Posted on Apr 01, 2021 by Mike LeDuke
Have you ever read Scripture and been surprised at some of the anger that it conveys? Or perhaps have you ever used these kinds of passages to justify your own anger? There are numerous verses throughout the Bible that are extremely pointed and vehement. At one point, David prayed for his enemies to suffer intensely:
Psalm 58:6-8 O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
This was not just David praying for deliverance. He was asking not only for his enemies to disappear, but for them to melt like a snail — or for God to break their teeth so that they could no longer harm him. Indeed, he wanted deliverance. But he also wanted vengeance. These types of sentiments are expressed in multiple psalms which are called the “imprecatory psalms”. Here is another:
Psalm 69:22-25 Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.
This prayer for curses continues for another three verses. Even the New Testament contains language like this — with the apostle Paul stating that he wished that those who were stirring up divisions among the Galatians would “emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12 - appropriate in that his opponents were those of the "circumcision party" who demanded that all gentile converts be circumcised.). Even though Paul was writing figuratively, the language is still stinging.
So what are we to make of this? How can so many passages in Scripture be against anger and yet God and Christ become angry, and so do other people in the Bible? Should we pray for things like what David prayed for in the psalms?
I don’t think so.
Indeed, there is such a thing as righteous anger. God and Christ have it when they are angry. David had it when he wrote the imprecatory Psalms. Paul had it when he wrote to the Galatians.
But the difference between these men and us is that David was inspired to write what he wrote. Paul was inspired to write what he wrote. We aren’t inspired. In other words, we don’t get to have righteous anger. David could have righteous anger because the spirit moved him to do so and to write about it. The same was the case with Paul. But not with us.
Thus, Scripture is very emphatic about our relationship with anger:
2 Timothy 2:24-25 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
So what are we to do instead of being angry? We are to be kind to everyone, correcting our opponents with gentleness.
Kindness and Gentleness: Just imagine how different our lives would be if those were the attitudes and emotions that characterized every interaction we had.
— Jason Hensley