Anger and Forgiveness

Anger is rooted in a moral sense of what is right and what is wrong.  The origins of this inner sense begins with a God-given conscience that informs us of how things ‘ought’ to be (Romans 2:14-15).  Over the course of a lifetime that inner compass is further shaped by our life experiences, our families and friends, our culture and the world around us.  When the world around us matches our personal sense of how things ought to be we have little cause for anger.  Conversely, when the world around us does not match our sense of how things ought to be we perceive that we have cause to be angry.

Because of our sin we live in a world where people have the opportunity to make right and wrong choices.   When people make wrong choices it upsets our sense of how things should be and so we often react with anger.  We assume that people should inherently desire to make good choices and that they should inherently know what those choices should be.   Indeed, our anger is fueled when we witness the injustices of our world that violate our sense of how things ought to be.

These injustices can happen at any number of levels.  In our culture today the discussions about bullying, racism, road rage and civil rights are all founded in our sense of right and wrong, good and bad and the innocent victims of poor choices.  These injustices permeate our fallen world from the one-on-one interactions between two people all of the way to nation-states as they struggle for power and control at the expense of the innocent citizens that they are supposed to represent.

And so, it is not surprising that God, Himself, becomes angry over the wrong choices people make, particularly when the disenfranchised are mistreated because of others who have decided that their own desires are more important than the well-being of the defenseless.   The so-called imprecatory Psalms of the Old Testament (e.g., Psalm 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 82, 83, 94, 109, 137, 139) provide a helpful format to consider how it all works together.  They also give us an insight into an avenue of expression to God that helps the victims of injustice and injury deal with their pain and misfortune in the light of God’s justice and mercy.

First, David focuses upon God’s righteousness and his personal desire to be allied with God in an intimate, personal way.  Secondly, he will ask God to exercise his righteousness by correcting the situation.  Finally, he confesses his trust in God’s ultimate resolution of the imbalances in the world.

The key seems to be that the Lord has exclusive claim to setting the scales correctly and bringing about justice according to His own timing (Romans 12:18-20).  We are called upon to simply trust in Him to do so when the time is right, for His name’s sake.  The imprecatory psalms (along with other similar passages in Scripture) show us that it is good to ask that God’s will be done in the implementation of justice and then practice leaving it there, at the foot of His throne.

For those who struggle with personal injury due to the immoral behavior of others across the spectrum of human experience, this may be the only recourse for healing in cases where the perpetrator has passed away.  When the person causing injury is a former spouse and the Christian is called upon to forgive, learning to allow God to balance the scales by leaving it with Him may give the emotional room to deal with the continuing challenges that come with, for example, difficult post-divorce situations.

All of the way through, trusting God to do the right thing–and asking that His will be done–is always the right answer.


For more detailed discussion, thanks for the article, Preaching Imprecatory Psalms, by John Marks Hicks.


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