[Reprinted from November 1974 FCGN]
Jesus became angry (Mark 3:5). We usually think of anger as a vice and not virtue, and yet Jesus became angry. We usually regard anger as littleness and not bigness, but Jesus became angry. The angry man is the likely man to sin. Anger is strictly forbidden in God's word. In Psalm 37:8 the writer says, "Cease from anger and forsake wrath.." The teacher of old said, "He that is slow to anger appeaseth wrath." Too, it is said, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty"; and we are exhorted, "Make no friendship with the man that is given to anger." In Ecclesiastes 7:9 we read, "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools." Jesus said, "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment." One of the qualifications of an elder is that he be not soon angry (Titus 1:5).
Why then is anger so severely condemned, and yet we read the startling statement that Jesus became angry? There is a difference between the anger manifested by man and that which Jesus possessed. There is a difference between the anger that is condemned by the Holy Spirit and the anger by Jesus our Lord.
The anger that is ours is often produced by a purely selfish motive. Criticism against others does not make us angry; however, we let out howls of sheer rage when criticism is directed against us. We become indignant when we are not selected as the leader or made the head of a committee. If for some reason we are not invited to a party we feel insulted. Too, if we fail to get the glory or the credit for a deed, we become angry. This indicates that our motive is not proper and right. When Jonah went down to Nineveh and prophesied, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed," the people repented and Jonah became angry. He should have rejoiced that they corrected their lives, but he perhaps felt his reputation as a prophet was ruined. He really did not care for the people; he cared for himself. He was utterly selfish, and nursing his wounded pride, he went out and sat down under a booth that he had made. In the shade of the booth he nursed his injured pride and was angry because he could not have his way. He was not angry because men were sinful and the heart of man was corrupted.
Such anger as we often have and that which was manifested by Jonah is wrong in its objective. The anger that we have prompts us to destroy, to hurt, to give pain. Sometimes we are like Samson when we give vent to our feelings. We destroy not only the building we pull down, but ourselves. If we see ourselves slighted, we break off diplomatic relations with the church. We resign the Lord's work; and like the elder brother, we stay out at the barn and pout. The elder brother refused to go in and have a part in the feast prepared for his wayward brother. He did not shoot up the town, but he was trying to hurt someone. In his anger he did hurt his father and himself. Often the type of anger that we manifest is ridiculous and silly. I have seen men who, when playing golf, become angry and threw away a golf club. I have seen mechanics beat an engine and swear when the engine would not respond as they wanted it to do. I have observed farmers cursing their mules when they would not respond to their directions. Jesus was not angry after any such fashion.
The anger of Jesus was born of love and not of hate. He became angry with the people because they were unwilling to help a man with a withered hand. Jesus did not become angry when he was mocked, spat upon, and even when he was crucified. His anger had the right objective. He desired to help someone and not to hurt. He opposed the sin of the people who were making laws to govern the sabbath that God did not make, but he loved the sinner. His anger was a righteous indignation. His condemnation of these people was not born in a fit of madness. His emotion was a holy indignation.
From this we see that any selfish anger must be destroyed. Too, we have an example that righteous anger needs to be stirred. We need to blaze with the zeal for what is right. Much that passes for tolerance today is indifference. One of the surest signs that the church is running down spiritually is the fact that it has lost its power to become indignant about wrongdoing. Some congregations are very indifferent about Sunday night services. The church building could be completely closed on Sunday evening and Wednesday night, and a vast majority of brethren would know nothing at all about it. Often brethren make the excuse that they cannot come to Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services, yet it is a well-known fact that they do not stay at home. Instead of staying at home they go somewhere else and indulge in that which pleases them. I am sure that if Jesus were here he would do as he did in time of old, "Then he looked round about on them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts." We need the type of anger manifested by our Lord.
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