Ever seen a child have a temper tantrum?
They fall on the floor kicking and screaming and crying when they don’t get something they want. A child having a temper tantrum is actually kind of cute and funny and sort of pathetic at the same time. As we grow up we gradually learn that falling on the floor kicking and screaming won’t usually impress anyone or get us very far. But we all continue to express anger in various ways. We may curse the idiot driver who pulls right out in front of us or we yell at our children. We may get angry at our husband or wife and give them the cold shoulder. We may punch a wall or kick something or throw our hands up in the air or roll our eyes or yell, “Really? Really!”
Most of the time, anger feels like it’s caused by something outside us – like other people make us mad. Or this flat tire. All the stupid slow drivers keeping me from getting to work on time are making me angry. My boss makes me so mad. My teenager. My roommate. President Obama. The whole government. Republicans. Democrats. THEY MAKE ME so mad! We don’t usually think of anger as OUR problem. It’s SOMEBODY ELSE doing something to me. It’s something OUTSIDE of me.
Sometimes we get angry to try to make other people do the right thing. Many years ago, a dad said to me he thought a little bit of anger was good. He said, “My kids should be a little bit afraid of me so they’ll obey me.” We can think I must show my anger to make this person at work do what I want. If we get angry at our teenager when they sin, they won’t do it any more.
Anger usually feels like it erupts instantaneously from nowhere, like Mt. St. Helens. Yet the Bible says we should be slow to anger.
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19)
Scripture does NOT say we should never be angry. Nor does it say that all anger is wrong. God himself has righteous anger. There are times it is appropriate to be angry. If I saw a man beating a child it would be right for me to be angry at this wickedness and take action to protect the child. But when someone sins against US or our children disobey US or a co-worker insults US, or another driver cuts in front of US, we should be SLOW to anger.
The first reason we should be slow to anger is because God is slow to anger.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 103:8)
God would be completely just to strike us down the moment we first sin. But he is patient and forbearing, merciful and gracious. He is SLOW TO ANGER. I rebelled against him for YEARS, and he was slow to anger. Instead of casting me into hell as my sins deserved, he sent his Son Jesus to experience hell in my place when he died on the cross to pay for my sins. And even after Jesus saved me, I’ve been so slow to change and failed so many times, yet he has been so forbearing and patient with me. The Lord is merciful and gracious, SLOW to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Now if the Lord is merciful and gracious TO ME, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love TO ME, should I not be merciful and gracious to others? Should I not be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love to others?
Lord willing, I’ll follow up with a few more posts on being slow to anger. For today, let’s thank the Lord that he is so patient, long-suffering, and slow to anger with us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for being so patient with me. For bearing with me for all these years and pouring out gracious blessings when I deserved your anger. Make me more and more like you.
Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.