Grace and Anger

September 1, 2015

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The topics of grace and anger are difficult to bring together. Even more so when we consider the emotions of God.

Our natural tendency is to transform God into a human. When we consider him as our Father, the reflection of our earthly parents influence our perspective.

How do we consider the anger of God and reconcile it with his grace without turning God into a human?

We use terms like “righteous anger” in an attempt to express it.

  • Jesus walked in this godly emotion while upsetting the tables in the temple.
  • “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)
  • Psalms 7 says God has “indignation every day” (Vs 11)

I have a number of situations right now where my prevailing emotion is anger. I’ve heard all the warnings through the years against this emotion.

  • Stay away from bitterness.
  • Unforgiveness will limit what God can do in your life.

Of course I don’t want to walk in these extreme things. But, I am angry. I must be real with this.

So how do we reconcile grace and anger?

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Here are a few thoughts which are shaping my internal discussion.

1. For believers, we do not have to fear the wrath or anger of God as it relates to judgment on sin.

Romans 3:25 tells us “Jesus was put forward as the one who took away the wrath of God. (atonement or propitiation)”

Even though it is not a pleasant topic, in the Bible, God does have anger towards sin which results in judgment, wrath, and punishment. As Christians, this legal requirement was satisfied by Christ on the cross.

So God’s anger, as it relates to Christians, is no longer this form of anger

Righteous anger or this indignation which Psalms speaks of, when it relates to Christians must be different.

2. Righteous anger is more closely related to sadness.

As I consider the anger I have towards certain people and situations, my root is not rage or fury.

When I get right down to it, I am sad; deeply sad.

I think in many ways, this is the root of the anger Jesus expressed towards what was occurring in the temple when he overturned the tables.

Deep sorrow and grief.

I think God’s emotions towards us are similar.

When He has anger towards a Christian’s sin, it cannot be wrath or punishment. To believe so says Christ’s sacrifice was and is insufficient.

Equally I don’t think we can equate God’s anger to those of an earthly parent. The emotions relating to disappointment or things which induce shame and condemnation are not present in God.

It seems our best attempts to describe the anger of God, this righteous emotion; has to be more closely related to sadness.

God can grieve choices we make. He knows where these choices lead and the consequences we will face due to them.

When He sees injustice, I think the anger which comes is first and foremost a sadness over the treatment of people made in His image.

It is always a slippery slope when we attempt to explain the emotions of God in human language. (We are sinful, broken and limited, God is none of these.)

But it helps me to evaluate the feelings I am having. I do not want to harm people in rage, but rather feel a deep sorrow. I can still value these people, even forgive them. I’m not tempted to judge whether they are still a Christian. (this just is not my call to make)

I’m angry. But more than this, I am grieving.

Somewhere, somehow in this, I think there is some connection between the godly expression of anger and the grace of God.

Photo by: Anger via photopin (license)

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God