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Light From Lucas: Lessons in Faith from a Fragile Life - Part 1

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June 17, 2016

Innocent Emotions Versus Sinful Anger

The Bible teaches the existence of a potentially disastrous flaw in the character of man, which urges him toward sinful behavior even though he may desire to serve God. Paul referred to this inner struggle in Romans 7:21-24: "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

You see, Paul was speaking as a Christian, yet he admitted the existence of an internal war between good and evil. Anger, jealously, envy, etc., are products of this inner nature. Paul was not unique in that regard, for the same predisposition has been inherited by the entire human race. David confessed, "In sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps 51:5, RSV). It is, in effect, the "sin living in me" (Rom 7:17) as opposed to sins which I commit.

Our inbred sinful nature gives rise to a response that we might call "carnal anger" which must be distinguished from anger as a function of frustration or the endocrine system, or emotional and psychological needs. It is, instead, contrary to everything holy and righteous, and cannot by any human striving be nullified.

Virtually, every orthodox denomination acknowledges the biblical teaching I describe, for it is hardly escapable in the Scriptures. However, great disagreement occurs between Christians in regard to the resolution of the problem. The difference in teaching lies in whether or not it can be cleansed in this life and under what circumstances. It is my belief that the Holy Spirit, through an act of divine grace, cleanses and purifies the heart (see Acts 15:8,9) in order that the "body of sin might be rendered powerless" (Rom.6:6).

Do you believe that no further sin can occur after the evil nature has been removed?No, the choice is still ours. Furthermore, it is obvious that we remain subject to human frailty and foibles. We stumble into errors and fall short of God's best for our lives.

Paul asked a vital question in Romans 7:24, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (This body of death made reference to the Roman practice of tying a dead corpse to a person in such a way that he could not extricate himself from it--until the putrefying flesh eventually caused his own death.) Then Paul provided the glorious answer which is applicable to all mankind: "Thanks be to God--[I am rescued] through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:24,25).

What are the characteristics of carnal anger? What aspect of it does God condemn in the Bible?

I see unacceptable anger as that which motivates us to hurt our fellowman--when we want to slash and cut and inflict pain on another person. Remember the experience of the apostle Peter when Jesus was being crucified. His emotions were obviously in a state of turmoil, seeing his beloved Master being subjected to an unthinkable horror. However, Jesus rebuked him when he severed the Roman soldier's ear with a sword. If there ever was a person with an excuse to lash out in anger, Peter seemed to be justified; nevertheless Jesus did not accept his behavior and he compassionately healed the wounded soldier.

There is a vitally important message for all of us in this recorded event. Nothing justifies an attitude of hatred or a desire to harm another person, and we are treading on dangerous ground when our thoughts and actions begin leading us in that direction. Not even the defense of Jesus Christ would justify that kind of aggression.

John told us that hatred for a brother is equivalent to murder (see 1 John 3:15). Thus, sinful anger can occur in the mind, even if it is never translated into overt behavior.

From Dr. Dobson’s book, Emotions: Can You Trust Them? Request this resource HERE.

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