Image for Understanding the emotions behind civil uprisings

Using anger for God’s glory during civil uprisings

Heal/ Emotions
During times of civil unrest, we find ourselves being tossed to and fro by wave after wave of political propaganda, sensational news stories, fear-mongering, accusations, and threats. Many of these stir up very strong emotions and anger. How are believers to test our instincts and burning feelings so that our responses glorify and please God?

 

Ephesians 4:14-15 ESV  … no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Being made in the image of God, all human beings share His propensity for a full and diverse range of emotions. When we see evil and injustice, for example, we feel grieved and angry at the same time. So does God. The wicked ways of mankind grieve God to His heart. 

Genesis 6:5-6 ESV  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

In the same way, we need to watch our emotions. God’s Word tells us to speak up against the mistreatment of the innocent, foreigners, orphans, and widows and not tolerate crimes such as looting, assault, torture, murder, and sexual abuses. But we are not to hate anyone when we stand up to injustice, because in God’s eyes, we would be committing murder. When we curse someone else in anger, we put ourselves in danger of going to hell. Our unchecked emotions can lead us to sin against God. Satan knows this very well and will relentlessly tempt us to lose control of our emotions and hearts.

Jeremiah 22:3 ESV  Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. 

1 John 3:15 ESV  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Matthew 5:22 NLT  But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Of all our emotions, anger is one that we all certainly need to learn to master. When God described His personal qualities to Moses, He said He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Indeed, God’s anger is coupled with lots of grace and love. When used correctly, anger can lead to great works for God. Without grace and love, however, anger can lead to self-destruction and a breakdown in society.

Exodus 34:5-6 NIV  Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

How to use or misuse anger

The Bible warns us about anger – not because we should never get angry. Even God is angry with the wicked every day. Yet He restrains His anger because of His love and mercy towards all of us.

Psalm 7:11 NLT  God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.

Psalm 78:38 ESV  Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.

Such anger can be described as a softly burning amber rather than an explosive or flickering flame. This type of anger can actually bring a warm comfort. Knowing that God is also outraged and angry at the wicked things people do to us, can bring our hearts solace and comfort. He is not indifferent to our pain.

The Bible records an instance where Jesus was angry – but it was not when He chased the merchants and money changers out the temple in Jerusalem. None of the gospel accounts mention Jesus being angry (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, John 2:13-18, Luke 19:45-47). On the contrary, Jesus was very calm. He methodically made a whip before He overturned their tables and chased them out. We see that Jesus did not curse anyone, harm them, loot, or damage anyone’s property. He simply used the opportunity to restore God’s temple into a place of prayer. 

John 2:14-17 NLT  In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”  Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

Jesus became angry during an earlier incident, where the Pharisees stubbornly hardened their hearts towards their Saviour. He was grieved over their choice of Satan over God. Yet He remained calm and did not lash out at them either.

Mark 3:2-6 ESV  And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Notice that it was not the oppressive Roman authorities that Jesus was angry with. Instead, He was angry with His own people for their rebellious hearts towards God the Father. Throughout the Bible, we see examples of how calamity comes to a land when its people rebel against God and worship false gods and idols. Many examples can be found in the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings alone. The Bible states that the third and fourth kings of Israel, Baasha and Elah, provoked God to anger because they condoned and participated in the worship of idols. Romans 1 outlines what happens to a nation that does not acknowledge or fear God. Such a society will eventually degenerate and fracture.

1 Kings 16:13 NLT  This happened because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed, and because of the sins they led Israel to commit. They provoked the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols.

Romans 1:28-31 ESV  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless

Also, see Imitating Jesus in times of civil uprisings.

1. Anger is a powerful tool to be used wisely

When we see God’s people rebelling against God, we too can be angry – but we are called to not react in that anger. This is because “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” and “leads only to evil.” A person who does not control their anger will only “stir up conflict” and “commit many sins”.

James 1:19-20 NIV  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Psalm 37:8 NIV  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.

Proverbs 29:22 NIV  An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins 

Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

On the contrary, God’s Word says that anyone who controls his anger is better than the one who takes over a city.

Proverbs 16:32 ESV  Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

2. Don’t give Satan an opportunity to control us

Anger can be an intoxicating emotion that causes us to lose control. When we give in to our anger, the rage we feel “overpowers the brain and literally shuts down the sensory systems and the power of reason. You are literally out of your mind,” according to W. Doyle Gentry, founding editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine in this interview called the Brain’s ‘rage system’ cuts rational response.

The same article goes on to say that “When a person becomes enraged, the brain’s higher level rational thinking functions, located in the prefrontal cortex, are suppressed. At the same time, the primitive parts of the brain that control emotion, including the amygdala, take over. At the very moment when our decisions may matter most, our ability to think rationally is diminished.”

This is what gives Satan the opportunity to take over control of our inclinations when we are no longer sober-minded.

Ephesians 4:26 ESV  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

3. Understand that anger is a signal

Anger has a very important signaling function. It is called a secondary emotion because anger is a reaction to other emotions, such as feeling fearful, hurt, humiliated, frustrated, or rejected.

