Be at peace with all men - Part II - How to overcome anger
Last week's article, 'Be at peace with all men', was the first of two looking at anger. Maybe as you read it, some people came to mind who you know you need to forgive. Like I shared last week, anger is natural and is triggered when there is a sense that we have been mistreated or injured. But, it must be handled with care.
We also looked at the three stages of anger and how the Devil can gain access to our lives by encouraging us to harbour anger and unforgiveness. This is his way of attempting to destroy us. You know, many of us have probably seen the destruction that these two emotions have caused in many lives. One writer puts it this way: 'Anger, unforgiveness, and hatred destroy more the vessel in which it is stored than that on which it is poured.' This is true because anger and unforgiveness can ruin our spiritual and emotional life and even our physical health.
How does Jesus want us to handle our anger?
Jesus sets the scene at the altar - one of the holiest places in life - in Matthew 5:23-24 NIV, where He says: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."
In a worship service, you may remember that someone is angry with you or that you have knowingly hurt someone by your actions. Jesus says, go! Settle the matter right now. Worship becomes a sham if we've not done so prior, knowingly hurting someone.
But Jesus immediately points to the solution and then shows us how to correct it. He says, take action immediately to forgive. So, immediately, we should settle things with others.
The other application Jesus gives is, settle things with others before receiving a court decision. Matthew 5:25 NIV says: "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison."
In debtors' prison, in order to get out, someone else would have to pay your debt because you have no way of earning money while you are in prison. So, Jesus says this is urgent business. Settle matters outside of court. It's always safer.
Many of us are in debtors' prison because we have harboured the anger for so long that we end up bound in our lives. We have ended up in jail yoked to the enemy of our souls because of our choices to keep our anger.
The final response that Jesus wants us to apply is the 'rule of love', which dictates that we try to make amends. Notice that the scripture is not specific to the fact that you caused the offence. You may be innocent, but in making amends, you could be rescuing that person from the possible consequences of their actions. Romans 12:17-18 NIV puts it this way: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
The take-away is this: man is God's creation, and anyone who assaults man assaults God. But the one who we were against, and with whom we were enemies, died for us out of love as a demonstration of how we are to respond to each other. So, if you struggle with anger or unforgiveness, there is One who says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.
Jesus is calling you today to allow Him to help you to walk in freedom from anger. What will you do?