Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (ESV).
Yesterday we saw that anger, while not necessarily a sin, can quickly lead to sin if it is not addressed. This is because at the very heart of anger, excluding, of course, righteous anger, lies selfishness. We get angry because some desire or expectation within us is unfulfilled.
Someone cuts us off in traffic, usurping our rights to the lane at that time. The “fast” food restaurant has not made enough french fries to keep up with demand, so we have to pull ahead and wait for them to get them, wasting our valuable time. Someone at work took your idea to the boss and claimed it as their own.
And our anger isn’t only kindled by unbelievers! Your kid uses the money you gave him for gas to buy junk food and then runs the tank dry 20 miles from home… at 11 o’clock at night… and you have to climb out of bed, fill a gas can and rescue him. The person at church who was supposed to teach for you bails at the last minute, leaving you scrambling to find a replacement, or having to ditch your plans entirely. I could go on and on.
I would bet that if we were to escalate that anger in only a small number of cases, it wouldn’t be long before our usually positive attitude soured into bitterness and resentment.
In my experience, it’s a lot easier to let go of the actions and attitudes of strangers, but the hurts inflicted by family, friends, and people we respect go much deeper and are much harder to forgive. But forgive we must! After identifying within ourselves the foot of bitterness and resentment, and repenting of it, forgiveness is the most important thing we can, and must, do.
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15 ESV). The bitterness which we allow to build within us, born in anger and established in selfishness, effects not us alone, but “many”.
The incident of which I spoke yesterday hurt not only me, but my family, friends and coworkers as well. The seething anger and the pride and selfishness which fueled it transformed me into a grenade of rage. And then I saw in the mirror the man I had become. The Holy Spirit gently and patiently softened my heart and I learned forgiveness.
“But you don’t understand what that person did! She doesn’t deserve forgiveness!” You are absolutely correct. She doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But then again, not a single one of us does. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 ESV).
Above all, we as Christians should forgive as we have been forgiven. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3: 12-13 ESV).
Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23 ESV). But He also said, “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15 ESV).
Selfish anger and bitterness lead to a place you don’t want to go. Let go of it and “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15 ESV).
**Image from https://thehealthorange.com/stay-happy/mind/anger-controls-behavior-without-knowing/