In these chapters we’re dealing with sins most of us would affirm are not pretty. It’s pretty ugly to be around angry people. But, as Bridges says, it’s a universal problem, across all cultures. We now have road rage, trolley rage, surf rage and airline rage. Do you remember the flight attendant who , furious with passengers who refused to follow his instructions, told them off over the loudspeaker before snatching a beer from the galley, pulling the chute to make his own dramatic personal emergency exit, running to the employee parking lot and leaving the airport in a car he had parked there.
In May 2006 The Sunshine Coast Daily asked “What on earth is making everyone so angry?” , commenting “Often this violence is condoned with an underlying message that it’s all right to be violent if you are in the right” and concluding “Well, everyone thinks they’re in the right.”
Anger is now so commonplace and accepted that it’s the stuff of humour.
In chapters 15 and 16 Bridges urges us to “focus on that aspect of anger that we unconsciously treat as acceptable…the ordinary anger that we sort of accept as part of our lives but that is actually sinful in the sight of God ”.
If we’re continually angry,or physically or verbally abusive, he urges us to seek professional help. But there’s still lots more we can work on ourselves in the area of respectable anger!
Some highlights from these chapters -
“In facing up to our anger we need to realise that no-one else causes us to be angry. Someome else’s words or actions may become the occasion for our anger , but the cause lies deep within us – usually our pride , or selfishness or desire to control.”(p122). Again, a reminder to us that “the heart is deceitful above all things”(Jer 17:9) and that sin is a heart disease requiring heart surgery, not a DIY renovation job.
When we face the challenge of whether to choose to walk by the Spirit or to indulge the sinful nature, it’s so important that we are “mindful of God”(1Peter2). By this Bridges means we need to remind ourselves of the character of God. If we’re familiar with the character of God, as revealed in the story of His salvation. Then when life is tough, scary, distressing, confusing or challenging we’ll be better equipped to remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty, perfect timing, providence, goodness, wisdom, love and generosity to his people. Knowing the character of God gives me the confidence to entrust myself to him, knowing he is working out his good and wise purposes, rather than become controlling, anxious, frustrated and bitter, building up to anger.
Bridges alerts us to the “offshoots” of anger, or the sins asociated with anger – bitterness, clamour, wrath, slander, malice, obscene talk, resentment, enmity and hostility, and grudges and strife. They sound awful listed like that, don’t they! They too need to be resisted and “put off”.
How to Handle Our Anger? Bridges suggests we recognise and acknowledge it, ask why we became angry, repent of the anger and any associated pride, selfishness or idolatory, then change our attitude to the situation or person who triggered the anger (notice he doesn’t say who caused the anger!). He suggests we seek the forgiveness of the person we have wounded by our anger. If we have been the object of someone’s anger, and become angry, then we need to hand over the situation to God.
Changing my attitude to the situation or person who triggered my anger is hard work for my sinful heart but in chapter 16 (p133-139) Bridges suggests 3 principles – first, develop a firm belief in the sovereignty of God, then pray that God will enable me to pursue brotherly love that covers a multitude of sins and does not keep a record of wrongs, and thirdly, develop a humble realisation that, in comparison to my brothers sin against me, I am the ten-thousand-talent debtor to God.
Bridges acknowdledges that believers can and do have times of anger towards God. But he encourages us to recognise these occasions as the sins they are, and repent of them. Again, a solid grasp of the character of God, in the Bible, especially his providence, goodness, wisdom and his forgiveness and mercy will help equip us for those times when we’re angry with God and what he is doing in our lives or the lives of others.
Feeling overwhelmed? Let’s read again the words of Paul to us as we struggle to take off sin. It’s only in Christ and through the power of the Spirit that we can “put off” our sin. In Romans 8 Paul assures us -
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
A Debtor To Mercy
A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
I come with Your righteousness, on my humble offering to bring;
The judgments of Your holy law, with me can have nothing to do
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.
The work which Your goodness began the arm of Your strength will complete;
Your promise is yes and amen and never was forfeited yet.
The future or things that are now no power below or above
Can make You Your purpose forego or sever my soul from Your love.
My name from the palms of your hands, eternity will not erase;
Impressed on Your heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes I, to the end will endure, until I bow down at Your throne,
Forever and always secure, forever and always secure,
Forever and always secure, a debtor to mercy alone
Music by Bob Kauflin
Lyrics by Augustus M Toplady (1740-1778)
As recorded on Upward
© 1998 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).