Love is… Slow To Anger

This morning, we continue our message series helping us to better understand and live out unconditional love.

This series is entitled, “Love Is” and it is based on that familiar passage found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. 

We were created by God with the need for love that can only be expressed through relationships.

As there are different types of relationships, there are different types of love.  There is, however, a type of love that we are to express toward anyone and everyone.  In fact, the Bible teaches that if we learn how to express this type of love toward God and others, that we will entirely fulfill all that God’s law requires of us. 

This distinct type of love is the love that God has for us.  In the Greek language, it is the word agape.  It is this type of unconditional love that we’ll be covering through this message series.

To be able to possess and express this unconditional love, we’re going to break it down into parts as Paul chose to do in his letter to the Corinthians.  He taught all about spiritual gifts and said that it is not using these gifts that truly matters, but how we choose to use them, our motive, that matters to God.  We can do all sorts of good things for God, but if we do not do them as an expression of God’s love, then they are pointless, useless, and meaningless.

1 Corinthians 13:1-5

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  14 Love is patient, love is kind.   It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…

Love is slow to anger.

Angry, enraged, short-fused, hot-headed, irritable, touchy, explosive, hot-tempered; not a fun person to be around and a nearly impossible person to live with.  One second, everything is great and you’re having a good time, the next second, something sets them off and you’re getting screamed at and something is flying your way.  When their anger is directed toward you, you definitely aren’t feeling loved.  Walking on egg-shells in an attempt to not set them off is no way to truly live.

Now does this mean that we never get angry with those we love?  Certainly not.  We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, but even God’s anger burned toward those he loved.  The reason for His anger and His response to His anger is what defines healthy anger versus unhealthy anger.

When we warn our toddler not to run out into the road so that they do not get hurt, it is a healthy anger that rises up within us when they ignore us and do it anyways.  It is an anger birthed out of love and concern for our child.  It is an anger coupled with compassion that causes us to run to their rescue and sweep them up in our arms and out of the street. 

It is also an anger that causes us to explain to them clearly why what they did was wrong and how they could have been harmed by their poor decisions.  It is an anger based on timeless truth and not based on circumstances alone.  It is an anger that disciplines them in love and ensures that some appropriate consequence accompanies their actions such as spanking them or taking away some privilege.  This helps them to understand how serious their poor decision truly was and directs their paths away from it in the future.

When we warn our toddler to stop making that noise and they continue to do it, it isn’t necessarily a heathy anger that rises up.  It is an anger birthed out of annoyance and irritability toward our child.  It is an anger that provokes us.  It tempts us to discipline them not because they are in any danger, but because we want to control them and force them to do what we want them to do and when we want them to do it.

It is an anger that is purely a selfish emotion and based on immediate circumstances.  That silly noise may not annoy us normally, but we’re stressed out already and right now, it is just pushing us over our edge.  If we discipline our child now, our children will not know when it is right or wrong to make that noise because the last time that they made it, you laughed.  It will also train our toddler to act out according to their own emotions.

Love is slow to anger.

Yes, love gets angry, but it gets angry for the right reasons and responds in the right way.  It acts out of compassion toward others and looks out for their best interests.  Love acts in truth and not on emotion alone.

God just miraculously delivered Israel from their Egyptian bondage and He called Moses up to Mount Sanai where He wrote His law using His finger on two stone tablets.  We know them as the ten commandments.  While this was taking place, the people of Israel realized that Moses was going to take a while up on the mountain and decided to make a golden calf from their earrings and to declare that it was the gods who delivered them.

Moses, well, got angry.  Not only was Moses, angry, but so was God.

Exodus 32:9-10

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

God decided that the people’s rejection and replacement of Him was serious enough to just end their lives and to make a great nation out of Moses.  Now God would have every right to do so and this is purely speculation, but I believe that this may have simply been a test for Moses and not truly what God had planned to do.  The heart of Moses was revealed through his response to this incredible honor given to Him by God.

