Over the past week or so, I have been asked a similar question and shared a similar conversation with a few believers. They have found themselves feeling a certain way – a bit angry and frustrated with some of the things that have been happening in recent weeks. (Though I would say angry and frustrated believers have been quite the norm throughout this year.) So, the question(s) that I have been answering this past week or so deals with how a believer should handle either their anger or their confusion.
Is it Wrong to be Angry
Last year, I preached a sermon that focused on this very subject – The Angry Christian. So, I am going to borrow a few things from that message and share them with you today. I want to answer this question that focuses on anger and the believer. There is a great misconception and misunderstanding about how the believer should carry him or herself.
You have heard me preach several times about how the believer should be meek and humble. These words are often taken to mean that believers should be submissive – overly submissive. In other words, it is suggested that believers should be soft; weak pushovers that allow anything to happen. How does that sound to you?
That is a misconception and a misunderstanding of scripture. Yes, we are told to be meek and humble, but our understanding of those words must be corrected. Let’s consider Christ for a brief moment. Jesus was certainly very humble, wasn’t He? Yet, Jesus entered the temple on two different occasions and showed great displeasure for what was going on in the temple (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13).
On several other occasions in the gospels, you will find Jesus showed great displeasure with both the scribes and Pharisees (the religious leaders). His frustration with them was with the way that those religious leaders mistaught and misled the people. He would take time to even warn the apostles and other followers not to follow after the way of those religious leaders (Matt. 23:3-4). (Jesus said that the Pharisees were laying heavy burdens that were hard to bear on others.)
Anger comes from love
If you remember what I preached last week, you will recall that I preached about not burdening others and becoming a stumbling block. There are many people in our world who choose to burden others from a place of hate. So, as I often do, I encouraged us to move more out of love.
Yet, can anger come from a place of love? I ask this question because many of us have been seeing what is going on in our world and it frustrates and angers us. I would tell you that anger is an emotion and feeling that can absolutely come from love. We often get most angry and upset about the things we love and care about. No believer should ever be apathetic (without feelings or spiritless) towards others!
The Holy Spirit dwells in us! Therefore, I would tell you that you should definitely be sympathetic towards others. Our sympathy for our neighbors should be filled with great passion – this is the definition of love! So, if you find yourself feeling angry and upset at the misfortune (or the potential misfortune) of others, there is nothing wrong. In fact, I would say that much is right with your spirit. Our spirit should never be accepting of wrongdoing of any kind!
Do Not Give Place to the Devil
Yet, with that said, there is a designated point that we the believer should not ever cross. We must work to keep our anger in check. David says in our key verse today, “be angry and do not sin”. This may sound familiar to you because I preached from Paul’s writing last year where he quoted this scripture (Eph. 4:26-27).
So, scripture shares with us over and over that being angry is not necessarily the problem. However, in times where we find ourselves angry, frustrated, and upset, scripture tells us to do a certain thing. Again, we must keep our anger in check – we cannot lose control of it. So, David says, “meditate within your heart on your bed.”
Not letting anger boil over
Meditate: to reflect on or think about. For the true believer, I would include prayer – communing with God – to be part of a meditation routine in which one should practice. Jesus taught that when we focus on the Lord in prayer, that we should get by ourselves in a room and shut the door (Matt. 6:6) – commune with Him. (Sounds like meditation to me.) So, why should this be our action?
You see, we cannot allow anger to dwell inside of us. Should we allow anger to fester within us, this will open us up to wrath, malice, and hatred. Wrath, malice, and hatred are certainly not the ways of Christ or fruits (products) of the Holy Spirit. In wrath, malice, and hatred you find the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-20). These works are what allow folks to do some of the most heinous actions; it is these works that can cause someone to bring about burdens on another.
Jonah’s anger crosses the line
We find an example of how terrible these works are in scripture with a man that God had to set straight. I imagine many of us are familiar with the story of Jonah and the great fish. (I did a bible study on Jonah that I suggest you go read and listen to if you have not already.)
God had tasked Jonah with going to preach to the folks in Nineveh (Jon. 1:1-2). Jonah was not much of a fan of the folks of Nineveh. It is believed that it was likely that those folks had potentially killed people that Jonah knew, including family and friends. Imagine, receiving that task from the Lord. (We actually have been commanded to love those who hate us and would spitefully use us – Matt. 5:44).
Jonah had so much anger built up in him towards those people that I believe it became hatred. (I believe he wished God to destroy that city). Many of us start to feel the same way towards those who mistreat us or others, don’t we? Let me point out that Jonah’s hatred towards those of Nineveh caused him to disobey the Lord. Even after given a second chance, Jonah still showed great displeasure with having had to preach to the people of Nineveh. God was moved to ask Jonah, is it right for you to be angry? (Jon. 4:4).
Entrance point for Satan
Jonah’s anger had crossed a line and the Lord had to teach him an important lesson. In our anger, we should not wish harm upon others. As I preached in last week’s sermon, the believer moves in love and love does not rejoice in iniquity nor does it behave rudely (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We must keep our anger in check because anger can give way to works of the flesh which is the exact opening that Satan looks for!
I want you to understand that the devil is at work in our world today. He works diligently to draw the ire of those who have professed faith in Christ. The devil wants the believer to open him or herself up to wrath, malice, and hatred! Again, his goal is to keep mankind from the Lord! We must not cross that line over into wrath, malice, and hatred! Yes, he will try to draw you to cross that line through many different works but we must not become a devil ourselves! We must not be fueled by wrath, malice, and hatred!
Resisting that temptation
Peter wrote that we should resist the devil and be steadfast in our faith with the army of believers that are doing the same (1 Pet. 5:9). Many of us are feeling the same exact way about things, and again, I tell you that there is nothing wrong with being upset. In love, we must always be willing to stand up and speak out for the voiceless (Prov. 31:8). We must also be willing to stand with those who are mistreated and suffer injustice (Prov. 31:9).
Yet, we must not let our actions done out of love turn to actions done from a place of wrath, malice, and hatred! Whatever causes us to be angry or upset, David says to put our trust in the Lord. Peter prayed that same thing for believers. He prayed that the Lord would perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us when those actions come calling (1 Pet. 5:10).
There is nothing wrong with being upset about the way things are; it shows we care. Yet, we must be still willing to stand firm in our faith and call on the Lord. I know someone is not going to want to hear this, but we must allow the Lord to guide us when we are most upset. So, if you’re angry, upset, and frustrated, go to your room and meditate on what is causing this and commune with the Lord – God will present your next actions to you.