Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anger Defined

Chatty Kelly has an interesting forum going on at her blog today.

"Does God Get Mad?" she asks. She continues forth to explain her perspective, drawing heavily from the Scriptures.

I think some folks believe God is mad all the time--at
them! I think that's why they work so hard to try and please Him. These folks never have the feeling (or have read the supporting Scriptures) that God loves them above all else! It doesn't matter what we do--as we will never measure up to perfection--He still loves us.

Now, quickly, so as not to be misunderstood, this doesn't mean that we can do anything we want and that God will be OK with it. God gave us freewill, but He didn't give us total freedom of rule. The Bible is our faithful boundary reminder reference guide. We can know from studying His Word what He requires of us--act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), as a starting point.

And when we don't follow His Word? Why should we think God would be happy with us? Why should we think God would be angry with us? If you have "you don't listen?!" children, then you might be able to understand on the most basic of levels what God's frustration--and, yes, anger--is with His children, whom He loves unconditionally. (Don't lose sight of the fact that His love is still what this is all about!)

I received an amazing concordance as a Christmas present (from Chatty Kelly, no less). It contains Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, so I can explore the meaning of words in Biblical passages using something closer to the original language. So, when the Bible talks about God's anger, what does that mean?
"And the anger of the Lord was kindled...." Exodus 4:14

"He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger...." Psalm 78:49

"I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Jonah 4:2b

In the Hebrew, the word for anger comes from a word that means "to breathe hard," as in to be enraged, angry, displeased. Exasperated is another word that comes to mind, and if the Old Testament were written in Greek, perhaps they would have used the same word that Paul uses in his letter to the Ephesians ("Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4). Can you picture God fuming over our bad choices? Since I brought up the New Testament.... Kelly mentions this one on her blog:
He [Jesus] said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!"

And He said to them [the Pharisees], "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.

After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:3-5

The word used to describe Jesus' anger, in Greek, means "desire, as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind." It comes from another Greek word that means "to stretch oneself, reach out after, to long for, covet after." By analogy, it also means a violent passion or, by implication, punishment.

Wow! That's a lot of different words and ideas to cover in one definition. What catches my eye and captures my attention is that reaching forward/coveting after/passion is coupled with anger/displeasure/punishment. While that appears to be a dichotomy of thoughts, when it comes to understanding who God is, that's exactly right!

Is He angry or displeased with us? Yeah...because we do make wrong choices. We'll never get it perfectly right. Do we face punishment? Well, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior of our lives, then we don't face eternal punishment, and, through confession and repentance, we are forgiven of our sins. But, because God loves us, we do face discipline--if we want to grow out of our disobedience. Some folks think that's punishment. Depends on where you are on the spiritual growth chart.

On the other hand, is God continually trying to reach His children? Does He covet a relationship with us? Is His passion for us so great that He will go to every limit to show His love for us? YES, on all questions!

Remember, the God who loved us so much sent His one and only Son to receive His wrath on the cross. And because He loved us so much, the Son "stretched Himself" to hang on this cross--the passion of the Christ.

Is there a lot wrapped up in what the Bible terms as God's 'anger'? Are we willing to accept that our loving Creator can show that that kind of anger? Are we able to show that kind of anger?

What's a few more questions, Kelly?....


On Purpose said...

Thank you for your friendship! And we are needing a "sous chef" in this house to help with the cookin' care to share your adorable one!?!?

Chatty Kelly said...

Thanks for taking it another step! It's a big topic and hard one as evidences by my 8 comments today (versus 22 on Monday).

I think we too easily accept the grace & mercy without considering what "might have been" had he not offered. We (mankind) are so cavalier in our attitudes.

Knowing the anger that is there, makes me appreciate the grace all the more. :-)

KelliGirl said...

Wow! You really captured a topic I haven't pondered a whole lot. Plus, looking at the contextual meaings of the word "anger" really brings such depth to the text. (Hmmm, I think I need a Bible concordance, too!)

I don't have much trouble picturing God made because I'm reading Isaiah right now (there's a whole lot of destruction going on). But His anger isn't selfish or impulsive like mine, it's righteous. Even though I find it hard to read about that side of God, it does make me appreciate Jesus and the grace He offers.

Thank you for your kind words today. You have a way of saying just the right thing. :-)


Edie said...

Great post Sue J! I thought about posting on the topic too after Kelly's post got me all fired up. LOL!! You expressed it very well here.

The Patterson 5 said...

Thanks for tackling this tough topic. I've been pondering it since Wed. and was even lead to the verse you found in Jonah and I found this one in Joel

Joel 2:12-13
"'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, and with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and he relents from sending calamity."

I think this speaks to say God wants our repentance. Like you said he has love for us- His wrath is there but he longs for us to return to him.

My ADHD Me said...

This is really a great explanation. It's the way I feel too.

Us to our children...

Love them.
They disobey.
We still love them but are disappointed.
They ask for forgiveness (hopefully)
We forgive.
We still love them.
They disobey AGAIN--sometimes even doing the SAME thing they did last time.
We are exasperated.
We may be sad about it.
We are probably angry.
But we still love them.
They say they are sorry OR they don't.
We still love them.
They disobey AGAIN.
We are angry.
Perhaps we punish them.
We STILL love them.
The say they are sorry.
We forgive.
We never stopped loving them.
They disobey......
and the cycle continues.