Exodus 32:11-12;14

But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Moses obviously loved his people.  The anger that he had toward them was a compassionate one and one that was looking out to their best interests.  Moses had just won the favor of God and used it to have Him not destroy them.  He may have lived to rethink that a time or two, but it was still the right decision. 

When he got back to the camp and heard the people singing and rejoicing before their calf god, he got so angry with them that he threw the tablets down and broke them.  Don’t feel bad, you aren’t the first person to get angry and break something by throwing it. 

God had Moses chisel out another set of tablets and rewrote the law on them.  So we, when we do foolish things out of our anger, should do what we can to make it right afterwards.  Moses refused to lead his people without the Presence of God going with them.  He acknowledged that he could not lead these people without it.  In response to Moses demanding to see the glory of God:

Exodus 34:5-7

5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

God is slow to anger.

Choices always come with consequences.  When we choose to sin against God, our bad choice doesn’t only affect us.  In fact, God said that it will impact our children down to the third and fourth generation.  To choose to repent of our sin?  Well, God’s love and faithfulness will be maintained for a thousand generations following us!

The emotion of anger comes fairly quickly.  So, how can we love others by being slow to anger?

James 1:19-22

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

When anger begins to burn, here are some tips to slow it down.  Now we can do all of these things in just a moment of time, but we have to be intentional to do them when anger begins.

1. Stop!

We are called to be a people who live by faith and not by sight.  We need to choose to respond by faith and not simply react to our feelings.  As we train ourselves to do this more and more, we will grow the spiritual fruit of self-control, which helps make this step possible.

Love is slow to anger.

2. Why am I angry?

After stopping, check yourself to see why you are truly angry.  Too often, we are quick to anger because of something completely unrelated to our immediate circumstances.  Often, we release our anger in some other area of life on those closest to us and those we love most.  This isn’t right and definitely isn’t fair to them.

Love is slow to anger.

3. Is this healthy or unhealthy anger?

Yes, you are angry.  That emotion is there and it is coming on strong.  Is my anger being caused by compassion toward someone and looking to their best interests?  Or is my anger out of a selfish motive because I am simply annoyed or irritated?  This can be difficult to judge sometimes.

Say for example that a friend is caught up in an addiction and they are looking to you to bail them out of a bind once again.  It is a fine line between being angry for the right and wrong reasons.  Are you angry with them because you care about them and know that they are making choices that are destroying their lives.  Or are you angry with them because their mess is spilling out into your own life and becoming inconvenient?  Our response to this anger can either try to lead them to freedom or simply out of your life.

Some examples are a little easier to identify as unhealthy anger such as someone breathing heavily or chewing with their mouths open or, in some extreme cases, existing.

Love is slow to anger.

4. How can I respond in my anger without sinning?

Ephesians 4:22-27

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

There are thousands of techniques and methods to deal with the emotion of anger.  Find one that works for you.  Whether it be to take a walk or exercise, invest in a punching bag, slow breathing, or whatever else might work, we have to first cool down.

Even if our anger is a healthy, we aren’t going to make wise decisions in the midst of that emotion.  Moses had healthy anger, but still made a bad decision by throwing and breaking the first set of ten commandments.

Once we’ve cooled down emotionally, we must be truthful with the trigger of our anger.  We have to sit down and talk with whomever we are angry with face-to-face.  We first have to accept personal responsibility for our own anger, but try to come up with a solution to lessen that trigger as well.  Don’t wait too long to do this, either.

If we don’t deal with the source of our anger, it will be triggered over and over and over again causing us to become bitter.  Sweeping the issue under the rug or excusing it away simply won’t work when it comes to anger.

If we remain angry and bitter, we give the devil a foothold in our lives.  He’ll use that foothold as a shut-off valve for the love of God flowing through our lives.  Our hearts will only harden and grow cold and the littlest thing will set us off into a fit of rage. 

It stops not only the love of God in our lives, but all of the other fruits of the Spirit as well.  If joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are lessening in our lives and fits of rage, envy, drunkenness, and snipping at people have risen up, we may have an unhealthy anger problem to deal with.

Love is slow to anger.