Have you ever been surprised by how anger can control you?
It is easy to hold onto anger. It can feel like as long as we are angry, we still have a grasp on power, power that may have been taken from us in the past. It can be easier to hold onto bitterness, when the alternative is to let down our guard and be hurt or disappointed again. We may have expectations of others that they can never fill. We may want affirmation, kindness or respect from others, but find ourselves cynical when repeatedly disappointed. Perhaps we are outwardly polite to someone who has hurt us, while harboring resentment and nursing our wounds of the past. We may see people only as unmet expectations that we have placed on them…
“He should act his age.”
“I expected her to welcome me, not belittle me.”
“I thought this was a professional environment; why is my co-worker attacking me?”
“I thought we were friends for life.”
How do we live a life free from anger, bitterness and unmet expectations of others? We find answers when we examine the death of Christ on the cross, His rising from the dead, and His ascension. In his book, “A Small Book About a Big Problem,” (Ed Welch, 2017) describes the connection between our anger and Jesus’ life and death. He notes, “Jesus died to absorb the wrath of God that I deserved (Galatians 3:13). Being shielded from God’s wrath is the reason for my peace, and it compels me to shield others from mine.” When we fully understand the grace of God toward us and our sin, we can extend that grace toward others, without expecting anything in return. Jesus died so that we are no longer held accountable for our sins, so likewise we can work to not hold others accountable for the wrongs they have done toward us. We can let go of our expectations of them and see them as fellow sojourners, sinners and saints in Christ. Romans 15:7 says, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
Welch comments on Revelation 1:5, “Jesus died so that I am no longer a slave to anger but can stand against it. Anger controls and masters us. It promises power and control but delivers slavery…I have gone from being a slave to being a child freed in order to live for the Father.” Holding onto anger toward someone may feel like we have power over that person, but in reality, this anger holds us captive. Forgiveness and reconciliation are true paths to freedom and peace. Welch also explains that in 2 Corinthians 13:3-4, “Jesus died so that I too could boast in weakness. Real strength does not look overpowering but is gentle and sounds inviting…It is through faith that I am united to Jesus, which means that I can claim Jesus’ death and resurrection as my own. My reputation is no longer something I need to defend.” Isn’t that a freeing concept? If people desert us, hurt us or belittle us, we do not need to become indignant and defend ourselves. We are united to Christ and we are His.
As we see in Scripture, Christ’s life, death and resurrection helps to free us from the grip of anger. We do not need to hold onto anger as a form of power; instead we have Christ’s power within us. We have true strength from Christ, as we can boast in our weakness and boast in His death and resurrection.
Galatians 3:13—“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).”
Romans 15:7—“Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
Revelation 1:5—“And from Jesus the Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…”
2 Corinthians 13:3-4—“Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.”