Posts Tagged ‘righteous anger’

1 Samuel 11:1-15
Saul Defeats the Ammonites

Is anger ever good? I have, because of events over the course of my life, always thought getting angry to the point of arguing or fighting was wrong. It was always a negative thing for me. Always a need to apologize. Always a mess to clean up, either literally or figuratively. It always had negative consequences for me, particularly in my relationships with the woman in my life, whomever that might have been at the particular time. There were always consequences for standing up for what I thought was right, in my mind. You know the consequences in a male-female relationship! I would be cut-off from the very thing that I found my personal worth through – sexual relations. Often the result of those occasions where I got angry over some offense to my rights, over some offense to my manhood, over some offense to my kids, whatever, would be to lose the rights and privileges of a man with his woman. Without that validation of my manhood, my worth as a man, I would buckle easily. However, most times, I would sublimate my anger over offenses to keep the supply lines, or the possibility of keeping the supply lines open. Ignoring the needs of my children, sure it would make me angry, but gotta keep the supply lines open. I measured my worth by whether I had access to the bedroom pleasures that my wife gave me. I had no sense of personal value outside that.

Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid moving every few years, I learned the approval game early on. I measured my worth by how many people I could get to like me. When you have no roots in a community, when you are frequently the new kid in town, you become a chameleon. You change and adapt to your environment. You are like a bad politician, doing whatever it takes to get elected. In some towns, I was the friend of rich kids and acted the part. In some towns, we were in farming communities and I was a redneck country boy. Whatever was needed to fit in and be approved that was me. That continued in my first two marriages, and particularly the second. Whatever wrongs were done to me, I pushed it down because wanting to be approved and accepted and being validated by sex was the most important thing to me. In my second marriage, there was this jealousy of anything to do with my past when it came to my wife and her kids. It was so bad that I pretty much had to ignore or not overtly show the affection to my own kids that I wanted to show and they needed from me. All the jealousy and in-fighting would make me so angry. Sometimes, I just wanted to hold my girls in my arms but I would always fear the jealousy and repercussions. I almost lost any hope of a relationship with my girls during the 9 years of that marriage. Finally, when my oldest daughter was in college, my second wife thought that our obligation to my oldest child was over. However, having a kid in college is probably the most needed time of support for a child. There are so many things that are not covered by tuition grants and loans. So, trying to avoid confrontations, hid my financial support for my daughter from my second wife, her stepmom.

As with all things that are hidden, they will eventually come to light. And it did. Major confrontation. My life as I knew it was on the line. Sexual validation on one hand and the needs of my child on the other. No denying what happened. The evidence was there. But still being the approval seeker, I tried to smooth it over for a couple of weeks. But finally, you stand for something or you fall for anything. Stand by your child or buckle under the weight of the need for approval. I chose the needs of my child over the needs of my sexual validation on August 4, 2004. I don’t blame my second wife anymore for the choices I was forced to make. Spouses will take the power, fill the vacuum, that you allow them to. They have the power over you that you let them have. On that day in August 2004, I released a decade of pushing anger down and it all exploded in walking away from the oppression of a bad marriage and being forced to ignore my children. There was no physical violence that day but just a release of anger and there were words from which there was no return. No takebacks. This was it. The final confrontation – a decade in the making. The relationship had taken the form I let it take – seeking approval over doing the right things by my kids. The release of anger and of changing the course of my life was freeing. I knew what it was going to cost me but I no longer cared. The release of anger was almost a righteous feeling. Is anger right sometimes?
That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 11:1-15 this morning – how Saul’s anger at what was happening to the people of Israel was a righteous anger. Sometimes, when it’s spirit-induced anger, it is right to be angry at what is wrong. Let us read this passage now:

11 About a month later,[a] King Nahash of Ammon led his army against the Israelite town of Jabesh-gilead. But all the citizens of Jabesh asked for peace. “Make a treaty with us, and we will be your servants,” they pleaded.

2 “All right,” Nahash said, “but only on one condition. I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace to all Israel!”

3 “Give us seven days to send messengers throughout Israel!” replied the elders of Jabesh. “If no one comes to save us, we will agree to your terms.”

4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the people about their plight, everyone broke into tears. 5 Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen, and when he returned to town, he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” So they told him about the message from Jabesh.

6 Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry. 7 He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the Lord made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one. 8 When Saul mobilized them at Bezek, he found that there were 300,000 men from Israel and 30,000[b] men from Judah.

9 So Saul sent the messengers back to Jabesh-gilead to say, “We will rescue you by noontime tomorrow!” There was great joy throughout the town when that message arrived!

