“Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19, 20
We are to take extreme CARE with the emotion of anger. I’ve heard it’s okay to be angry, because after all, the Word says “Be angry and don’t sin.” But I find there’s quite a blurry line in my life between anger and sin, one I can’t see very well, so perhaps I should avoid that contested boundary if at all possible.
Jonah offers an interesting contrast between man’s anger and the Lord’s. One is quick. The other, slow.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”
Jonah also illustrates the great chasm between our anger and God’s forgiveness. Jonah gets angry over a plant dying! Yet, for the life of him, he can’t grasp God’s mercy towards the 120,000 people (and their cattle) He spares due to their sincere repentance!
He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
In the book of Job we read, that even when we feel sick and tormented, a rash and angry response will undoubtedly lead to sin. “Beware that wrath does not entice you to scoffing” (Job 36:18).
However, God’s slowness to anger always results in compassionate redemption:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
And finally, our anger
often usually leads to unforgiveness. Jesus is pretty clear how he feels about that in his parable on the unforgiving servant:
“Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?” Matthew 18:33
Ultimately, humans have a bad track record with anger. We are encouraged to put it aside, along with all the junk it creates in our minds (and bodies). So….
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Dear Lord, Help us to have mercy on others as you have had towards us. Help us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and love as You have loved. Only then can we experience release from the burden of anger, draw others to You, and accomplish Your redemptive purpose. You are so merciful, Lord. Amen.
P.S. A little ♪ note on mercy can be heard in the Music Box above. It’s a new song by Sovereign Grace Music called, Have Mercy on Me. You can listen on this site, and dowload at Amazon.com or Sov Grace’s website.