Tag Archives: anger

What’s the Difference Between Sinful Anger and Godly Anger?

Like everything else in our lives, our emotions have been discolored by sin. Most emotions reflect a blend of both self-centeredness and goodness. If we are waiting for a moment of selfless purity to express our anger, it will probably never happen. However, knowing that we are flawed can lead us into deeper dependence on the One who gave us emotions in the first place. The Holy Spirit residing within us helps us monitor and learn from our emotions.

When monitoring our anger, it is important to understand that much of our anger is fueled by a hatred of injustice, whether real or perceived. Anger over injustice reflects the core longing for justice we all share. We are incensed when life seems unfair. We can know, however, if the anger we feel is sinful or godly by considering the provocation, goal, motivation, and timing of our anger.

Selfish anger is provoked when we believe we’ve been treated unjustly or unfairly. We want something, we don’t get it, we feel deprived, and now someone is going to pay for having treated us this way (James 4:1-4). The goal is revenge. When driven by vengeance, we demand that someone pay now for the injustice we’ve suffered. We impatiently demand immediate execution of justice according to our specifications, and refuse to allow time for God to work in the hearts of those who have offended us (James 1:19-20). Our anger becomes a caustic acid intended to burn those we feel have burned us unfairly. When offended, we can be ruthless, hard, unreasonable, and devoid of mercy in our response.

Conversely, godly anger is provoked in us when we witness persistent violations of God’s standards of justice (Psalm 119:53). There is an appropriate time to be outraged over those who hold God in contempt and mar the beauty of His creation. The goal of godly anger is to warn the person who has breached God’s divine law so that once exposed they can have the opportunity to change (Ezekiel 3:18-21). This kind of anger is like iodine, an ointment intended to purge infection and promote healing in the recipient (Proverbs 27:6). It is painful at first, but in the end, it soothes and heals.

Godly anger is motivated both by the love of Christ that works in us to extend His love to others (2 Corinthians 5:14), and by the fear of His coming execution of perfect justice (2 Corinthians 5:11). Godly anger is marked by a confidence in God’s longsuffering character (Psalm 86:15; 2 Peter 3:9), knowing that only He is qualified to carry out vengeance equitably. Godly anger refuses to resort to personal acts of revenge now, but is willing to wait for God’s wrath to be poured out against evil in His good time (Psalm 73:16-19; Romans 12:19).

Because we are to be like Christ in every way (Ephesians 4:1; 1 John 4:17), by implication we are also called to reflect His righteous anger. If we are to stand for the Father the way Jesus did, we need to stand for the things He’s for, and against the things He’s against. Godly anger reflects our Father’s passion for justice. While we rely on Him to execute final justice (Romans 12:19-21), godly anger motivates us to work for fairness and justice on behalf of those who are oppressed (Micah 6:8; Romans 12:17-18). It reflects dependence and confidence in God as the ultimate Judge who always executes justice rightly (1 Peter 2:23).

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How Can I Forgive Someone Who Sexually Abused Me?

You took the difficult and vital step of confronting your abuser, but far from bringing some resolution, his reaction made it clear that he still is remorseless and unrepentant. It isn’t surprising that you are upset.

You needn’t feel guilty about your strong feelings. God designed us to have an intense emotional response to evil. Your natural revulsion to unrepented sin isn’t wrong in itself, nor should it be considered contrary to forgiveness. Forgiveness never ignores the harm that someone has caused us. But even though your feelings of outrage are no reason for you to feel guilty, it’s good that you are aware of them. Your awareness of your feelings will make it possible for you to be instructed by them, rather than being consumed by them.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” Anger in itself isn’t wrong. What is wrong is being controlled by it in a way that leads to sin. Our anger may be partially driven by righteous outrage, but because of our fallen nature an element of our anger is always like the fury of a dangerous beast — rooted in a lust for power and vengeance. That’s why even though we can’t keep natural feelings from erupting,we need to take charge of our response to them.

It took courage for you to broach the subject with your abuser. Further, the fact that you are disappointed by his response implies that you would be ready to forgive him if he were remorseful. At this point the emotional distance that exists between you and your abuser is mostly the consequence of his attitude and behavior. You can’t bridge the distance alone.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. Loving means to seek the best interests of another. Through our relationship with Christ we can find the strength to seek the best interests of those who harm us. But seeking the best interests of others involves holding them accountable for their sin ( Matthew 18:15-17 ).

There is nothing loving about shielding an evildoer from the ugliness of his sin. Jesus didn’t serve as an “enabler” for evildoers seeking to conceal their deeds. Although Jesus was the personification of love,He truthfully characterized people who consciously resisted the truth as vipers ( Matthew 12:34 ), thieves ( Matthew 21:13 ), whitewashed tombs ( Matthew 23:27 ), liars ( Revelation 3:9 ), and murderers ( John 8:44 ).

The key issue is the attitude of your abuser. Jesus made it clear that forgiveness and reconciliation are linked with repentance ( Luke 17:1-4 ). Only when an offender confesses his willful sin can we rightfully forgive him for what he has done. This man will have to sincerely repent 1 to be a beneficiary of God’s grace ( Leviticus 26:40-42 ; Job 42:5-6 ; Psalm 32:5 ; Proverbs 28:13 ; Jonah 3:8-9 ; Luke 15:21 ; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ; 1 John 1:9 ). Although we can pray for an offender and take action to seek restoration, a relationship cannot be healed until he has done what is right in accepting the responsibility for his past wrongs.

Is it really loving to be so confrontational? Yes. It is sometimes the only truly caring course of action. Confrontation can be the first step in demonstrating that you believe in a person’s potential for godliness.It is likely that King David would not have repented of his wickedness in taking another man’s wife and arranging the death of her husband if the brave prophet Nathan had not told him a parable that portrayed his sin in all of its ugliness and then said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12 ).

This pattern reflects the way God Himself deals with our sin. The Bible declares that God can forgive all sin — including the cruelest and most intentional. God Himself paid the price for the reconciliation of all sinners ( John 3:16 ; Romans 3:24-25 ; Ephesians 1:7 ; 1 John 4:9 . But though God provided the basis for forgiveness, He imposes forgiveness upon no one against his or her will. He also expects those who have harmed others to make restitution where possible, or to take whatever measures are necessary to minimize the chances of harming others (Isaiah 1:16 ; Luke 19:8-10 ; John 8:11 ; Hebrews 10:26 ).

Your angry feelings are an important factor in keeping you from offering a premature forgiveness that would let your abuser minimize and ignore his evil. Yet your actions shouldn’t be based on your anger, but on a willingness to honor and obey God ( Exodus 23:4 ; Proverbs 24:17; 25:21-22 ; Matthew 18:21-35 ; Ephesians 4:32 ; Colossians 3:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ).

Each of us begins life hating God and the Son He sent to redeem us.In Christ, God provides the supreme example of forgiveness. His example makes it clear that we shouldn’t be nurturing hatred or desiring vengeance. Instead, we should be willing to forgive when our offender truly repents. Forgiveness and restoration, however,can’t take place until your abuser is truly sorry for what he has done.

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