10 The men of Jabesh then told their enemies, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you can do to us whatever you wish.” 11 But before dawn the next morning, Saul arrived, having divided his army into three detachments. He launched a surprise attack against the Ammonites and slaughtered them the whole morning. The remnant of their army was so badly scattered that no two of them were left together.

12 Then the people exclaimed to Samuel, “Now where are those men who said, ‘Why should Saul rule over us?’ Bring them here, and we will kill them!”

13 But Saul replied, “No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us all go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom.” 15 So they all went to Gilgal, and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they made Saul king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy.

In this passage, we see that anger is powerful emotion. Often it may drive people to hurt others with words or physical violence. But anger directed at sin or injustice is not wrong. Saul was angered by the Ammonites’ threat to humiliate and mistreat his people. The Holy Spirit used Saul’s anger to bring justice and freedom. When injustice or sin makes you angry, ask God how you can channel that anger in constructive ways to help bring about positive change.

I am not hear to celebrate my second divorce. God hates divorce. But God also wants to be the center of our marriages and He never was in either of my first two marriages. These were not God honoring marriages. These were unsaved people out to protect their interests. Mine was maintaining access to sex no matter the cost to me or anyone else.

As I sit here on the birthday of my third and final wife, I thank God that there was that righteous anger over my kids on August 4, 2004. Otherwise, I would never have met the woman that God intended for me in my Elena. She has been the best thing that ever happened to me and she has been so good for my relationship with my girls. It is not either or with her. It is us. Her kids/my kids, they are OUR kids. No choices to make. I am able to love my kids and my wife at the same time. What if I did not have that righteous anger on August 4, 2004 over the state of my relationship with my kids. Where would I be now? I surely would not have the peace that that I have now. With a Christian wife and us living to please God rather than each other, we have ended up having a marriage that pleases us both. On her birthday today, I thank God for having met this woman. On her birthday, I thank God for some righteous anger.

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 25:1-18 (Part 2)
Moab Seduces Israel

One of my own faults that I am a conflict avoider. I will avoid conflict at all costs most of the time. I will take and take and take and someone really has to push me beyond all reason to get me to react. So much so that I am a conflict avoider, I will often accept things that make me angry without saying a word, bury it deep down inside, and smile and go on. There are times that things just really bother me or hurt me and I don’t say anything. I just accept it and go on. I have always been this way for as long as I can remember. Maybe, it is because of a basic insecurity in me that I feel like that my feelings are not really legitimate. Maybe, that insecurity makes me feel less than others and thus my feelings are not as important as those of others. Maybe, I am not a quick thinker (the reason I love to write is because of the fact that it allows me to ponder things at length) so I am not good at arguing my rights with others. When I get angry enough to have a confrontation with someone over treading roughshod over my personal rights and desires, I get overcome with the emotion and anger of the moment and do not think clearly enough to be quick with the comment or retort. That makes me shy to argue with others. I like to think of myself as a person with high intellect and insight but get me into a confrontational situation and I am like the kid with the dunce hat on in the corner. I always walk away from arguments and start thinking at length about what I should have said. I should have said this. I should have said that. Conflict then to me is a disgusting thing that I want to avoid at all costs. I am like Rodney King’s statement, “why can’t we all just get along?” I wish that I could change that about myself. To stand up for what I believe in and not to let people get the best of me. Even if it is just a difference of opinion that does not have major impact on a relationship, I would it about myself to be able to just say, “hey, man, you’re wrong!” instead of just standing there thinking that he’s wrong and just smiling and accepting it. I am getting angry at myself right now for being such a wimp because I know it’s true that I sublimate my feelings, desires, and opinions just to avoid conflict whether it’s a physical confrontation or whether it’s a simple difference of opinion. For example, I would love to be able to say to my boss, “hey, I think you are wrong and here’s why…” I would love to be able to tell others that I have a different opinion and the reasons for it rather than thinking in my head that this is not a hill to die on and keep quiet.

Sometimes, standing up for what we believe in is OK. I want that for myself. Sometimes, we need to be able to stand up against the tide of public opinion. Sometimes, we need to stand up to the tide of conflict and let it wash over us instead of turning and just going with the flow of the current. My own insecurities and willingness to keep quiet even when things bother me is contrasted by the reaction of Phinehas in this passage that we are looking for a second time today, Numbers 25:1-18. My thought was I want to be Phinehas when the chips are down and our actions matter. I don’t want to be that guy who just keeps quiet and says this is not a hill to die on:

25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.

