When I was eight years old, I moved in with my grandparents in North Denver for a few years. They belonged to a cult that only believed in reading the Old Testament and it was my only view to the bible at the time. I knew the 10 Commandments said not to murder, but I didn’t find too much in the Old Testament about avoiding anger.
There were a lot of fights in our neighborhood. It seemed “an eye for an eye” was an agreed upon policy. I remember a few times where adults decided to duke it out in front of kids. Soon, I started getting in some fights. One incident at school resulted in me having to write 100 times “I will learn to control my anger” on loose-leaf paper in the principal’s office.
But, I didn’t learn.
I fought on the school bus. I fought while playing sports. I even fought in the very center of the street one time wearing my new Kangaroo sneakers and being encouraged to “kangaroo-kick” my opponent by crowd of neighborhood kids. Anger just seemed to have a place and our neighborhood offered a ready outlet.
That’s until I saw a fit of anger that would change the trajectory of my life. My grandfather asked me to bring in groceries from the car and for some reason I thought I could handle a large watermelon all by myself. It slipped out of my hands and hit the sidewalk.
From the look my grandfather gave me, I knew I was in trouble. He really loved watermelon and he also had a problem with alcohol. Though he had never hit me, I knew his temper had landed some blows on other family members. He started toward me and I took off running for several blocks until I reached a friend’s house. I called home to ask my grandmother if it was safe to come back. She assured me my grandfather had sobered up and wouldn’t murder me for not being able to carry large fruit.
After that incident, I reunited with my mother sooner than expected and landed in a Texas suburb where fighting and arguing in public didn’t seem so commonplace.
But that image of anger in that incident stayed with me. It was the first time I felt I was really in danger because of someone’s anger toward me and it gave me a glimpse of avoiding wrath by running to escape it.
Years later, when I met Jesus, I learned how he made it possible for us to avoid God’s wrath by not running from Him but to Him instead.
Meeting Jesus meant seeing anger in a different light and leaving no room to excuse it.
Here’s a little about anger from the New Testament.
“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.” – Matthew 5:21-26
“In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” – Ephesians 4:26-31
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48
“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
We will always wrestle with anger, whether it is directed by us or toward us.
At times, I still find myself getting angry about small things I can’t control and about big things I was never meant to control. However, I don’t have to give in to it.
I now have a choice. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I can extend forgiveness and receive forgiveness when I fail and when others fail me by showing anger.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to live in a bad neighborhood to experience anger these days. It’s at our fingertips. Social media is full of opportunity to express anger and people are taking advantage of it. The “eye for an eye” policy now runs rampant in the comments section.
Instead of writing it down 100 times, it will serve us well to ask Jesus to help us control our anger instead.
We can expect that help to arrive quickly.
How do you deal with anger these days?