There is an article in a recent TIME magazine about the way anger and hatred have taken over much of the discourse in America, and even spilling over into the violent acts we’ve all too frequently seen. Break Point is a five minute radio commentary from Charles Colson’s organization. Two of their recent commentaries have been on the need for civility in our conversations. I think even a casual observer of our media can see the truth of these comments. I am a conservative, biblically grounded Christian. I hold strong views on marriage, sexuality, and the sanctity of life. But I’m not against anyone. It is not my place to condemn any person for whom my Lord died. I do hate sin, those things that are contrary to God’s good will for the people He created. I hate sin because it denies the best life from ones whom God loves. Yet it is my task to speak in as much love as the Lord gives me grace to speak. That others may be drawn to that love and want all the best God has for them. Anger and hatred, course speech, and unseemly humor never drew anyone to the grace of our good Lord. You are the light of God in the world. Let your light shine.
Does the Lord get angry? There are certainly enough passages in the Old Testament that speak of the Lord’s anger. Oh, but that is the Old Testament! The God of the New Testament is a God of love and forgiveness. That is just the danger when we try to split the two Testaments. It is not the picture we get when Jesus entered the Temple court, knotting a whip, and driving the money changers out. It is certainly not the picture we get on the hill called Calvary with Jesus hanging on the cross. That is the ultimate picture of God’s anger against sin. God is angry against sin, because sin causes a separation between Himself and the people He created. Sin must be judged and the full weight of God’s wrath brought upon it. That is also why the cross is the ultimate picture of God’s grace. God laid the full weight of His anger for all of our sins upon His only Son as He hung on the Roman tree. Jesus took God’s anger, and experienced the hell we deserve, upon Himself. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13) Jesus, in His love for you and me, has taken God’s anger for our sins into Himself, and allowed us to stand in righteousness before God. That is what this week is all about. That is what both Testaments declare.
Little bugs can do a lot of damage. A house with termites looks great on the outside, but the foundation and walls are being eaten away. If not treated, parts of the house can collapse. Resentment is like that. Someone says or does something irritating. It can just sit in the mind and eat away. We start looking for that same thing to happen again, and become irritated even before anything else does happens. Resentment eats away at a relationship, even though there may be smiles on the outside. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (4:31-32) How often have we irritated Jesus, and yet He forgives us. Resentment only damages our own house. Deal with it directly, forgive it, and let it go.
It is not unusual for our local paper to report various tragic events in the area, a fire, a death by a drunk driver, a shooting, and so on. However twice in the last month the paper has reported of court trials where a close relative of the dead victim has forgiven the one who caused the death. In one case the headline read, “Court stunned by…” We naturally feel that the relative of one who was senselessly killed has a right to feel angry and bitter, but, at least in these two instances, the person was able to rise above that bitterness. Jesus, in horrible pain and bleeding from scourge wounds, looked down upon the still remorseless ones that put Him there and said, “Father, forgive them.” Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that what the other did was right. But it does mean that we are willing to put all in God’s hands, and allow no bitterness in our heart to separate us from Him. It is not easy, but it is our decision to forgive as we have been forgiven.