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The Spice Box

by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –

It takes a lot to get me angry—usually. But there are some things that light my fuse on contact. When that happens, it burns long and slowly, with occasional sparks flying along the way, until finally—KABOOM! I start ranting and raving and pacing the floor and declaiming in detail the faults of the whole human race and of so-and-so or such-and-such in particular. My sister suffers through the tirade, interpolates a sympathetic remark now and then when she can get a word in and patiently sits through it all until the smoke settles and the echoes of the explosion fade off into the distance—until the next time. Trouble is, the explosion resolves nothing, and too often the hidden embers smolder until next time the offending subject comes up.

The Scriptures have a lot to say about human anger, but for the most part it all boils down to a few crucial words found in the book of James: “…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20, NASB).

But wait a minute! Is all anger sinful? What about the anger that caused Jesus to drive the sellers and moneychangers from the temple?

Well, in the first place, Jesus’ anger was not the “cause” of anything. His actions were motivated, not by anger, but by his zeal for the house of God. Was he angry? Possibly. Was he controlled by anger? No. His every action was carefully controlled. He injured no one. The cords were used to drive the animals outside of the sacred precincts, where their owners could round them up. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers, scattering the coins, so the men had to scramble to collect them. He told the sellers of doves to remove their merchandise. Had he released the birds, they would have been lost to their owners. No one was injured; no sin was committed—but the temple was purged of the desecration. In the second event, his words alone were enough to accomplish his purposes—the purposes of God. Remarkably, not even the priests or the Pharisees ever accused him of wrongdoing in these acts, though they did ask by what authority he had acted.

If Jesus was angry when he cleansed the temple, his anger did not lead to sin. It did not drive him—it was under his control, not the other way around. “Be angry,” Paul admonished in Ephesians 4:6, “and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Jesus was so far from being obsessed by his anger that the sick and the needy were drawn to him in the temple afterward, filling the precincts in their desire to see and speak with him. They certainly had no fear of an angry outburst.

As a human emotion, anger has its place. Nor is it sin in itself. As with all our human impulses, anger becomes sin in our lives when we allow it to dominate our thoughts, to become excessive or compulsive, or harmful to ourselves or others. Emotions are a gift from God, and to be expressed to his honor and glory. There are times when we should be angry—perhaps more often than we are—over wrongdoing and abuse. We should be angry enough to speak out, to seek ways and means to correct and redress the wrongs that God gives us the insight to identify. We should use the surge of energy that comes with our anger to focus on how to bring about positive change, to do what we can to work the purposes of God in all things.

To be controlled by our emotions—including anger—can be harmful and must be surrendered to God, for have we not promised to commit ourselves to his control alone? Have we not claimed citizenship in his kingdom, where he has in mind to make a place where “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain?” Is it not time we started practicing kingdom citizenship?

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