Monday, March 9, 2009

The Gospel and Anger

Pastor John preached about anger yesterday--a reality that is very difficult for many of us to think about and really fight against in our lives. We make excuses for our anger, blame it on other people, and justify the rude or even violent behavior that stems from it. But the simple message of the gospel has a lot to teach us about anger.

We learn from the example of God Himself. The Bible frequently describes God as being "slow to anger." Examples include Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, and 145:8; Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, and Nahum 1:3. These verses explicitly refer God's slowness to anger, but many more stories refer to this slowness to anger in general. Take the overarching story of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament for example. Though God had every right to destroy them as a nation for their rebellion, He gave them chance after chance to repent and turn back. For centuries, He showed a slowness to anger--sending them prophet after prophet to warn them. Ultimately, He did punish Israel by allowing them to be conquered and sent into exile. But the overall impression one gets of God throughout the Old Testament is of Him being slow to anger with His people.

And we can think of ourselves in the same way. God hates our sin. He can't stand it. It makes Him angry (an anger that is completely justified--unlike much of ours). Yet He has shown believers incredible mercy. He has every right to destroy and punish us for committing even one sin, but He is "slow to anger." By sending Christ to die in the place of sinners, God the Father chose to punish His Son for the sins of others. His anger was poured out on His Son so that we could be forgiven. If we trust in Christ's sacrifice and repent of our sin, We experience God's forgiveness and mercy firsthand--the complete opposite of what we deserve. What mercy He has shown to us! Rather than just punishing us eternally when we first sin, He offers us the chance to repent, trust in Christ, and be forgiven.

As believers in Christ, who have been shown this incredible mercy and experienced firsthand God's "slowness to anger," we should follow His example when others wrong us. When I am angry or am tempted to anger, I can remind myself of God's slowness to anger toward me. I have wronged Him to a far worse degree than anyone will ever wrong me. Yet He went to unimaginable lengths (putting His innocent Son to death in my place) to show me His love, mercy, and forgiveness. How can I be quick to anger toward others when He has been so slow to anger toward me?

Thanks Pastor John for your sermon yesterday, the reminder that anger can quickly turn into sin, and the challenge to respond to temptations to anger in a way that pleases our Savior.

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