In your anger…

So, I have a confession to make.  I have this issue.  I am easily offended.  Over and over again, all day long, I’m offended.  Because, after all, the world revolves around me, right?  Yep, it’s all about me.  And if you don’t give me the attention I think I deserve, or you respond more harshly than I thought necessary, or you didn’t memorize everything I just said, then I’m offended.  And my offense colors the rest of my day.  Kicks me right into a ditch.  And there I sit, paralyzed to do a darn thing.  And all for what?  Because I was offended.

I went to BibleGateway.com and looked up “offense”.  Over and over again, “offenses and sins” are referred to as one and the same.  And we’re told that if we repent and turn away from our offenses, we will surely live.  Could it be that, if “sin” is to miss the mark and turn away from God, “offense” could mean the same thing?  In Isaiah 44:22, God says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”  I love God’s remedy: repentance, turning around.  Simply turn back to Him.  He’s already paid the bill.

In Ephesians 4:26, the Apostle Paul says “In your anger do not sin” and continues in verse 27 with the reason why: “and do not give the devil a foothold.”  In our anger, if we turn away from God, we’re going to give the devil a foothold.  We’re going to do something destructive if we’re selfish and self-serving in our anger.  That’s the devil’s job description: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  But that same verse says that Jesus came to give us abundant life.  Only two choices: abundant life or destructive life.  When I chose offense, I was choosing the destructive life, paralyzed in that ditch.

So, why doesn’t Paul just say “don’t get angry”?  Isn’t anger itself a sin?  Nope.  We’re humans and we’re going to get angry.  Jesus got angry and he was perfect.  Anger doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  A lot of good is done because someone, somewhere, got angry.  Anger motivates.  Children are saved from human trafficking because someone got angry.  Slaves are freed because someone got angry.  The hungry are fed because someone got angry.

We live in a war zone.  This world is not the way God intended it.  I think Matthew West says it best in his song, “Do Something“:

So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

Instead of shaking our fists at Heaven, what would happen if we instead did what Jesus did when he got angry?  Jesus never sinned; he never turned away from God.  In his anger, he looked to his Father and said, “Dad, what should we do about this?”  That’s the kind of “sinless anger” that we’re called to.  Look to God and ask, “Dad, what should I do?”

Back to that issue of mine.  I am coming to believe that living in offense is living in sin, turned away from God, having my own pity party, all by myself.  I’m not looking to God saying, “Lord, I’m offended.  What should I do?”  I’m looking away from God, looking for an excuse to have that pity party.  I think that’s why we’re told over and over again to humble ourselves.  Pride is so destructive.  Like a two year old yanking away the broken toy protesting, “I do it myself.”

It takes humility to turn to God.  I don’t want to humble myself, but that’s exactly the right response.  Turn to God.  Get over myself.  Stop harboring that anger and hand my offense over to my Daddy in Heaven.  Realize how much grace I’ve been given and start handing out some of that grace.  I need to love that person the way I want to be loved.

“In your anger, do not sin”.  I believe that means, “You’re going to get angry, but don’t turn away from God.”  If in our anger we “sin” and turn away from God, taking up our own devices, really awful things can happen.  Instead, we can keep looking to God asking, “Lord, what do You want me to do with this anger?  How can we, together, transform this into something beautiful?” 

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11  

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