Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sinless Anger!

Question. Is it possible for a Christian to be furiously angry and right with God at the same time? Some--those who have a completely erroneous notion of what it means to be a Christ-follower--might say no. But they would be wrong.

Today's scripture passages are 1 Samuel chapters 9 through 12. In these verses, we meet Saul, the tallest and most handsome man in all of Israel. If there had been a People magazine in those days, he would have made the Most Beautiful People issue. When Saul's father sent him searching for a stray donkey, he and his companion made their way to Samuel's home where he learned that he was going to become Israel's king.

After Saul's anointing and Samuel's announcement to Israel that he was their new leader, King Nahash of Ammon led his army against Jabesh-gilead. This same wicked man had previously attacked the people of Gad and Reuben, gouging out the right eye of each of the Israelites living there.

When Saul received the message that Nahash planned to attack another Israelite town, he rallied the people to fight. Here's what verse 6 of chapter 11 says:
6 Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry.

This anger was apparently aroused by God's Spirit. Saul's anger wasn't the result of having been personally hurt or offended--instead it was a result of his concern that God's people were being wronged and attacked. These passages seem to indicate that there is a time for righteous anger that results in action. Saul and his armies fought and defeated the Ammonites.

The New Testament verse, Ephesians 4:26, tells us to be angry without sinning. Obviously, anger is an emotion that God created and there are repeated instances of God's having been angry with his children in the Bible.

Sometimes, I'm angered by the way Christians are portrayed or discussed these days. Suddenly, it has become socially acceptable to ridicule and even mock those who are Christian in movies, television, print media, and other prominent and visible outlets. The condemnation has become fairly commonplace and usually goes unchallenged.

I have to be honest and admit that the lousy example set by many visible Christians has probably contributed to the hostility expressed by those who do not share our faith, but nonetheless, it remains unacceptable to ridicule other segments of our population regardless of their questionable behaviors.

I will also say that as those who claim the name of the greatest Man to ever walk the face of the earth, there is a societal opinion that Christians are held to a higher standard--and I cannot disagree that this should be the case. That does not prohibit believers from expressing anger righteously when the occasion calls for it, though, as in this case when evil Nahash attempted to humiliate and defeat these Israelites.

There is a time and a season for anger that is followed by action, but careful, prayerful attention must be given to ensure that we aren't reacting inappropriately to personal offenses or selfish ambition. The terrible things that have been done by those who claim to be Christian, whether as a result of anger, stupidity, ignorance or a combination of all three, are not justifiable no matter how you slice it. But these passages do indicate that there is a time--only when God clearly leads--to express righteous anger. God's children, when following His lead, can be angry and sin not.

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