Angry and Bitter Hearts

by Andrew Yeager 

Anger is one of the greatest tools of the devil. Anyone who has held a leadership position in a congregation knows the power of anger to cause division in the Church.

Anger grows in many ways: an intemperate word at a board meeting, a hostile exchange between two Church leaders, an ongoing power struggle where one group asserts their “rights” to silence opposition. The seeds of bitterness are sown. Grudges are coddled and nursed. A desire for vengeance boils just below the surface. Before long, the Church that the Holy Spirit knits together as “one body, many members” (1 Cor. 12:12) suffers division — the sad result of Satan’s attacks on the body of Christ.

What do the Scriptures teach about anger?

First, Scripture teaches that anger isn’t always bad. There is such a thing as righteous anger, which belongs to God. Jesus was angry when He encountered hard-heartedness (Mark 3:5). The Psalmist tells us “God is angry every day” at the wicked (Ps. 7:11).

God is not aloof. He doesn’t allow wickedness to pass by without notice. His anger burns hot against sin. He uses parents, police officers, judges, magistrates and government officials as agents of His anger to dole out punishment against those who do wrong.

On the other hand, anger is always dangerous for the Christian personally. Paul calls anger a work of the flesh, (Gal. 5:20) something to be put far away from the Christian (Col. 3:8; Eph. 4:31). James warns us to be “slow to anger,” (Jas. 1:19-20) and Paul warns us not to let the sun go down on anger (Eph. 4:26). Jesus warns that anyone who is angry with his brother has murdered him (Matt. 5:22).

How does God help us with our anger?

God helps us with our anger by reminding us of His mercy. The Gospel tells us that God loved us and had mercy on us even when we deserved His anger and wrath.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on the third Sunday after Epiphany, Jan. 23, 1938 called, “Christ’s Love and Our Enemies.” He says, “When you meet your enemy, remember first your own enmity toward God and God’s mercy to you”:[1]

“At a time when I was God’s enemy because of God’s commandments, he treated me like a friend. When I did him evil, God dealt me good. He did not hold me accountable for my evil, but sought me unceasingly and without bitterness. He suffered with me. He died for me; there was nothing he would not bear for me. It was then that he had overcome me. God had won over his enemy. The Father found his child again.”

If you are angry, look to the cross where your Savior bled for you. Even when you were God’s enemy, Jesus prayed for your forgiveness. The forgiveness of Christ melts our angry and bitter hearts and sets us free to love and forgive our neighbor.

The Rev. Andrew T. Yeager is pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Garrett, Ind.

[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Harper, 1990. Page 284.

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4 Responses to Angry and Bitter Hearts

  1. April 3, 2017 at 8:47 am #

    Thank you for this reminder about the danger of anger. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

    • EARL BENGEL May 4, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

      On my chromebook, hold down the ctl key and then push – or + key next to the backspace key.

  2. Chris Winston April 3, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Its there a way that this can be published in a format that allows for us to easily adjust font size? My eyes are feeling old! Thanks for all you do.

    • LCMS Church Information Center April 3, 2017 at 11:38 am #

      Thank you for your comment. When something is too small on your screen, you may hold down the Control key (below the Shift keys) and the use your mouse’s wheel to make things bigger or smaller on your screen.

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