Everyone is mad now, seemingly all the time. If you go to any social media outlet, you will find plenty of outrage. Plenty of people being “triggered.” It's all evidence of one of our favorite sins: anger.
There is one verse that seems to convict me more and more everytime I read it. It's sandwiched into the middle of one of our favorite "feel-good" sections of scripture: 1 Corinthians 13. You'll hear this passage read at weddings and it always feels so warm; but, if we really examine these words it will challenge us on every level. I think the Apostle Paul was a bit more "rebuke-ish" than we assume as he is listing off all that love does.
"…Love is not provoked…" 1 Corinthians 13:5
If you are anything like me (read: a human), You should feel the gravity of that command. Love is not provoked. Couple this with other biblical commands on the same subject, and it begins to appear pretty important.
"My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…" James 1:19
"Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city." Proverbs 16:32
The more I look at these, the more that three things become clear:
First, being slow to anger is hard. Second, we don't always take being easily angered seriously. Third, being slow to anger is one of the most obvious ways we can display the love of Christ.
Let me ask you a question that knocked the wind out of me: according to this standard, are you loving?
How quickly do you get mad at others? Does a random Facebook status set you off? Does the slightest inconvenience lead you to treat others poorly because you are angry? Can you actually keep a calm head when you are talking with people with whom you disagree?
So often, we chalk this up to our personality. I say "we" because I find myself failing in this area often. We just excuse it as our having a short fuse.
What a convenient way to sanitize our disobedience. I’m not denying that this is harder for some than others, but our personality type never gives us license to continue to disobey God's clear direction.
But why do we get so angry at small things?
Simple. You and I have idols, tons of idols. These idols are the things that make us angry faster than anything else can. If you want to know what these idols might be, look at what makes you angriest, the fastest, when it's messed with. Those are the idols you've been worshiping without realizing it.
Your intellectual superiority, your free time, your to-do list, your relationship, your popularity, ___________. Fill in the blank. See how quickly you get mad if these things are threatened.
If someone frustrates you, do you feel the right to get even with them? When someone tells you something harsh, do you feel entitled to be allowed to say something harsher? Wouldn't love tell us to turn the other cheek when we’re insulted?
God tells us to love the difficult people when we would rather be angry with them. God would tell us to be the one trying to avoid needless anger and hostility; our pride tells us that "the other person deserves it."
Let me break some news to you: you are difficult to love. Yet, Jesus is patient with you, even though you sin against him routinely. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love as He loves. That's the gospel.
God is slow to anger with you. Show His love and extend grace, not anger, to others. The world will see a radical difference.