4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”

5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”

When you read this passage, it is clear that Phinehas’ anger is proper and justified. Phinehas was angry because of his zeal for the Lord. So, when defending the honor, holiness, purity and righteousness of God, anger, righteous anger, is sometimes justified.

That raises the question though. How can we know when our anger is appropriate and when we should restrain it? That is the Final Jeopardy-like question for me personally. I think we must ask these questions when we get angry:

1. Why am I angry?
2. Whose rights are being violated here (mine or someone else’s)?
3. Is there an eternal, unchangeable truth of God being violated here?

If it is only our rights that are being violated, then reasonable discourse should be attempted to resolve the situation. But if a truth of God such as our value as human beings, such as violation of commands of God, the eternal truths of God, rights of others, and so on, anger can be justifiable to be expressed. There is a difference between righteous anger over violation of God’s eternal truth and anger over someone violating a preference that I have personally. If we are to become more and more like God each day through the Holy Spirit’s action in our souls, we are to become like Him when it comes to sin. God is wrathful towards sin. It should anger us too. Sometimes, it is OK to get angry (though angry expressed through violence is not often the answer as it was in Phinehas’ case). It is OK to get angry when anger calls us to action to defeat that which is a bastardization of God’s truth. It is OK to get angry when sins are perpetrated with impunity. It is OK to get angry when it calls you to action to change the world. Martin Luther King was angry over the violation of God’s principle that we are created in God’s image and should be treated as such. His righteous anger led him to change the world. His righteous anger led him to stand up for God’s eternal truth despite that it might (and did) cost him his life. I want to be able to stand up (in a constructive and usually nonviolent way) for God’s eternal truths as they apply to me personally and to others. I want to be that kind of person who is unafraid to stand up for what they know to be right regardless of the cost. I want to not value peace and quiet so much that I let things that are blatantly wrong and against God’s eternal truths just pass as OK. I want to be Phinehas and not have to think about whether I am right or wrong and be living in God’s will in such a way that I know that what I am doing is OK in God’s eyes. I don’t want to have to think about whether this is true or that is true. I just know it because of living in God’s will. I want to be in God’s truthful will so much that I have the discernment to detect bullcrap from a mile away. I want to be fully confident in God’s truth that it is simply a part of who I am and not question as to whether my opinion is valid or not. Give me Phinehas confidence, Lord!

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 5:21-26
Murder
Have you ever been so angry at someone that you wanted to kill them? I will have to admit that I have been angry at various people in my life over the years and have wanted in rare cases to physically hit them. More often though, I have been on occasion mad enough at someone to say hurtful words to them. I do not think that I have ever been angry enough at someone that I wanted to take away their life, to murder them. I do not think that I have ever been THAT enraged where I was willing to do that. I avoid conflict more often than not. Usually, people like me, though they avoid conflict except when it is forced upon them, tend to harbor resentment and let things fester and boil until one day they explode. It is “the Bowling way” as I call because my family is famous for it. We play nice when we are together but never deal with any conflicts within our family straight on. Resentments become greater and greater over time and take on a life of their own. The original offense can be small but it grows and morphs into people not speaking for days, months, even years. The anger grows and grows. Jesus says you may as well have committed murder! What? Jesus? You mean I am accountable for my thoughts too?

Jesus starts this passage by talking about the command from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13) that states “Thou shalt not commit murder” when he says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 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. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Wow, this passage of Scripture is likely an extra chunky Chips-Ahoy cookie. Mmmm! Chunnnnkkkky Chips Ahoy coooookkkkkkiiiieees! …. Sorry… had a “bright shiny object moment there….Back to the point… The reason that I say this passage is like a chunky Chips Ahoy cookie is because there is so much to chew on in this passage. First, Jesus says that not murdering someone is not enough. He says that a true believer should never let their relationships get to that point because hate in our hearts is a sin. Second, he is saying that we cannot truly worship our God when we have hate in our heart for someone. Finally, having considered what Jesus’ expectations are, then, we must consider when and if anger is justified…ever? The lesson that we will learn that it’s all about God’s glory! Let’s dive in and see why.

