We humans come equipped with a fuse. It's more trendy to refer to them as triggers today. But, I prefer the idea of a slow burn rather than a sudden flash of power. Yes, there are fits of emotion ignited by a trigger. That's more my personal style, emotional fireworks. But, a grudge, the topic this week, is usually caused by slow burning fuses rather than instant pyrotechnics. The fuse takes more time. The long list of emotions ignited by the slow burning fuse are more intense because of the waiting. It's the simmering, slow boil that lingers with us after the explosion.
Some fuses are long while others are short. Nevertheless, when fire finally consumes it there's a reaction. These phenomena go by many names---anger, sadness, happiness, fear, weeping, laughing, surprise, hugs, disgust, cheering, booing, language, obscene gestures, and a Thesaurus of similar terms and motions. They are the metrics of experiencing life. Emotions are natural to our species. We are emotional creatures.
What is more, they're not bad. They are our instinctive or intuitive response to what is happening around us. Of course, there's always the threat of being ruled or dominated by them, that is, allowing a particular emotion to define life even when the emotion hasn't actually been triggered. And, anger is one of the bad boys in this category. This is very true in a biblical sense. Writing to the church at Ephesus the Apostle Paul explained in one simple sentence the danger of allowing anger to go unresolved and therefore become a dominating force in our lives. He wrote---
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no
opportunity to the devil.
Ephesians 4: 26-17, ESV
Note that he said, "Be angry and do not sin." The point is that anger isn't the sin. He was giving them permission to experience the emotion of anger as they engaged the pagan world and even the believing community around them. The sin occurs when the anger is unresolved and becomes a point of temptation to the adversary, the devil.
Scripture provides at least five other warnings about the sinful potential of emotional domination, especially anger. Let me list them along with a Bible reference and minimal comment. Reflect on them as we explore the imminent danger of unresolved anger---
1. Anger cannot produce the righteousness of God.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to
anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
James 1:19-20, ESV
2. Anger is the catalyst for more toxic emotions.
Make note of the sinful emotions that follow the listing of anger...
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry,
sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions.
Galatians 5:19-20, ESV
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk
from your mouth.
Colossians 3:8, ESV
3. Anger has the potential to create human conflict.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you,
along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as
God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4: 31-32, ESV
4. Anger can cause disunity among God's people.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your
passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet
and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
James 4:1-2, ESV
Isn't anger a significant passion at war within us?
5. Anger can hinder our personal witness.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you
as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:12, ESV
This is an angry world. Events in Charlottesville, Virginia last week are evidence of the sinful violence of angry people. Every day we deal with road rage, flashes of human impatience, racial tension, political explosiveness, domestic violence, child abuse, bullying, and people with every variety of chips on their shoulders, you know, grudges, ready to explode when the burning fuse reaches the powder keg.
You and I are supposed to season this world. Let's be discipled about anger and God's way of resolving such a potentially dangerous out-of-control emotion.
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