Do you have the right to ever be angry?
Think about that for a moment. I believe our instinctual and worldly answer is to say yes, yes there are certain situations where it definitely makes sense that we can and should be angry.
What if that isn’t true, what if the Bible says you don’t ever have the right to be angry?
Well what do you mean Ben, what about when “bad things happen to good people”, or when someone does some unthinkable evil deed, like murder people or cut me off when I am driving? What about when someone does something that is a sin, shouldn’t I be angry with them for rebelling and not listening to God? What about someone who insults me and purposefully tries to attack me physically or emotionally? What you’re saying is I don’t have a right to be angry?
Well no…that’s not what I am saying, that’s what God is saying.
Now of course we are not made perfect and we are all going to be angry at times, that is the nature of being a human. However what Brant Hansen has stated in his book, Unoffendable, has totally changed my perspective on anger and being offended.
He states you can “choose” to be unoffendable and believes we should make that choice. After reading this book I have to agree.
At some point in time we have all been offended. Some of us do a great job of physically and emotionally showing it externally and some of us do a better job keeping it in internally. Personally I would say I am the latter, my nature and personality stops me from being a confrontational person so if I feel offended I’ve typically held it in. I try and act like everything is alright. Only what I discovered is that starts to harbour bitterness and resentment, two big enemies that for so long delayed me from coming to Christ. Because the truth be told, I was angry, bitterful and resentful towards God for the situations I found myself in early in life. I would try and hide that everything was okay or that something didn’t bother me, but instead in my head I was screaming. So initially when I picked up this book, I thought this is awesome I will read this book and then pass it on to people who I definitely know have anger issues. What I wasn’t expecting, is for it to have a huge impact on what I thought at the time was a non-issue for me. But alas, as the author states “If I think I can put one over on people and convince them that I’ve got my act together, the only one I am fooling is me.” So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we never get offended, it will happen, it’s how you react that makes all the difference…but “ what if –just dreaming out loud here–Christians were known as the people you couldn’t offend?”
So what does the Bible say to do when you are angry?
“When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.”
This is a scripture that our household runs on and is very important I believe to a successful marriage. Let’s be real, arguments are going to happen, however by not allowing any anger to spill over to the following day it stops resentment and bitterness from ever getting a stronghold in your relationships.
“But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk.”
“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”
It is clear in the Bible that “anger is always–not sometimes, always– associated with foolishness, not wisdom.” As Brant Hansen states in his book, “the Bible gives us ample commands to act, and never, ever, says to do it out of anger.”
At the end of the day, “being offended is a tiring business. Letting things go gives you energy.” This is so true, I’ve always noticed that when I have my focus on negative things and people or situations that are frustrating me, I just have no energy to do the things that will make God smile at me. Hansen encourages us to go into situations thinking “I am not going to be offended. No matter what.”
So how did Jesus handle all these angry people?
In his last moments he’s asking God, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” There is Jesus, offended to the highest degree, being brutally crucified between two others and he’s asking, wanting and willing to forgive those who offended him.
“A fair question, then: Is that same Jesus living in and through me, still saying that?” Such a great question by the author. As he goes on to state, “Jesus encountered one moral mess after another, and He was never taken aback by anyone’s morality. Ever…[so why] are we going to live in perpetual shock at the nature of man?” I think it’s easy in today’s society to be morally offended and look at people and feel sadness on how someone could carry themselves in a such a manner to degrade what God has given them. However we need to “quit thinking it’s up to [us] to police people, and that God needs you to “take a stand.” Jesus didn’t ask us to take a stand for truth on everything. He told His followers to go and make disciples. Make other followers.”
I never thought of anger as something of value, but it is and that’s why “giving it up requires a sacrifice.” Many people choose to hold onto their anger as if it’s something they own. However Jesus is saying he owns it, and to give it to Him. Seems like an amazing deal, so why do most of us choose to hold on it to it? I think it is because we love being in control.