The first point our Savior is trying to make here is that a Christ follower will not let their relationships deteriorate to that point. It is interesting to note the word use here in the Greek text. The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) used here refers here to a fellow disciple, whether a woman or a man. Does this mean that we can be angry with a non-believer? No, it does not, I think. I do think that Jesus is saying that first and especially with fellow believers our relationships should never deteriorate to the point that murder is even a consideration. Fellow believers should resolve conflicts in a humble manner meaning that we take our egos out of the equation and work to eliminate the issue that is keeping us from loving our brother and thus glorifying God. If we have contempt, “Raca” in Hebrew, in our hearts for a brother or sister we may as well have already broken God’s commandment to not commit murder. I think too that it means that we must also attempt to work out our differences with non-believers but non-believers will not always respond in the same manner as a fellow Christian but we have no less responsibility to approach the situation with love. We should respond to these situations with Jesus’ heart. That means thinking of how to use the situation to glorify God through how we respond not about how to sooth our hurt feelings such as with revenge. Non-believers may react with anger and murder but we are called to seek reconciliation. As Christ followers, we are called to come from a position of love first. We are called to seek opportunities to give God glory in all that we do. God is not glorified when we seek personal vengeance whether it be murder or simply hurtful words that destroy lives. Where’s the glory in that? Anger is highly personal. Anger is me getting mine. Anger is making ourselves gods and defining our realm. Anger put us on the throne and makes us the judge.

The second point that our Savior makes through his statements here is that our lives should act as worship to God. Our lives should be to glorify God in everything that we do. When we have hate in our hearts, there is an impediment to our worship of God. When we worship God, we must be in a position that we are laying ourselves bare and giving ourselves totally and completely to God. However, when we have hate in our hearts, we are putting ourselves first. Hate for another person is a selfish emotion. It is showing that we want ourselves put first. Hate is like a baby pitching a temper tamtrum because they did not get their own way. Hate is the very same way. Hate is us being upset because our own needs were not met, our own way of thinking was not supported. So, when we have hate, we are not putting God first. When we are not putting God first, we are not worshipping him. Have you ever been so consumed with anger toward someone that it affected your whole life? I have known people like that. I have seen movies like that. If you remember back in the early 90’s, there was a movie called, “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story”. In the movie, Betty Broderick is the pushy, prodding wife of very successful lawyer in California. She had the good life. They knew all the right people and went to all the right parties. They had it all. However, her successful husband becomes involved with his legal assistant, leaves Betty, and ends up marrying the new and younger woman. Certainly, Betty had reason to be angry, hurt, and to lash out. The problem came when it began to consume her entire life. The personal offense to her of her husband leaving her for a younger woman was her god. She became consumed by it. The anger destroyed relationships. It really, really got out of hand to the point that the children left her and went to live with their dad. She descended into a cycle of hatred and revenge that ultimately led her to break into her ex-husband’s house late at night and shoot her ex-husband and his new wife dead as they lay sleeping in their bed. There was no God in that. When we let anger and revenge take us over, we cannot worship God for we have made something else our god. Anger is highly personal. Anger is all about me getting mine. Anger is making ourselves gods and defining our realm. Anger puts us on the throne and make us the judge.

Finally, let’s consider the point, when we are Christ followers, is anger ever justified? I think it boils down to this. There is such a thing as righteous anger. The difference between sinful anger and righteous anger is the concept of who is the central character. Sinful anger is selfish anger. It is about me! It is about me being offended and hurt and ME lashing out. I think the question we should ask ourselves is whether our anger is about me being right or is it righteous? How does this affect me? As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over evil that we see in the world. Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us. We should take offense against such things! This anger is righteous in that all of us are created in the image of God and each of us should have equal opportunity to experience His love and His glory. Our righteous anger should lead us to take redemptive action. Believers can channel their anger into constructive action by becoming involved with Christian organizations that combat the influence of evil in society. Christians must get involved with organizations working to free children from slavery and volunteer at shelters working to protect battered women. We must lead the charge against hatred and oppression and cruelty! Ultimately, if our outrage results in restoring people into loving, healing relationships with Jesus, it’s righteous anger. Do you see the difference, my friends? Sinful anger is all about me. Righteous anger is that which attempts to restore people to a loving and right relationship with God – it’s not about me!

May we examine our motives for anger! Let us look at ourselves and understand why we are angry. Is it about us? Or is about how evil has clouded the skies of God’s glory in one or more other people’s lives? If we are angry for not getting our way, not getting what we want, and wanting to make others pay for it, then, we need to drop back and punt. We need to let go of selfish desires and seek common ground with those who have personally offended us. We need not allow our anger to get in the way of our relationship with God. If our anger is against evil and how it creates barriers to the full expression of God’s glory in someone’s life or in the lives of an entire people group, then, be angry to the point of being compelled to act. Change the world with righteous anger! Bottom line for both is that we need to be seeking God’s glory whether we are turning away from selfish anger or whether we are righteously angry about the effects of evil in this world! It’s all about God’s glory! Amen and Amen.