At a recent church retreat, after a whole weekend of great teachings and in-depth prayer times, all of the attendees gathered for the final session. The worship was heart-felt and the prayers were sincere. The teaching was inspired. At the end of the session, everyone bowed their heads in silent prayer while the teacher stood at the front, coaching those who might not know how to pray or what to pray for.
He would throw out suggestions like praying for those who are unsaved in your circle of influence. Pray for missionaries who are risking their lives to spread the Gospel around the world. Pray for those running our country.
Then he made it personal. He asked everyone to pray for forgiveness for being angry with people. Pray for forgiveness for envy, for strife, for un-confessed sins that maybe have been forgotten or excused away by rationalizations.
While I don’t disagree with asking for forgiveness for those things, I began to think back to my Bible reading. I remember reading how Jesus got angry at Peter. (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33) I know that I’ve read, on several occasions about the wrath of God. (Ezekiel 25:17) God even referred to Himself as jealous. (Exodus 20:5, 34:14) But how is this possible? How can God declare Himself to be something that I am told to pray forgiveness for as it is unholy?
The answer lies in redemption. “And through Him (Christ) God reconciled everything to Himself.” (Colossians 1:20 NLT) I emphasize the word ‘everything’ because it is an all-inclusive term. When we receive Christ, there is no part of us left untouched by that redemptive work.
Rory Noland, in his book “The Heart of the Artist,” points out that we often categorize people by personality traits. “That guy is a hot-head,” or “She’s so emotional,” or “I can’t believe how stubborn he is.” In each of those three examples, the connotation is obviously negative. But aren’t those traits also exhibited by Jesus when he walked the Earth?
Anger: “Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.” (John 2:15 NLT)
Emotion: “He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44 NLT) John also accounts, in chapter 11, verse 35, that Jesus wept over the death of His dear friend Lazarus.
Stubbornness: “During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.” (Matthew 4:3-11) Even through hunger and exhaustion, Jesus was able to stubbornly ward off the Devil’s attacks
So, how is this possible? Because when Jesus redeemed us, He redeemed ALL of us, including our personality. Is anger a sin? Not if it is done within the holy context of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:26 tells us that anger becomes a sin when we let it control us. How could anger possibly be a sin if: a) Jesus Christ was angry at many people during His Earthly ministry, yet He never sinned; b) we inherently have within us the propensity towards anger in regards to things that offend us. Isn’t that what angers God? Isn’t sin that offends Him? If we are like-minded with Christ, then the things that offend Him will offend us.
Although I feel it is important to keep emotions such as anger in check, I do not believe that we should write them off completely, throwing them into the sin drawer with the rest of the forbidden transgressions. Instead, we should take stock of our feelings and measure them up against our ultimate examples: God the Father and His perfect Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.