” 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” 8 Now Cain]talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” -Genesis 4:5-9 (NKJV).
If we look around, if we look to social media or listen to the news, if we step out into the world and just listen, do we commonly witness goodness? Does brother love brother? Or, does he hate him? Do we love our enemies? Or, do we look at those who do not fit into the neat little boxes we’ve constructed around our lives with contempt, fear, or anger? Do we take God’s place as judge? What is the cost?
Here are two questions we should ask ourselves:
- What harm does our wrath inflict upon ourselves?
- What harm does our wrath inflict on our enemies?
Let’s unpack these and see what scripture says about it.
Let’s look at the following scenario. Imagine waking up, same as you’ve done every day, and after performing your daily routine, you head into work. Imagine that you’ve put in countless hours at the office, helping grow the business to what it is or, at the very least, doing your part to keep the bottom line in the black. Now, your coworker is a particularly unpleasant person, who is quick to underhanded actions and spinning events to suit their favor. Take this farther by imagining this particular person messes up a particularly important report. Instead of taking responsibility, this coworker passes blame to you and, for one reason or another, your supervisor does not believe you. Perhaps they are friends outside work. Perhaps you’ve made mistakes in the past. It does not matter. Your supervisor fires you. Then, as you’re vacating your workspace, the coworker gloats to your face. You lash out angrily in your hurt and are escorted from the premises.
Now, I know that’s a pretty unpleasant situation. Let’s return to our two questions. First, what harm does a situation like this cause to us when we’re in the midst of it? Proverbs 14:17 (NKJV) says, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 also states, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” We become foolish when we let our tempers get away from us. In our scenario, we might argue that the person was justified in his or her anger. Until lashing out, no blame rested on the employee’s shoulders. And sure, because of the coworkers actions, this person is now without a job, a way to put food on the table or pay the bills, and will now have their permanent employment record affected. Until lashing out, however, there was no sin on the person’s part. Whether it was physical or verbal, the “victim” acted in such a way to warrant being escorted from the premises. When God tells us throughout scripture to get rid of our anger, how does acting out of it, no matter how justified we feel we are, serve Him? The consequences, beyond the legal and moral, are that we are sinning against God and defying His commandment. How likely are you to repent for anger you feel is righteously gained? How likely are you to repent when you feel your unkind words are justified? Especially when our legal systems back you up? God is not a legal system. God is not a man-made law. He is above all earthly laws. And he says in Matthew 5:22 (NKJV) “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
When we heap rage upon our enemies’ heads, do we serve God? If they are of the world, is it our place to condemn them? As in our scenario, we can agree there are plenty of circumstances where we feel the anger is deserving or our words should spew forth as venom. But, we are to show mercy and forgiveness. Jesus told us to turn our heads and let our enemies strike our other cheeks. Hey, I know it’s hard. I struggle with this myself. Our enemies can look like our friends, our loved ones, our coworkers, our leaders… as we are all birthed in sin, as we are all creatures who are removed from God until we step through the doorway that is Jesus Christ, we all look like the enemy to someone else. When we pass judgment, when we react so poorly, we stop showing Christ to others. We push our enemies deeper into their darkness. We help weaken the thread of spiritual life because we, as Christians, are behaving poorly. Justified or not, we are to discard our hate, our anger, even our hurt. We are to love our enemies. We are to minister to them, even as we bleed, and help guide them to God. The harm- the true harm- comes when we put our own misery above God’s command; then, we are serving our own agendas.
I’ve read that God is love. And I have read that if you hate your brother than you are not of God. We are all Cain. We are all guilty and only made innocent through the blood of Jesus Christ. So I’m going to end with a prayer. You can join me and use it for yourself if you like.
Lord, I come to you in humbleness. I’ve lived a life where my anger destroyed relationships and denied opportunities I might have been given. Lord, help me get past feeling like I have a right to be angry. Help me remember that though someone might slap me, your Son said to offer our other cheek. Lord, I don’t want my anger, my hurt, my feelings to draw me away from your glory. Here, in this moment, I’m leaving it at the cross as you’ve commanded me. I want to be of love, Lord. I want to be among your children at the feet of glory. Amen.
Go with God my friends.