Russell and Duenes

Man’s Anger Does Not Accomplish God’s Righteous Purpose

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I never thought of myself as an angry man. I did not grow up angry, as I recall, nor would I say that anger was really an issue in our home. My father disciplined me, as he should have, and I recall a few times where it was clear he was truly angry, but there was no cowering in fear on my part or that of my siblings. As a young man, it always seemed like it took a lot to get me truly angry.

But I think perhaps that only meant it took a lot to bring me to the point of outbursts of anger. Perhaps there was anger simmering inside. My first real experience that anger was a part of my sinful and rebellious character came after college, and it became apparent to me that my anger went all the way down to bitterness and rage towards God. I was angry at Him for ostensibly not governing my life well.

I saw some of this anger come out in the ways I dealt with my students when I was teaching. I did not engage in outbursts in class, but I could feel in my heart and hear in the tone of my voice that I was scolding them, feeling arrogant over them, and taking an angry tack toward them. I justified much of it as “righteous indignation” over their spiritual indifference, but I see more clearly now, having children of my own, that most of it was my own pride and desire for control.

As I say, I now have four children of my own, and thus, it is now clearer than ever that I have not truly humbled myself and repented of my own anger. I see that same scolding, bullying tone I had before, only now it is more intense at times. I see that, again, I want to have control over situations, and so when my kids thwart me, I get angry. I see my pride and arrogance, my desire to not be “inconvenienced” by something my boys are doing, and the anger comes through. It’s there.

St. Paul said to the Corinthians: “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I desire, and that I shall be found unto you such as you desire not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.” Paul writes to the Galatians: “Now the actions of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, rivalry, jealously, outbursts of anger, quarrels, conflicts, factions, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild partying, and things like that. I am telling you now, as I have told you in the past, that people who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

To the Ephesians he writes: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Also, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the training and discipline of the Lord.” Paul tells the Colossians: “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” And finally, St. James speaks thus: “[E]veryone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

It’s clear that anger is not some passing problem to God. As pastor Douglas Wilson says, it’s bound up with heaven and hell, and whether I go to one place or the other. I will say that I am not totally sure what it means for me to repent of my anger, truly repent of it. I can try to forsake it, and indeed I do, but it is too often there, at the ready, as Dallas Willard might have said. How do I become the kind of person where anger is not “at the ready?” It does not seem to be there with my wife. It’s not that I’ve never been upset or angry at her, but I’ve never raised my voice with her, that I know of; indeed, I do not take an angry tone with her, even if I’m frustrated. But with my boys it’s a different story, and I can feel my anger in other situations too, though I may be better at outwardly controlling its expression.

The Lord is the One who grants repentance, and I want and need to turn away from my anger. It will not happen by sheer resolution of the will alone. I need your grace, Lord, and your forgiveness. Show me, and other men like me, the way forward in holiness and gentleness. Show me the roots of my anger, so they can be rooted out. Give me the gift of peace, contentment, kindness and gentleness; the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

June 6, 2015 at 12:25 pm

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