Let’s take a quick moment to be honest with ourselves. What role does anger play in your life? Maybe “anger” is too strong a word to start out with, but how often do you find yourself feeling frustrated, grumpy, irritated, irked, or just plain moody? Once a day? Three times a day? Only when you’re driving, or watching the news, or after a long day at work? The reason for this post today is discuss the difference between human anger and holy anger, and how they both show up in our lives.
As Christians, we know that our ultimate goal is draw close to God, and that often happens when we begin acting more and more like Jesus. Jesus spent a lot of time alone with God, praying and seeking guidance. He was generous and kind. Jesus showed humility by helping those in need, especially when it was unpopular. And you know what else? Jesus had a rein on his temper.
This is not to say that he never got angry, but when he did, it was evoked by things that are much deeper than worldly frustrations or inconveniences. Jesus got mad about the same things that God gets mad about. Let that soak in for a moment. Jesus never got upset with an annoying co-worker, a long line, or a slow driver (okay, so cars weren’t around at that time, but you can see where I’m going with this). He got riled up over things that actually mattered.
When did Jesus get Angry?
There are a couple times in the Bible when Jesus becomes angry. Very quickly, let’s look at probably the most well-known instance:
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
These events in the temple make Jesus angry for the same reason that they make God angry: they are rooted in sin. Selfishness, greed, and manipulation were running rampant. The money changers were exploiting God’s temple as a way to get rich, and taking advantage of God’s people. There is so much wrong with this picture, it’s no wonder that Jesus became so enraged.
As humans, I think that we often feel justified or entitled to become upset when we are inconvenienced, made uncomfortable, have our possessions messed with, or are made to look bad. But these reasons are a bit selfish, aren’t they? I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot stand bad drivers or being put on hold for 30+ minutes. But it recently occurred to me that Jesus would probably have extended grace in these situations. We all happen upon things in our daily lives that have the potential to spark that frustration, but what if we saved our anger for the things that matter?
What do I mean by that?
Imagine what it might be like if you were able to extend grace in situations that make most people upset. Others might start noticing something different about you. Even more than that, you will actually be happier if you make the choice to be understanding and easy-going. Imagine that.
On the flip side of that, is the times when you do get angry. It will be for things that matter to God, for things that carry the weight of eternal consequences. And rather than those infuriating things getting mixed in with day-to-day annoyances, they will stand out to you and those around you. By choosing not to be upset by long lines and slow cashiers at the grocery store, getting angry about the mistreatment of children or the murder of innocent people suddenly becomes more powerful. Don’t you see? As Christians, we need to discipline our tempers the way that Jesus did. We need to start considering what things God might have us take a stand for. I’ll tell you this much: it won’t be for a traffic jam or a mistake on your lunch order.
Do you struggle with human anger? Check out this post with 7 great scriptures, and download the workbook that will help you cool your temper!