A Feast Fit for a King—Anger

February 13, 2023

Anger can be as bad as murder if we allow it to destroy our souls, and the soul of the one with whom we are angry. Aristotle said, “Anyone can become angry. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy.” In the Bible we read, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19). We cannot handle the revenge game well.

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun,” Christian theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote. “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given, and you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Anger is a useful and good emotion, when the energy it causes is used constructively. Paul says, “Be angry, but don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Jesus gets angry when he sees the temple moneychangers cheating the people and cleanses the temple (Matthew 21:12–17, John 2:13–22). God is angered by and hates our sins (Psalm 5:5 and many others). In 1980 a group of angry women in California started MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) in response to the death of a 13-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver.

All this sounds good, but what about in our lives where people hurt, and tragedy tears us to pieces. Is there anyone who inspires your anger? Perhaps you have a lifelong friend who has stopped talking to you for no apparent reason. Many know what it is like when parents choose favorites, and we aren’t the one. We struggle for years, even decades to find self-worth. Or maybe you are the favorite and your siblings hate you for it. Perhaps the greatest anger is caused when someone hurts or kills someone we love.

I read about a father who struggled with the senseless shooting death of his son. Johnny was camping when a woman who was camping in the same area was “feeling irritable” and shooting her rifle to vent her frustrations. She saw Johnny washing his utensils at a water spigot, and said to her boyfriend, “Watch me scare that guy.” Instead she put a bullet in his heart.

The father was asked to write a letter telling the court about Johnny. The last question he was to answer was, “What sentence would you recommend for the woman?” As he tried to answer the question he was filled with hate. He wanted the woman to suffer as much as he had suffered. Wisely, before he wrote, he turned to God in prayer. He grabbed his crucifix, looked at it, and thought of Jesus praying, “Father, forgive them,” (Luke 23:34) as he hung on the cross in agony. Then he poured out his hurt, anger, and bitterness to Jesus, finally praying, “Jesus, help me forgive. I can’t do it myself. Help me, please.” In his prayer, Jesus led him to remember the kind of loving, forgiving person his son was, and how his son would not want Dad to be consumed with anger that ruined his life. As he wrote, “Please tell the woman that I forgive her,” he felt the first glimmer of peace since the day Johnny had died.

We cannot forgive like this without the power of God. Consider what would have happened to the father above if he had depended on his own ability to forgive and let go. He would have become a bitter, angry man. It is the same for us. Unless we turn to a power greater than ourselves who strengthens us so we can reconcile with our brother and sister.

When do you have issues with anger? When do you find it hard to forgive? Is there someone right now that you want revenge against? How is the inability to forgive hurting your life? Is your desire for revenge enjoyable? Will that person ever hurt enough that you will be satisfied, and finally forgive them? Write a prayer to God about how hard it is to let go of your anger, how hard it is to forgive, and how hard it is to not seek revenge. Ask God to help you be free from the chains of anger and revenge. (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.org).