Friday, June 15, 2012

John Wycliffe—A man who struggled with anger

This blog post is for everyone, because everyone gets angry, even the great John Wycliffe. 

His biographer states, 
“Wycliffe found no rest at Lutterworth (where he stayed during the last two years of his life) and perhaps he did not really seek it. There was in every sense too much unfinished business, both positive and negative. He was full of anger and resentment. His language breaks into violence in sermon after sermon. It is hard to escape the impression that he had more enemies than close friends.”
Anger and resentment. Yeah....I hear you. 

Here are 4 things I try to remind myself about anger:

#1--Anger is a serious sin.

Don’t minimize it. Don’t rename It. (This is when we say things like, “I am frustrated” or “I am just working through some stuff” or “I am just processing”, etc.). Let us not forget that Jesus makes it clear that God takes anger very seriously.

Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

I am often humbling by the words of Christ because I am reminded that it is my heart that God sees. It is my heart by which I am judged. Am I really better than the abuser down the street if our hearts are the same?

#2--Righteous anger is rare.

I have heard it said many times by certain Christians, "There  is an anger that is appropriate and biblical."  

These individuals usually refer to this verse. 

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

To be clear, this verse does not command that a Christian must get angry, but instead, if anger arises, then it must be exhibited without sin.

Matthew Henry explains,
"If you have a just occasion to be angry at any time, see that it be without sin; and therefore take heed of excess in your anger." Furthermore, If we would be angry and not sin, we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own.
I have often wondered, “Is this type of anger even possible?” I think it is. But again, I believe it is rare.

Furthermore, if Henry is right, this disqualifies most (if not all) of my moments of anger. A good question to ask yourself is this: “Does this outburst of anger qualify?" or "Are my thoughts at this moment more about God's glory and His name or my name, my reputation and my desires?" 

#3--Anger is a emotional rejection of the sovereignty (and goodness) of God.

Normally, we become angry when we don’t get what we want or in a time frame that we want it. Our anger is basically a “shake your fist at God moment”, because He is getting in the way.

And yet most people, even in their anger, would claim they believe in the sovereignty of God. They would affirm that God is in control, that He knows the future and some would even say He had ordained every moment of every human’s life.

Then why get angry? Why shake your fist at God? I think the main reason is that we reject the goodness of God in some sovereign acts. In those angry moments, God is not good; rather He is insensitive, aloof and indifferent to my daily struggles. He only cares about His plan and His glory, which somehow doesn’t really integrate the promise below. 

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Someone may ask, "Is it good for God or good for us?" Isn’t it both? One without the other would make God a fickle deity. Fickleness is not in the character of a good God.

#4--Anger is always connected to idolatry.

Someone once told me that when we respond in a fit of anger, it is very likely that you care too much about that “thing”.

What is that “thing”? It could be anything. Hobbies, sex, structure, respect, happiness, comfortability, etc. But aren’t all of these “things” are appropriate to pursue or enjoy? You bet they are…..assuming that these specific “things” never become more important to you that pleasing God and living according to His will.

How do you know when one of these “things” becomes an idol? Well… you get angry when your schedule gets thrown off? Do you get angry when your wife respectfully challenges the amount of time you spend on your hobby? Do you get angry when you are overlooked for a raise or a promotion? If you do, then the questions you ought to be asking yourself are, “Where is God in this situation?” or “Do I really believe that God is in control?” or finally “Is He really good and if so, then what is the Romans 8:28 principle I need to apply to my situation?”

Sadly, I still fall so short of God’s command in James 1:19-20.

James 1:19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Don’t lose heart, though. God’s parental forgiveness is just a genuine confession away (I John 1:9).


  1. Hello,

    Haven't seen this blog until today, so, hello again.

    Just read the article concerning anger, it was interesting, but I have some questions, and a few scriptures.

    What can we say of Jesus, who in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 2, overturned the tables of the moneychangers, and it records in John 2:17 "...zeal for Your house has eaten Me up"?

    Eaten Me up? Was He angry?

    When He calls the Pharisees, and leaders broods of vipers and hypocrites, was He angry?

    Also, the scripture given in Matthew 5v22, depending on the translation you use, reads,
    "...angry at his brother, without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment..."

    Ephesians 4:26,"Be angry, and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath."

    Verse 27, "nor give place to the devil."

    Giving place to the devil is dangerous in any case, let alone anger.

    If anger is there, it should have a cause, not, as is said, 'getting up out of the wrong side of the bed' etc.

    Anger cannot be condoned, but anger at sin should be expected, but not exploded.

    The One most qualified to get angry, is God. We are at the mercy of His wrath and judgment.

    God bless.

  2. Dora,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that Jesus expressed anger and His anger is righteous because He is perfect since He is God. Appreciate your interaction.