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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'll Be Mad

Maybe you've had one of them too. I'm talking about those conversations with people who tell you that they're going to get mad if certain conditions exist. "If so-and-so does thus-and-such ... I'm going to be mad!" Or maybe they say something like, "I'm gonna be really mad ....!"

Have you ever thought about what this really means? The individual tries to anticipate the behavior other people, and then predicts their own reaction. Or possibly they're just informing you of a decision they know that they'll make. Really, can you do that? I mean can you decide a decision before you actually make it?

I guess you can. You can set up some parameters and decide ahead of time how you'll handle things inside and outside of those parameters. Marital fidelity might be an example. I decide ahead of time about the commitment I have to my wife. Then should I run across a temptation to sin against her, I've already determined what my response will be.

So it could be just setting boundaries and deciding how you'll enforce those boundaries --- or what you'll do when they're honored. But I'm not so sure that this works when it comes to emotional responses like anger. In fact, I'm rather persuaded that anger is one of those things in humanity that acts like a double-edged sword. As such, anger can be constructive or destructive.

Jesus got angry. (Did you know that?) His anger was generally displayed in one of two instances though. Jesus got angry and acted on His anger when God didn't receive the proper respect that He deserved. An example might be when the money changers were in the temple. Jesus also got angry when the poor, the children, the weak and other underdogs were being taken advantage of.

So I like to think of Jesus' anger examples as illustrations of righteous anger. And the thing is, I've not been able to find other examples of righteous anger. It seems that the most common appearances of anger even within myself have sin as their motivator. Ugh!

So if I didn't get treated fairly, or if I don't think someone held up their end of he deal, I can get angry. But is that really righteous anger? No, I don't think so. For you see, it's born of my sinful nature. It comes from my sense of entitlement, my self righteousness or even my pride. It could come from my selfishness or self-centeredness or inflated view of myself. It could come from my unloving attitude towards others, my unforgiveness or simply my unrealistic and inappropriate expectations.

Jesus set the tone for anger. And I've concluded in my own walk with Christ that He meant for His followers only to experience righteous anger that defends the honor of God and takes up a loving advocate for those who cannot defend, speak or provide for themselves.

Love God and love others, Jesus said, for these are the two most important commandments and everything else rises on their foundation. Who knew that He was talking about anger?

So the next time you're tempted to get angry, or you feel the emotional response of anger rising up within you, stop and check your motive. Why exactly are you mad? What has happened or not happened that stimulates you so?

Can you line it (your anger) up with loving God and loving others? If not, then you must put it down. Immediately. The Bible tells us not to sin in our anger, but the simple truth is that if our anger is not checked with God's priorities - or backed with God's purposes, then sin is written all over it. Any questions?

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