This is a difficult topic for me to write on. If I’m being honest, I began writing a draft for this and immediately deleted it due to the nature of what we’re discussing. I now feel the brevity and the weight of our topic.
I cannot treat this subject as though I am an expert nor can I treat it as if I know where you are emotionally. I can only be faithful to what the Bible says and hope that it encourages/challenges you.
Our discussion is concerning anger and there’s a twofold reason why I feel an urging deep within my heart:
1. Naturally, I’m an angry person and have failed to control my anger on countless occasions, even recently.
2. I know that many of you have experienced horrific things in your life and deal with anger and bitterness on a day to day basis.
It is with these two presuppositions that I beg you to hear the compassion in my words but also the pleading. I am speaking to you as someone who fully understands but also as someone who knows what the Bible says on this matter. Can we all come to this with an open heart? Ready to hear what God has to say?
Being in part VII of this series obviously means we’ve covered a large portion of I Corinthians 13. Here’s what we’ve discussed so far:
“Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish…” I Corinthians 13:4-5a
Let’s Get Some Context:
As a precursor, we have to understand who Paul is writing to and why. You must forgive me, as I have stated incorrect information in some of my recent posts, of which I will fix for future reference. Previously I had claimed that Paul was writing to the Corinthians because they were undergoing vast persecution at the hands of their enemies and after further research, I have found that that is not completely correct.
While they could have experienced some persecution, this was not the primary reason for its writing. Paul penned this letter to the Corinthian church because they were incredibly divided amongst each other. There were many issues and arguments rising within the body of believers and to say that they were a mess is an understatement.
Paul picks up his pen and exercises his authority in the church by actively dealing with the division, the false idols they had begun to worship, and the sin that some were allowing to exist inside of the body. In all of this, we come to chapter 13 where Paul is actively describing how Christians should act towards one another and at large, towards the entire world.
As I had stated above, this week’s topic is concerning anger and this is exactly what Paul says…
“(Love) is not provoked…” I Corinthians 13:5
In other words, “love is not easily angered.”
I’m racking my brain to discover an elaborate explanation for this but there isn’t one. It’s as simple as it sounds. True love does not express anger.
If you’re anything like me, that doesn’t settle very well, does it?
“What if someone hurts me and they deserve it?”
“What if I feel justified in my anger?”
“They never apologized so why would I let it go?”
“Anger is good for me because I feel like it can protect me in the future.”
“Jesus got angry, right? Why can’t I?”
Those are but a few of the questions that swarmed my mind when I began writing this. I can almost assume that they are now running through yours? I certainly hope to answer them for you but I can promise that you probably won’t like what the Bible has to say…
The Answer to All of Your Questions:
Notice that I did not say, “love does not get angry.” Rather, I said “love does not express anger.” The verse above also implies that someone who has true love abiding in their hearts should not be quick to anger (James 1:19).
My point is that anger is a natural emotion and there is nothing you or I could do to avoid feeling it. However, we have been called to, despite our anger, continue in love and mercy towards the subject of our wrath.
Basically: True love, though angered, continues seeking the benefit of the other person regardless of the wrongs done.
Earlier in the chapter, Paul says that love is patient. Being patient and slow to anger go hand in hand. If you look even closer at the verses you will realize that each attribute of love plays off of each other. You cannot be one, or express one, without the other.
What does this mean for us?
At its deepest meaning, love is God. God is love. He expresses immense love towards us “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. He exhibits this love towards us on a daily basis with steadfast mercy and unmovable grace despite our constant rebellion.
Knowing this presents my first point:
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” I John 4:20
How can we, who claim to love God, hate those that He made in His own image? Here’s another question for your thoughts this evening:
If you know that you’ve been forgiven by God, do you know of how much? If so, how does that affect the way you forgive others?
If you say that it doesn’t affect it very much, I would encourage you to dig deeper into the Gospel account. Christ shed his innocent blood on your behalf even though you spit in the face of a Holy God daily. If anyone has a right to hold anger against anyone, it is the Lord. Yet He does not. He gives us a chance at forgiveness.
“But God gets angry. What about that?”
I’ve been wondering the same thing, honestly. After further digging I stumbled upon this convicting truth:
“God is “slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 86:15), and this description is quite telling. The truth that God is measured in His wrath is immediately followed by the truth that He overflows with love. The connection between the two is obvious. Love puts the brakes on anger, slowing it down for the sake of the one loved.” (Source found here.)
Yes, God does get angry. Jesus even got angry at one point during his earthly ministry. So, what separates His expression of anger from ours? 99% of the time, our anger is directed towards vengeance, vindication, and justification. 100% of God’s expressed anger is always directed towards our betterment. God gets angry with us because we pursue after things that are not good for us. In every seen expression of God’s anger, it is known that He did so with our good in mind. Notice though, that, even though God did express anger at times, the majority of the time He overshadowed that anger with grace, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. (Psalm 86:15; Ephesians 2:4-5; Micah 7:18; 2 Tim. 1:9; Isaiah 30:18; Matt. 6:14)
Lay Your Burdens Down
I don’t know what you’re holding on to today. I do not know what evil has been done to your heart. I do not know what burdens you are carrying. I know the ones that I am and I can only call you to do the same thing that God is calling me to do: Lay them down, stop being angry, and forgive.
I know that it will be hard but God lays down His righteous anger towards us on a daily basis. We have no room to hold grudges, seek revenge, or express our anger. We must learn how to control our anger and love stronger. God is patient with us and we must be patient with others no matter what they do to us.
There is incredible love for you at the foot of the cross. The same love that Jesus gives you, He also gives to your worst enemy. I know that stings but we both know that it is true. Can you let go of your pain at the foot of the cross? Will you?
As I said above, this was an incredibly difficult topic to write on knowing my struggles and some of yours. I’m completely open to conversation and would love to talk with you if you have questions, comments, or concerns. My heart is for you and so is the Lord’s. Rest in His peace and His love for you.