and emotions. Sin is our enemy, and our emotions have been tainted by it. But it does not have to rule over us anymore.
                We must learn to govern and restrain our tempers. Our emotions are boiling over and about to erupt, but if we give into them we will sin. God does not want us to give into that wrath, or those emotions. We must harness the self-control we have been given through His Holy Spirit and lay aside all that is about to pour out of us. Take a deep breath, walk away, and pray, resist the flesh that desires to rule you at that moment in time. Resist to the point of blood if you have to (Hebrews 12:4) and do not sin.
                 Anger is a fruit of the flesh, but self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. But what good is that fruit if we never eat of it, if we never allow it to grow and produce more in us? We get worked up over the silliest of things sometimes, and to what avail? The only fruit that anger ever produces is more anger, which leads to bitterness, which leads to pain and suffering and eventually can lead to the death of every relationship you will ever have. But the fruit of self control will lead to perseverance, and perseverance, godliness. (2 Peter 1:6) We can be free from anger, from retaliation, frustrations and vengeful hearts if we just learn to exercise the fruit of self control. We must resist the desire to react and seek instead the desire to respond. Be angry, but do not sin. Resist and respond, don’t give in and react. Amen?