Angry Christians

“You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift.

Be angry without sinning.  Don’t let the sun set on your anger.  Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil.

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints.
-Matthew 5:21-24, Eph. 4:26-7, 1 Cor. 13:4-5

For the Christian, anger has a short shelf life and holding onto it is not permitted.  Anger breeds bitterness, contempt, and murder.  But, the reality is that ninety-nine percent of us will get angry.  When we do, it is a challenge to discipline ourselves to feel it, express it, and release it; without harming others or ourselves.

Jesus is our example of being angry without sinning.  When he drove out the money changers from the temple courts and overturned their tables, he was angry.  Jesus had the authority to do this at the temple.  You might behave exactly the same way if you caught your son or daughter doing something wicked in your own home.

Jesus was saying and you would also be saying, "this is wrong and I will not put up with it....  you are better than this."  Jesus drove out the money changers.  We might drive out someone from our home who is sinning, like an adult child, other relative, or friend; and we might also drive out demons with anger, but without sinning.

Anger is meant to be felt, expressed, and released; without harming others or yourself.  Anger happens and we need to know how to deal with it, but bitterness, unforgiveness, condemning, and contempt are not ok.  The disciple of Jesus is living in the kingdom of God and is governed now by that kingdom and is learning Jesus ways.

The disciple experiences a transformed heart.  Not murdering is not enough.  We must not murder people in our hearts.  Sarcasm and insults come out of a bitter heart.  That comes from anger in the heart that has 'past-due' on its expiration date.

Service to and worship of God are short-circuited by past-due anger.  Reconciliation comes before serving and worship.  God saves us for relationship with him and gives us grace to mend every fractured human relationship.  You show that you are reconciled to God, living in God's kingdom, and are Jesus disciple; by reconciling broken relationships first, before offerings, service, and worship.

Calling people idiots or fools is a bad idea.  Unless it is somehow said with non-condemning, descriptive anguish from us as we believe we are witnessing a preventable tragedy; idiot, fool, and stupid, or worse names are off limits.

What does it mean to be angry, but not sin?  What does it mean to not let the sun go down on your anger?  And, what does it mean to not give the devil a foothold?  It means:
Be zealous in God's cause, but cool in your own.
Let godly fear curb ungodly exacerbation.
Let vituperation cease at nightfall and shake hands. (1)
Those who sin in their anger by not releasing it (feel, express, release) become embittered and irascible, by indulging resentment.  They create a landing pad for the devil to torment them in their lives.

Irritable, quick or hot-tempered, testy, touchy, crabby, grouchy, grumpy, and cantankerous people might have let the devil get a foothold in their lives.  Bitterness births more bitterness.

Once upon a time, this person suffered a loss or an injustice, perhaps.  They may even be embittered with themselves for what they did.  They did not and do not have grace for themselves.  Their sin might have given them shame and the bitteredness leads to more graceless sin and on the cycle goes downward.

Most of us need to develop a more gracious relationship with our selves.  Low self-esteem is manifested both in hatred of yourself and in grandiosity.  Positive or healthy self-esteem is to see yourself in the light of God's love in Christ - a former sinner, now a saint.

Embitterment, resentment, and cantankerous rage do not come from righteous indignation. They come from pride and lack of self-control. When Moses came down from the mountain and broke the sacred tablets, he was righteously indignant, for the Lord. But when he struct the rock a second time, out of anger, that was sin, because it was out of his own impatient irritation with the people.

The "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13, describes God's and Christ's love in the heart of a believer.  The last two points are that love is not irritable (easily irritated) and love does not keep a record of wrongs (is not resentful or embittered).  This sounds the same and "don't let the sun go down on your anger", as in 'shelf life" or 'past due' times.

If you are stewing on anger, you are keeping a record of it, and love doesn't do that.  Get more of that love, God's love in your life, that doesn't do that.  Because if you keep a record of wrongs, you will open the door to the devil.

The way of love is not a law we follow, but it is the life of Christ within us.  We live in his life and when we need more love, more of his life flows into us for the particular challenge we are facing in the spontaneous moment.  Jesus came that we might have life.  His life is lived through your life in the present moment.  Everything you need is always there in Christ in you, the hope of glory.

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1. The Epistles To The Ephesians and Colossians, NICNT, Simpson & Bruce; p. 108

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