If we are honest, we all struggle with moments of anger from time to time.
Whether we are faced with a small annoyance or an overwhelming situation.
It seems that a lot of people are on edge ready to burst forth with their feelings nowadays.
Many tend to blame the increase on the past year’s frustration, anxiety and uncertainty of 2020, which seems to be lingering long into 2021.
The hope that we once had of the pandemic subsiding seems to be vanishing before our eyes.
Lately on social media (which I think relishes in conflict because it brings advertising revenue) there have been many posts from people on both sides of vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated, mask wearing and non-mask wearing.
I have seen friendships seemly being torn apart over the issue of how we should handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
But rather than lashing out with harsh words and actions, which only leave us often with guilt and shame, we can stop and focus on Scripture for help.
The Bible gives plenty of advice on dealing with anger and how to handle emotions.
The Bible also teaches us that not all anger is wrong.
Righteous anger stems from anger that arises when we witness “an offense against God or God’s Word.”
Righteous anger cares about others.
It attacks the sin instead of the sinner.
Thus, it’s important to consider what can result from our anger.
Will our anger produce actions that intend to make the world a better place and help bring people to hear the Gospel, in a loving way?
Or will our anger strike, isolate and cause someone to potentially stray away from the faith because of our actions?
We should be slow to become angry and filter all our emotions through how God wants us to respond to others.
Long ago, King Solomon had to deal with many issues as he ruled the Kingdom of Israel.
One issue was also anger.
King Solomon reminds us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
He also reminds us “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18
James the Apostle and the brother of Jesus reminds us, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20
James adds, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:1-2
It seems to be individual rights verse community rights.
Which takes precedent?
Or are both of equal value?
The German reformer Martin Luther’s wrote in his Freedom of a Christian, “Our freedom binds us forever in service to our neighbor. A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all.”
But, what did Jesus have to say about anger?
We often ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”
We often remember that Jesus overturned the money changers tables in the temple and we say, “Even Jesus got angry.”
Yes, even Jesus got angry from time to time.
But Jesus tells us “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:22
But how many times have we lost our temper with another person?
Out of love for God we would rather not say or write something hurtful back to the person and instead just keep quiet.
But we do and then we regret it.
But it seems that it is easier said than done for most of us.
Social media is semi-anonymous and we can always “block” or “unfriend” someone that we can’t convince to think like us.
I read an article by the Association of Biblical Counselors that said, “Anger Has Three Faces. It is expressed primarily in three different ways: 1) explosive and blowing up; 2) stewing, brewing, or silent indignation; and 3) irritability, exasperation or embitterment.”
In thinking about that, I have found these expressions to be true in my life at times.
I find myself at times being like an old pressure cooker on a stove burner just waiting to explode.
Anger erupts often from something that we feel very passionate or strongly about.
As we continue to struggle together with the pandemic, we must realize that we are all in this together.
In Benjamin Franklin’s well-known words: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
I might be wrong, but I re-interpret that to say: “We are all God’s children: vaccinated, non-vaccinated, face coverings, non-face coverings.
“We are all God’s children. We all must stick together.”
Overcoming our anger won’t happen overnight, but if we turn our emotions over to God and rely on His strength, it can happen.
With practice and prayers to God for help we can learn how to control our anger and as we Disciples of Christ like to remind ourselves of our mantra, “We agree to disagree and we respect each other’s freedom of opinion.”
As God’s children, we can all make this journey of change together.
Let it be so.
Rev. Frank Chlastak began work as senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Poplar Bluff on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.