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Should We Care When Tempers Flare?

Ben Franklin said, "Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one." But occasionally it is with a good one. Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5), but His anger was good anger, unlike the touchy, irritable kind that so often leads us to sin. Jesus' example makes clear anger can be a good thing. His holy anger burned hot in John 2:13ff at the irreverence of money changers doing business in God's temple. The sinless Son of God got angry at the sad, sorry, sinful things He saw going on in that place where God was supposed to be honored and worshiped. Righteous anger moved Him to make a whip of cords, pour out the changers' money, overturn their tables, and drive them from the temple! So much for the mambypamby, milquetoast, super-sensitive, all-inclusive Jesus preached these days. The Jesus who is too nice and sweet and tolerant to ever offend or take issue with anybody of anything. The sight of Jesus blazing with a hot and holy anger brings to mind something Archibald Hart said about anger: "If we could get angry only at what Jesus got angry at, we would make a wonderful world." But, alas, much of the anger we see in ourselves and others around us is not of the holy kind, offended and angered at what offends and angers God. Rather, much of the anger in the world today is very unholy and erupts into vile words and violent actions — not when things offend God and His way, but when things offend us and keep us from having it our way. There's danger in that kind of anger. Thus this verbal caution sign — " 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27). The devil is always near when our tempers flare. If not careful we give place to him in ways we would never do when calm-headed. Ken Joines admonishes, "Never argue with an idiot because people watching & listening may not be able to tell who is which." Solomon noted that an angry man/woman is very prone to sin -- "An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression" (Proverbs 29:22).

Jesus provides a clear reason for us to care when tempers flare in Matthew 5:21-24 - "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." We don't have space to dig into this text. Suffice it to say the Son of God is not satisfied and God's will is not honored in my life and your life solely because we don't literally murder somebody. Jesus is concerned about the anger and bitterness and other harmful attitudes people often harbor in their hearts. He cares when tempers flare to the point our hostility estranges us from others. He counsels us to make reconciliation with people we have harmed or who have harmed us a top priority. Jesus cares when tempers flare. We should care, too.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