It was a dramatic few weeks, but then God likes using good drama to teach us life lessons. Just read the story of Jonah.
During lunch I decided to drive to the Italian Market, only three minutes away. The service help is normally grumpy, but the food is so good. I thought I was making pleasant conversation with the cashier, yet I must have said the wrong thing. Suddenly a flash of anger lit up her face and her eyes turned small and beady.
Puzzled, driving away, I was startled by a blaring horn and looked to see a man in a car shaking his fist at me. I thought I had the right-of-way. I guess he wanted to go first. Shutting off the car engine I said to myself, “Our civilization is so angry.” Then just as I was getting out of my car, a young man walked by me screaming foul language into his cell phone. Boy, was he mad! What a bizarre five minutes!
Two days later, while waiting in line at the bookstore, I overheard a customer in front of me insulting the young male clerk. I thought to myself, “JTG mind your own business.” He continued to insult the clerk until the clerk was almost in tears. Finally, I said in a quiet but firm voice, “Stop insulting your fellow human being.” Needless to say I became the object of his wrath as he spilled out foul and filthy communication upon my personhood. I was pretty cool though. I didn’t use any four letter words; I didn’t flip the bird; I didn’t even beat him up. With a crisp and clear voice, I yelled, “You Jerk!”
When I shared the story with my friends, they laughed at my forgetfulness. You’re not supposed to return an insult for an insult, but a blessing instead…and love your enemies, do good to them. I’m always forgetting to do that…
Then the following morning while driving to work, I felt God say to me to read Psalm 85 five times. Well, I knew the devil would never tell me to read a psalm five times, and I would never tell myself to read a psalm five times, and no one else was in the car, and the radio was turned off, so it had to be God! While reading, I kept getting stuck on verses 3-5. It mentioned wrath and anger five times in these three verses.
Wrath - forceful anger, retributory punishment.
Anger -a strong feeling of displeasure.
I had the feeling God was trying to get my attention regarding anger.
Later that night I was part of a gathering of about 20-30 people. All of a sudden, this good-looking guy says to me in front of the whole group of people, “You’re going to receive a word…a vision.” I’ve had visions before but they just happened, no one ever told me I was going to have a vision. What a spooky guy!
Now it was Sunday morning, and I was at church lost in the bliss of worship. Suddenly, it was like I was invited into a vision of heaven. I saw my dad clothed in the beauty of heaven’s glory. He put his two hands on my shoulders and apologized for being a man of rage, and an angry father. I said, “Oh Dad, that’s okay. I’ve forgiven you and been washed from the pain years ago.” He said, “No. My rage forfeited the real relationship I could have had with you.” I wasn’t sad but thought, “Yeah, rage does change the dynamics of a relationship. I don’t know if it’s possible to experience love and anger at the same time.
The vision rattled me and I couldn’t stop thinking about wrath and anger. One day, while enjoying the afternoon sun, a concept unfolded before me:
We believe that in the Age to Come, it will be an environment void of anger, void of wrath (Isaiah 65:25). As followers of Jesus “today” we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. And as responsible citizens we are called to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth through being an answer to our prayers. Let your Kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Since one of the dynamics of the Kingdom of God is an atmosphere without wrath, without anger (wrath was poured out on the Lamb of God), then is it possible to bring this dynamic into our family circle, our workplace, our relationships, our physical place of influence, or even between nations?
Or am I being too idealistic? Remember, I’m an offspring of anger, and expressions of anger are a common occurrence. You never know when you are going to meet up with anger - either yours, or someone else’s.
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ passionate expression of displeasure toward the money changers at the Temple. I don’t know about you, but I often use this as a precedent to justify my own expressions of anger. Yet, at the same time, I’m usually in conflict with my actions.
The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20
I admit that my anger rarely produces God’s righteousness. Instead I use anger to try to produce my rightness, resulting in bruised relationships.
Is righteous anger something of the Divine and not human? Does man, even redeemed man, know how to exercise righteous anger?
I began asking the Holy Spirit to unclothe me of wrath. Each day, all day, I would make the choice not to be angry at people. It is so natural and so easy to get angry at people.
A friend suggested I view it another way, “To choose to live with the manifestation of respect, tolerance, peace – even in the midst of disagreement.”
Ugh, disagreement! That word began to haunt me. Why do we get so angry and offended when someone disagrees with us?
I spent four years doing missions work in Italy and was always getting in trouble for my outbursts of anger. It got to be quite embarrassing. Finally, one evening I faced myself as to why I have these outbursts of anger. I was in shock when I realized that every time I expressed anger, it was due to that fact that I was experiencing rejection! Rejection of my opinion, rejection of my way of doing things, rejection of my desires, rejection of my right to be first, rejection of my faith…etc.
Cain was the first recorded human to be angry. His offering was rejected. God disagreed with him as to what was an acceptable offering. His anger led to murder.
When it comes to disagreement, sometimes Western Christianity can be the worst offender. Perhaps in our pride we are thinking, “You are not just disagreeing with me; you are disagreeing with God. You are not just rejecting my agenda; you are rejecting God’s agenda.”
Yet, in these past couple of years I’ve been also hearing another message, “We agree to disagree.” The first time I heard this it blew my mind. It’s a unique concept to be able to have a peaceable relationship with your fellow man when you disagree. In the natural we are taught, disagree with me and I will cut you off relationally, even kill you.
Holy Spirit, unclothe me of wrath, and clothe me with respect, tolerance, peace – even in the midst of disagreement.
None of us know what the fullness of our new man in Messiah can attain to while on planet Earth. The word instructs us to pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath….is HE wanting to invade our personhoods and confront our expressions of anger, so as to make us a people without wrath?
One morning while sharing these thoughts with my mother, she suddenly blurted out this poem.
Anger is a wonderful thing
It makes me want to yell and scream
Like a strong wind blowing through the house
Fling open the doors and let everything out
So much for being effective! Oh well, as Mother Theresa would say, “one person at a time.” I guess my mother wasn’t next in line. But her time will come. And until it does, I'm going to chill, free of wrath!