We have been going through a wonderful book on Wednesday nights entitled Uprooting Anger, by Robert D. Jones. I have mentioned this before on my blog, but it is such a great book for every believer, I can’t recommend it highly enough. In reading it and studying, what it reveals to me is just how deceitful our hearts are. Jones defines anger as
“our whole-personed, active response of negative moral judgment
against perceived evil.”
The key word is “perceived evil” - this is where the book truly is great, because it distinguishes between righteous anger (which we seldom really have) and sinful anger.
One of the illustrations made of this “perceived evil” is that of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph. On the surface, if Potiphar had told you that he walked in to his wife crying and telling him that Joseph had made sexual advances toward her (and his coat was still there to prove it), you would agree that all evidence pointed to Joseph’s guilt. But Potiphar never spoke to Joseph about this; he simply threw him in jail. Now, certainly it would have boiled down to a “She said/He said” issue, but we know the story and we know that Potiphar was wrong… even though it seemed, especially to his heart, that he was right to respond this way. His perception of evil was skewed. We need to keep this illustration in front of us and remind us that we are not inerrant in our judgment of any situation. Even when the situation seems so sure, the only thing we can be sure of is that we are capable of error!
I know a Pastor who, at best, has a reputation of being fickle. He is physically extremely weak and he can’t preach at all (and if I may be so mean, the guys is even ugly)! Most will suppose that he compensates for his weak preaching by simply writing letters to people, trying to intimidate or scare them. It is known among his former churches that he is some type of con-man who is just in it for the money. He is a liar, and has taken advantage of weaker people in his churches and, to be honest he just seems to live in the flesh. He even has the audacity to write churches and encourage them to do such divisive stuff as church discipline. Everyone close to him seems to walk away from the faith. This guy, they say, is one big mess…. I could go on. But suffice it to say that you can read all of this stuff about him at www.blueletterbible.com OR you can just look at passages like 2nd Corinthians 1:17; 10:1; 13:1; 10:10; 13:6; 13:16; 5:13; 6:13; 7:2; 10:2. Yep, none other than the Apostle Paul!
I say this because, when we want to excuse our sinfulness, we can always explain why we feel the way we do. In our minds, it may make perfect sense to be angry and hateful towards a person. But, the Lord makes it crystal clear that if our ongoing lifestyle is one of hatred and bitterness, it is a sure sign that we do not belong to Him. When you read this and your heart begins to give you all the reasons you have a right to have this anger, remind yourself that your heart is deceitful and will, when given the chance, excuse everything you do. This is the reason I so desperately need the Word of God to serve as an X-ray into my deceitful heart. Thank God for the Word’s purifying power!