For example, Jesus’ anger (secondary emotion) was driven by His grief (primary emotion) over the Pharisees’ stubborn hearts. We see another example in the Psalm 78 account of how the Israelites grieved God by their rebellion in the desert and provoked His anger.

Psalm 78:37-40 ESV  Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!

4. Learn to regulate our anger wisely

The next time our anger is set off, we should certainly slow down and reflect on what are the underlying emotions and causes, instead of giving an opportunity to Satan to use us.

Psalm 4:4 ESV  Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

Here are a few things we can reflect on.

Amber level to flickering anger

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” Proverbs 15:18 NASB

  • What is my primary emotion?
  • Is God bringing my attention to something that He is angry about too and nudging me to address it in love?
  • How can I respond in love and be a good testimony for Jesus?
  • How can I bring peace and calm through my actions?
  • How may I be tempted by Satan to sin? What do I need to be cautious about?

Full rage

“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Proverbs 29:11 NLT

  • How have I allowed Satan to take over my emotional state?
  • How have I lost focus and forgotten that God is sovereign and in control?
  • How is my anger provoking other people around me? Am I being a good testimony for Jesus or grieving Him by my behaviour?
  • Am I being self-righteous (and proud)?
  • What is my primary emotion?
  • Why am I so angry? Is there something deeper in me that is being triggered?
  • Does this incident bring up old (unrelated) wounds where I have felt unjustly treated that have not been healed by Jesus?

Anger is also “contagious”. Hot-tempered people stir up other people’s emotions. The Bible warns us not to make friends with such people or even associate with them, because we may subconsciously learn their patterns too. Anger can spread like a disease. 

Proverbs 22:24 NIV  Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 NIV  Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.

Neither should we be someone who provokes others by our anger. We need to quickly come back to our senses and stop sinning. When we don’t subdue our anger, Satan will tempt us to:

  • Curse those who persecute us, instead of blessing them | Romans 12:14 ESV Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  • Hate our enemies, instead of love and pray for them | Matthew 5:43-44 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
  • Spend our time seeking worldly justice as our priority | 1 John 2:15 ESV Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
  • Turn a blind eye to our own corrupted ways and need for God | Psalm 14:3 ESV They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
  • Forsake seeking God first because our earthly agendas have become paramount | James 4:12 ESV There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Here are a few examples of how all this can play out.

Ungodly use of anger

 

“If they didn’t do what they did, I wouldn’t be angry (because I have made myself their judge). This is all their fault. Their actions led to this uprising (I don’t care that I will have to answer to God for my own role in all this one day).”

Luke 16:15 ESV  And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

“Their actions make me so angry. I will scold them and tell them what I think of them. There is no need to be reasonable anymore (even if this is what pleases God).”

Leviticus 19:17-18 ESV  “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

“I will not forget or forgive their insults, curses, and offences. I won’t overlook what they have said (even if God’s Word reminds me to overlook insults and offfences, so that my soul is not destroyed by bitterness).”

Proverbs 12:16 NIV  Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

Proverbs 19:11 ESV  Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

“Their actions make me so angry. They deserve punishment. I will take action against them now (instead of being still and waiting on God to understand His will).”

Psalm 37:7 ESV   Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

“In my anger, I will curse those people and their families (and now condemn myself to hell).”

Matthew 5:22 NLT  But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

“I have the right to say whatever I want (and face fierce judgement when I have to give an account for every careless word I speak to God).”

Matthew 12:36 ESV  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,

“I will hit them back (and glorify Satan by heaping more sin on top of sin)!”

Matthew 5:39 ESV  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

“I will pass all the sensational news I receive (and spread more strife) because this makes me feel like I have a stake in society. (I will honour my emotions before I think about God.)”

Proverbs 16:28 ESV  A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

“I am angry with God for not doing anything to resolve this crisis by now (because I put my faith in the seen, rather than the unseen). I expect God to bring peace and prosperity by now (because I am running out of patience to wait on God).”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Also, see Retraining our anger triggers.

Some useful resources
Anger – how it affects people 
How Anger Affects the Brain and Body [Infographic]

Follow God’s agenda during times of civil unrest

God chooses the times and places of our lives on earth and He prepares us for good works while we are here – the most important of which is to reconcile people to Him. This was the mission that Jesus personally took on and passed on to us.

Acts 17:26 ESV  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,

Ephesians 2:10 ESV  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19 ESV  From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

John 17:1,18 ESV  When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you… As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 

God prepares a harvest of lost souls that we may bring back to Him. Some of the richest harvests occur during times of uncertainty and civil unrest, when people’s fears and anxieties come out into the open and their vulnerabilities are exposed.

May we resist being emotionally swept by the masses and political uprisings that come and go – and remember the more important agenda. The real agenda is not political. The agenda God has given us is the salvation of people’s souls from eternal hell. Jesus has already proclaimed that the fields are ripe for harvest. Will we go out as He has called us to? And when we stand up against oppression and injustice, may we do so in ways that reflect the full fruit of the Spirit – in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,

John 4:34-36 ESV  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work… Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Also, see Our relationship with our governments  as well as a sample prayer for our Government.

 

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