I’ve been thinking a lot about anger of late—probably because it’s one of those emotions that I’d like to have a firmer grip on. You know how it is. No matter how often we say we’re resolved to “turn over a new leaf” and stop behaving in ways we’ll regret, somehow that resolve goes straight out the window, especially when we find ourselves beset with anger. We can actually feel it rising to the surface from somewhere deep within us, its pressure relentlessly building until it seems that an outburst of violence can be our only respite. So, we give in. We unleash our inner tempest on the object of our rage, sometimes even managing to abuse an innocent bystander. And for a moment, we might feel some false sense vindication—even pleasure—at the release. But it doesn’t last for long. And afterwards, we’re likely to be more angry with ourselves than we were with the person or situation that provoked the initial storm.
I’ve always thought of anger as a kind of secondary emotion—a mask for pain and fear. It makes us feel less vulnerable in times when we can’t defend ourselves. The trouble is, though, that it harms us much more than it helps us. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus actually likens anger to murder, and that can be a really hard thing for us to accept. To us, there is a huge difference between the two, but God doesn’t want only to change our actions for the better. He wants to change our hearts, and, to Him, anger is murder within the heart. Murder is sin because life belongs to God. It is a sacred gift from God—Who Is the ultimate Lover of life—and what He has breathed into each of us, no human being should ever seek to extinguish. When I’m angry with someone, the one unassailable fact that I hope to always keep at the forefront of my mind is that this person—whomever he or she is—bears God’s image. No matter what else I’m thinking or feeling about this person in any given moment, nothing is going to change that. So, how dare I mount an assault on an image-bearer of the Most High?
In the knowledge that our Creator has loved us so fiercely as to turn His anger away from us and to take it upon Himself—murdering His own Life that He might rescue ours—we should love each other. We should seek Him in each other’s eyes, acting in defiance of our own conceit. When we do that, how can we possibly be angry? Please, pray for me, and I’ll pray for you, too.