The Heart of Anger

The recent school shooting in Nashville tragically illustrates the principles we've been discussing in the adult Sunday school class over the past few weeks. In our consideration of the 6th Commandment ("Thou shalt not kill"), we talked about what murder means and what the murderer hopes to accomplish by it. Murder is almost always driven by anger, envy, or a desire for revenge. The one who murders believes he has been wronged to such an extent that only the shedding of blood can atone for the offense, regardless of whether that offense was real or imagined. Murdering someone out of malice almost never sets anything right for the murderer, so there isn't really a practical benefit like there would be for someone murdering to get something from the victim. Thus, vindictive murder is almost always an attempt to make someone pay for some sin by the shedding of blood. Anger always has a reason, which means that murder is rarely senseless violence.

Here are some common reasons that lead people to seek revenge of some sort, even if they don't go all the way to committing murder.

1) Someone sins against you (whether or not the offense is actually a sin or merely a perceived sin), and your desire for revenge is to make him atone for his own sin.
--Example: David's desire to kill Nabal (1 Sam. 25:26, 33)

2) Someone exposes your sin, and your desire for revenge seeks to make him/her the scapegoat for your sin.
--Example: Cain and Abel (Gen. 4; 1 Jn. 3:10-12)

3) You sin and you take out your anger on yourself in attempt to atone for your own sin.
--Example: Judas hanging himself (Mt. 27:1-5)

The Bible is very clear that anyone given to "hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders...will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:20-21). There are two main reasons for this:

1) Vindictive anger and murder is a form of idolatry, because it is an attempt to play God in re-defining sin and meting out judgment without divine authorization.

2) Vindictive anger and murder are essentially a denial of Christ's atoning sacrifice, because they seek a man-made atonement for sin other than the only sacrifice that can cleanse and reconcile and restore.

The cross of Christ is the only hope for sinners. The cross of Christ is the only way that sin can be covered, removed, and expunged. The cross of Christ is the only way that sinners can be set free from the selfishness and pride that drives all anger and resentment. The cross of Christ is the only way that sinners can have peace with God, with others, and with themselves.

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