By Basilea Schlink
Usually we are not at all dismayed-especially if we are choleric by nature-if we should happen to flare up violently when we are irritated or annoyed. For instance, if we are irritated by our disobedient children, we almost think it is natural for us to shout at them. But then we are using false standards, standards that God does not accept. God's standard is different and it is the only one that is valid. We will be judged according to it. It is the standard that Jesus gives us. In the Sermon on the Mount He speaks about being angry with our brother. He tells us what will happen, if we insult our brother or even say to him, "You fool!" (Matt. 5: 22). None of us would think-that this is a serious sin. Yet Jesus pronounces a frightful judgment over such vehement behaviour. He includes angry people with murderers, and a terrible punishment will await them. And we know that anger can really kill in a figurative sense. Children, and even adults, who have been victims of a constant barrage of angry remarks often have deep scars in their souls; it is as though something there has been put to death.
God's judgment will come down in a dreadful way upon those who persist in being angry. Jesus said that those who hurl angry insults at their neighbours will find their eternal place in the fire of hell, if they do not repent of their anger (Matt. 5: 22). Jesus tells us clearly and unmistakably: Just as the meek belong to Him, the angry belong to Satan and his kingdom of darkness. Therefore, no matter what the cost, we must be freed from anger, from flaring up and being vehement.
We must not fall into Satan's traps. We know his tricks. He tries to convince us that we have to shout at people every once in a while just as Jesus did when He drove the money-changers out of the temple. But when he tries this trick, we can only say: "Get behind me, Satan, you blasphemer!" Jesus was not a sinner like us, but the Holy One of God, filled with the spirit of love, and He was only acting out of the agony of love when He saw the sacred temple being desecrated by sin. He was angry, because He wanted to save; His anger was a reaction of His love.
On the other hand, we really ought to know what our heart is like. It is a den of robbers. Evil thoughts come out of it (Matt. 15: 19). It is like a cup of poison. If we think we are helping others to get straight, by shouting at them angrily, we are handing them a poisonous drink. Our good intentions are mixed with bitterness and indignation. Can there be anything good or loving behind our angry, vehement words when all this is resting in our hearts? What liars and hypocrites we are, if we pretend that we just want to help the other person get back on the right path by giving him a piece of our mind. In truth we usually just want to give vent to our annoyance and anger-and because this is Satan's poison, it cannot help others and free them. It will only make them more set in their evil ways.
Satan's poison of anger and flaring up has to be removed from our hearts and lives, if we want to be free from Satan's power. And Whoever fights a battle of faith in hatred against this sin will be freed from it, for Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil. Should He not also conquer this devilish anger in us? Did not God make Moses, who killed the Egyptian in great vehemence, more meek "than all men that were on the face of the earth" (Num. 12: 3)?
We have to make an "about-face", declare war on our anger and choose the way of Jesus. "To this you have been called . . . that you should follow in his steps . . . . When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten" (I Peter 2: 21-23). In our mind let us picture Jesus, who says, "I am gentle" (Matthew 11: 29) Jesus, the Lamb of God, filled with gentleness, patience and meekness--a picture of love that overcomes all! And to this image He has redeemed us. We should reflect this love, which wins other people, which is the opposite of anger and vehemence. It is gentleness and mildness which has great power and thaws out hard hearts like a spring wind.
This way of meekness leads us to heaven. The meek are called blessed. The way of the angry leads to hell. We can choose. If we want to follow the way of the Lamb, Jesus, "the Captain of our salvation" (Heb. 2: 10 AV), will proceed us and we will tread in His footsteps. That means in practice: If we are upset and annoyed about something, we should not go to the other person immediately to give vent to our anger. Wait and pray first. Perhaps instead of hitting him with a long tirade, we might just write down a few lines on paper. We must never let the sun go down upon our anger, but humble ourselves before God and if necessary also before the people against whom we were angry. God will bless such steps taken in obedience and will remould us into gentler people.
Should it not be possible for God to make us gentle and meek? Jesus has paid the ransom price and broken the power of Satan and sin so that we no longer have to serve this sin of anger. We have truly been redeemed from the futile ways inherited from our fathers (1 Pet. 1:18). The disposition of our fathers-like vehemence and anger-which we have inherited, can no longer rule over us. This sin has been nailed to His cross and our inheritance is the new disposition, the image of God. In Christ we are a new creation, redeemed to the image of the Lamb, who was meek and humble-this we must claim in faith.