I have been angry a lot lately. When I heard that someone was saying not nice things about me at work, I got angry. When I felt that my husband was not appreciating my efforts, I got angry. When I took the kids to the mall and had to drive through the parking lot – I got angry! God has been speaking to me a lot lately about my anger: Where does it come from? Why does it happen? What does it say about me and my example?
It seems to be a natural human reaction to defend ourselves when we feel attacked. It was an issue that we find addressed throughout the New Testament. In many scriptures we are told to not get angry: Ephesians 4: 29, 31-32: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you; Galatians 6:7-9: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh (from Gal 5: 20:… hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions…) will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit (5:22-23a:… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…) will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
But there is more than that. We are told to love our enemies: Matt 5:44: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you; Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse; Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
But really? I mean, these people are maligning my character… shouldn’t I defend myself? Don’t I have to stand up for myself? If I don’t, who will? And there is the question… Who will? God says, He will: Ps 91:14-15: Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him; 2 Thess 3:3: But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one; Romans 12: 17-19: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place for wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Then it comes back to the ultimate question again… do I trust Him? I have trusted Him with my salvation, I have trusted Him with my health, my family, and my finances. But can I trust Him to protect me? Can I not let Him into this area of my life and allow Him to really be my refuge, my fortress and my strength? God is asking me to trust Him. He alone has the power to protect me and shape the course of events so that I not only survive, but can impact my enemies for Him. Many scriptures tell us that we were designed to do good works and to be a good example of a Christian (Col 1:10,Col 3:17,2 Tim 2:15,Matt 5:16, 2 Cor 9:6-8,Eph 2:10,Eph 4:1). 2 Timothy 1:7 tell us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. God has given us a spirit of love that He means for us to use. We are all familiar with the “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8a) Those first few verses let me know that no matter how many devotionals I write, or food I donate to the food bank, or mission trips I go on, if love does not mark my life and permeate everything I do, then all of my efforts are worth nothing. If I do not communicate that God loves you when I am with you, what good are all the things I do or say when I am not with you? There is no other message that needs to reach those around me. Only that God so desperately loves them that He died for them. God sees all of them. If there was something to be hateful about, He would be the one to be justified in that. Not me. How are they any worse than I when I am not being loving to them? Verses 4-8a tell me what love looks like: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” I have not been loving. I don’t know if I have the strength to be. But thankfully, God gives me that (Phil 4: 13, Phil 4:19).
He reminded me of my favorite verses: Romans 8:38-39: For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He loves me. He’s got me. He will not leave me. I can trust Him. And I need to let these people see His love too. As I watched a girl coming into work this morning who doesn’t like me much, when normally I would have thought something not very nice when I saw her, today I thought, how different would she be if she knew that Jesus loved her? I am here for such a time as this.