May 1, 1991
It requires a great deal of energy to stay angry and, my family agrees, it’s a good thing I get tired easily!
I used to pat myself on the back for being such an easy person to get along with, to admit my wrongs and make peace, but something happened to make me realize I’m really not that easy-going. I increased my stamina through an exercise program and could shovel 4-6" of snow off the driveway without stopping for a breather or feeling tired when I was finished. But then I also noticed I could stay angry much longer!
Seriously, anger is often a mechanism of self-defense related to hurts, disappointments and thwarted expectations. Anyone who can’t handle a hurt may deal with that pain by getting angry, and the deeper the hurt, the greater the anger and the longer it lasts.
As I learn how to deal with anger by dealing with hurts, I’ve thought about God’s anger and wondered if it is anything like mine. Surely sin makes Him angry and Psalms 7:11 says “...God is angry with the wicked every day.”
Yet that doesn’t mean His anger is like ours. For one thing, I’m sure He doesn’t react to our sin with emotional outburst because we have hurt His feelings. He is not selfishly concerned about what we do to Him. More than likely, He hates sin because of its destructive power to hurt us.
Also, basic to His anger against sin is His nature. He is holy, pure and sinless. His outrage toward sin is something like a cat’s response to water; sin is simply contrary to everything that He is.
His demonstration against anger is not a mere slap on the wrist, either. When Jesus discovered money changers in the temple charging exorbitant prices to Jewish travelers for sacrificial animals, He was outraged. He braided a whip and drove them out, turning over their tables and denouncing them for making His Father’s house into a marketplace.
This tells me something else about His anger. I braided a halter shank once and have a good idea how long it took Jesus to braid a whip. From that, I conclude Jesus’ anger was not a temporary flare-up but a deep indignation that stayed with Him until the whip was finished and the situation was corrected. John 3:36 indicates God’s wrath is even eternal — because it “abides forever” on those who do not believe in His Son.
Serious as it is to have God angry at our sin, the good news of the Bible is that His anger has been appeased. However, He didn’t calm down because He got tired of being angry. What did happen was that His Son was willing to receive the wrath we deserved. Jesus appeased God’s anger.
The word used is “propitiation.” “God... loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation is what satisfies anger. It is not retaliation, but the way God vindicated His holy character through the sacrifice of Christ. He put our sins on His Son, making it possible for Him to punish sin and still offer mercy and forgiveness to us.
In that, I’ve discovered the answer to both hurts and anger. It is the same for me as it is for God: I must offer mercy and forgiveness. When I get angry at someone who sins against me, God reminds me to put away wrath and anger, and “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Other may not deserve forgiveness, and sometimes never ask for it, but Christ died so His Father didn’t have to stay angry... and He died so we don’t have to stay angry either.