By David McNeely
Last Sunday, we talked about hurting hearts. We said that our hearts (consciences) hurt rightly when we sin against God and people. And our hearts (consciences) hurt wrongly when others sin against God and people.
In other words, we should feel guilty when we sin, but we should not feel guilty for other people’s sin. What we did not talk about is freedom and anger. We are free to be angry with sin and its effects.
Anger strikes up all kind of images in our minds. Some of those images are painful. Maybe because of what someone has done to us in anger, or maybe because of what we have done to others in anger. Likely it’s a little of both.
Anger is not sin. Anger is an emotion. Anger can become sinful but anger, in and of itself, is not sinful. Anger without just cause is unnecessary. Anger with just cause is actually necessary.
God gets angry. God gets angry when sin is committed. It is an assault on God when his creation (people, places, things) is not valued and honored. He gets ticked off at that. It is called righteous anger. God knows how to unleash his anger in an appropriate way.
It is good and right for humans to experience anger over sin. It is not good and right for humans to unleash anger in a way that is damaging, harmful, and dishonoring to God and his creation. Here’s what we all need help with: appropriately directing anger in the right place, with the right reason, for the right duration. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.”
Jesus was angry with the sin of greed, and the neglect of prayer, when the money changers were taking advantage of people coming to worship (Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 2). Jesus was also angry with death (the effects of sin) when he raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). In both circumstances Jesus had an emotional response. In both cases Jesus never sinned.
Our hearts (consciences) often hurt as a result of our sin. But our hearts are not limited to just a conscience. We have emotions, and a will, and a mind that all make up the biblical concept of a heart. So when sin happens, our mind, will, and emotions should respond.
When dealing with the sin of the money changers, Jesus acted in a stern and swift manner. Driving them out was the best thing to do at the time. But when Jesus saw how death (the effects of sin) impacted the family and friends of Lazarus, he wept. Crying was the best thing to do at that time. We would be wise to follow his example.
Be angry at injustice, abuse, addiction, greed, lust, gossip, divorce, murder, and a whole bunch of other sins that wreak havoc on people. Grieve with people who are effected by abuse, addiction, greed, lust, gossip, divorce, murder, and a whole bunch of other sins. Sometimes the best ministry we can give to hurting people is just our presence.
Obviously Jesus is the only one who can do something of eternal value for hurting people. We can soothe but only He can heal. Often times the way he goes about healing the hurting is by using his bride. A dear friend of mine says this often, “Hurting people hurt people. And hurting people need Jesus.” So show up and remember Jesus cares about people and their hurts.
Jesus knows how to unleash anger at sin. He knows how to draw near to people who are hurt. All He asks us to do is to follow him to the hurting. He’ll do the healing. So feel free to be angry…and sin not.