Here’s the thing, “in order for us to justify our right to anger, we have to confuse ourselves with God.” That pretty much sums it up, the only one who has the “right” to be angry is God. Ouch. When we practice being unoffendable and forgive those who offend us it means you have to “actually, for real, be trusting God.” As Hansen explains, “the myth of righteous anger actually impedes the taking of action, because it lets us congratulate ourselves for a feeling, rather than for doing something.” Man that is some tough love. I believe we humans by nature love our sense of control, and that is why it so hard for us to let go of our right to be angry. However when we accept that we don’t need to have it our way that is when we are able to step out of anger and fully surrender our will to God. “When we surrender control, there’s so much less at stake in life for us. We have nothing to prove, and when we really believe that, we’ll hardly be quick to anger.”
Maybe you have heard of the story where Jesus is gathering disciples and a man comes to Him and is willing to give up everything and then Jesus asks him to give up all his money, and being a rich man he walks away sad, unable to give up his wealth. Brant Hansen does a great job of relating that to our anger dilemma. “Many of us who live in this society that is so riven with anger, even addicted to it, Jesus is giving us a similar demand: Give up your anger. Because of what I’ve done for you, give it up and forgive. Sadly, our response is, “that’s not fair” and we walk away too.”
Let’s talk about that. By “that”, I mean this idea of “fairness.” Fortunately for us, sometimes there is not a correlation between what we get and what we deserve. As a child this is a hard concept to understand and even as an adult when you see all the stuff that is happening in war-torn countries and poverty-stricken villages, it can make your heart ache. However “the kingdom of God knows nothing of balance.” When we are born into the kingdom and become a citizen of the Kingdom, it means we are “operating in a whole new economy, and grace–unfair, imbalanced grace–is the currency.”
Grace is an amazing thing and even to this day it’s something that puts me in awe. For all the rules religions may have and our world may have, they don’t really change a person deep down. But Grace does. The author brings us back to the story where Jesus is hanging out with Zacchaeus, a tax collector. Every religious person thought he was crazy and took offense to Jesus hanging out with him. “The very fact that Jesus wasn’t offended by him, and would be with him, and would show love to him in front of others, and would sit in his dining room–that changed his heart. And that’s just it: it’s always grace that changes hearts.” When I read that, that was super powerful for me. I feel as though sometimes Christians are afraid to hang out with those that Jesus hung out with. That by being around people who do not walk with God, that we would somehow be condoning the way they live, the way they behave. However as Hansen points out, our job isn’t to accept or disagree with their unbiblical living but to “redeem it.”
How we handle anger and show it is very important when it comes to relationships. Some of us just try to be right for the sake of being right, always needing to be on the winning side of the argument. That’s definitely been me and an area I am working on. Hansen makes a great insight in saying that “when people are in crisis or need to know that God loves them, that they’re not alone, they don’t seek out the guy who thinks he’s Mr.Answer or who radiates superiority and disapproval. They want someone who loves God and loves them.” Clearly it was something the author struggled with as well as he goes on to say “my goal with relationships is no longer to try to change people. It’s to introduce people to a God who is already reaching toward them, right where they are.” It fits into that saying that changed people, change people. When I hear another person’s story or testimony and learn everything they have overcome, that changes me. Being able to see how far someone has come, that’s what gives me hope to know that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
The author challenges us to have an attitude of self-forgetfulness. “Self-forgetfulness happens when we’re emotionally healthy. It’s remembering that God is my defender, His opinion is what matters, and whatever my offenders are doing to me, I’ve done to others as well. And God has forgiven me. I simply must forgive in return and forfeit my right to anger.” Hansen believes that when Paul wrote about getting rid of all anger, the point was really about freedom. “Freedom to have God-given sight, the ability to look at that highly offensive person and see what is not yet, as though it were.”
“Choosing to be unoffendable out of love for others is ministry. And real ministry forces us to abandon our relentless search for approval from others….that frees us to love…beautifully and recklessly.”
I choose to be unoffendable. I choose to forgive those that offend me. I choose to be gracious even when it doesn’t make sense. I choose to surrender it all to God. I hope you do too.
The book has a ton of amazing stories that I was unable to share here yet they are so amazing. I highly encourage you to pick up this book.