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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Snuffing Out Anger

Recently a 24-year-old man murdered three teenage boys, two of whom were brothers. He shot them while they were sitting in a white SUV near our neighborhood. Before taking his own life, the shooter told police the boys had cut him off in traffic.

Uncontrolled road rage often fuels senseless violence.

Volatile anger doesn’t always lead to murder, but it has torn families apart, turned neighbors into enemies, split churches, wrecked relationships, and destroyed the many Christians’ testimony. Anger management classes may help some hot heads cool, but is there a way to defuse anger before it explodes?

Two of Jesus’ disciples must have had an anger problem. Called “the sons of thunder” in Mark 3:17, James and John once requested Jesus’ permission to call down fire upon a Samaritan village because it had refused to welcome Jesus (Luke 9:54). But Jesus changed their disposition from anger to love. John became known as “the apostle of love” and taught the importance of loving God and one another in 1 John. James demonstrated selfless love for God by becoming a martyr at the hands of vicious Herod (Acts 12:1, 2).

We have all heard the excuse, “I can’t help being angry: I have red hair you know.” Or, “I was born with a hot temper. That’s just the way I am.” One woman described her husband as “temperamental—90 percent temper and 10 percent mental.” But no one has to be a slave to destructive anger. Whoever believes in Jesus as his Savior becomes a work in progress. As he internalizes Scripture and seeks to honor God, his disposition changes. Undesirable characteristics fade away. Desirable, Christlike characteristics replace them as the Holy Spirit restores the believer into the divine image (see Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:4). Love becomes the most visible evidence of genuine faith (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 John 4:7, 8).