I sometimes get angry when I shouldn’t. It’s a vice (and probably a sin), but God has been patient with me as I try to be more like Jesus over time. One of the things that gets me riled up – even though it shouldn’t – is when someone critiques something that I’ve done, especially at work. My wife (or others) may kindly remind me, “Don’t take it personally.” When this happens, my somewhat-joking response may be, “What is the opposite of that? If I don’t take something personally, how do I take it?”
There are a lot of things in life whose “opposite” is difficult to identify. For instance, many might consider the opposite of love to be hate, but I’ve heard Bible teachers make the case that the opposite of love is indifference. If I were to ask you what the opposite of angry is, what would you say? I’m not sure what the answer is (or if we always need to have an opposite for everything), but Paul, in a letter to the church in Thessalonica, gave us some insight:
For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 NLT
Take a look at that first sentence from this passage again. Instead of God pouring out righteous anger on us, what did He do? He “chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ”. When most people get angry (particularly in our unrighteous anger), we often do one of two things: 1) stew about it and feed our anger so that it – ironically – eats away at us and our relationships or, 2) act out in a destructive and harmful manner, whether verbally or physically.
Consider the fact that sin is offensive to God’s holy nature, and He has every right to be justifiably angry with our choices. Instead of leaving us to be permanently separated from Himself, though, He reached out to us to give us a fresh start. More than that, He did so in a way that allowed for justice to be served (when God the Son – Jesus Christ – voluntarily took the punishment for our sins), even though it cost Him dearly. The reason for righteous anger was addressed (before we had to experience it in full force), and Jesus carried the burden of our sins.
That is the divine opposite of giving full vent to our anger on those who have offended us.
Learning a definition is one thing, though, but isn’t very useful if it remains only academic. The passage above tells us what we should do about this news. We, like the first-century Thessalonians, should “encourage each other and build each other up”. Salvation is not an achievement of the saved, to brag about. It is not a license for continuing to sin. Instead, it is good news that should be shared with everyone: both those who haven’t yet heard about it, and those who are living in God’s family but need some encouragement.
So, if you don’t agree with this article, or anything else on this site, feel free to provide polite feedback. (Others have done so, and shared good ideas.) Instead of getting angry and taking it personally, my goal is to be Christ-like, even as I seek your salvation and sanctification through Him.
In all things, though, I want you – no matter who you are – to be encouraged by this great news: that God loves us and has provided all of us (even those who think that they can’t be freed from the consequences of divine wrath) a path back to Himself. If you haven’t accepted that salvation and turned back to God, please do so today. (Contact me, a trusted pastor, or another long-time follower of Jesus if you have any questions.) If you are already enjoying a new life with Jesus Christ, won’t you encourage others with the same good news?
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.