Right now, your brain and mine is programmed to respond with anger to certain cues. Although some of my friends would say, “Whitney, it’s righteous anger”. Well, righteous anger or not, humans love to be respected. No one would gladly sit back and watch another insult him or anything that belongs to him. We’ve got every right to protect our dignity and that of our loved ones. As a result, we all seem to be running on a short fuse, ready to shock anyone that pulls on our plugs. It’s not easy to stay calm and not sin when you’re angry. It’s like running a twenty mile marathon in less than four hours.
Some people think grace should mean you don’t need spiritual practice. If you really have faith, these people reason; the Holy Spirit should just take over your brain and reprogram it so you can be angry without having to sin. But that’s not how it works and if only that were true! God doesn’t want to control your brain. He wants you to be a mature person, not a robot. He made you in his image and called you “good”.
Find someone who is a real pro at love, and ask him how much time he’s spent on the spiritual driving range practicing his swing. He may be embarrassed to tell you how much ?. Studying the Bible involves a lot of explicit learning. You’ve got to know information about how God sees the world. You need to know the fact that God has instructed his people to be angry, but not sin. You need enough knowledge of the rest of the Bible to figure out what he means by being angry but not sinning.
The instruction “In your anger do not sin” is somewhat like the instruction “Run a twenty-mile marathon in less than four hours.” If you’re a couch potato, this instruction about marathon running is probably impossible for you to obey. You’ll need to go into daily training for months or years, and this training will have to make major changes in your brain and body before you’re able to obey this instruction. In the same way, you may not be capable today of being angry with someone but not sinning.
However, the Holy Spirit is eager to be your personal trainer. First of all, He can empower you to do things with your brain and body far beyond what you could ever do by practicing alone. On your own, you might be physically incapable of running twenty miles. On your own, you might be mentally incapable of feeling anger but responding without sin. The Spirit gives you the potential to be an Olympian with regard to loving God and others.
Second, the Spirit will guide you in using your Bible. Many of us feel we can understand God simply by praying and going to church without studying his word. God’s word is alive and its profitable to direct you on life experiences and other spiritual practices in an overall training process for feeling emotional without falling into sinful responses. When you read and think about what the Bible says about emotions and when you read stories in the Bible about people feeling angry and either sinning or not sinning, you’ll begin to get a good picture of what God means when he tells you to be angry but not sin.
The new picture plays a part in retraining your brain. Meanwhile, if you spend time alone with God praying through the biblical passages about emotions, talk with other Christians about what you’ve learned, and then think about these insights as you go through your day, you’ll further reshape the pattern of your brain. Then, when you encounter a situation that makes you angry, your brain won’t be overwhelmed by the angry feelings. Instead, your anger will trigger that command you’ve internalized. “In your anger don’t sin”. And this won’t just be a powerless human thought, helpless in the face of your strong emotions; rather it would be the powerful word of God free to work through your renewed mind.
You will have given the Holy Spirit space and opportunity to use the scriptures to strengthen you in an important moment. Here are few Bible passages on anger: Ephesians 4: 26-31, Ecclesiastes 7:9, Proverbs 15:1, Colossians 3:8.
The Spirit enables you to say, “I can and I will” to God’s command. That’s transformation. As I have earlier stated, right now your brain is programmed to respond with anger to certain cues, especially if you are constantly faced with troubling situations and environment. But with the help from the Holy Spirit, you can retrain your brain to associate the compassion of Jesus Christ with those cues.
If you remember and apply how Jesus Christ acted in a much more severe circumstances, the habit of forgiveness can become automatic. A good habit may take months or years to develop, but cooperation with the Holy Spirit, make a twenty-miles marathon race worth running.
Blessings and Love ???