“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church.” On what day? On the day Stephen testified on his behalf before the Sanhedrin and essentially accused them of idolatry. People were furious and stoned Stephen. Watching all this was Saul who started “going house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” Being angry enough to kill and persecute is being angry in the extreme. Anger can be a motivating emotion, for good but far too often it motivates for destruction.
An elder once gave me a verse from the story of Cain and Abel, the first murder scenario in the Bible. These brothers brought their offerings to God. God preferred Abel’s and Cain was furious and killed his brother. God speaks to Cain, “
Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:6,7)
We are told in Ephesians 4:26, ” Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Psalms has many verses written by King David pleading God not to respond to him in anger for his sins but also asking God to deal with evil. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus says that hate is really murder in our heart. The mass shootings in our culture today also cause me to reflect on our cultural ways for dealing with anger. Shooting is one way. We follow wars around the world. Mass public trials that ruin all people involved is another. Some of us resort by eating, alcohol or other addictions. Whatever our “gun of choice” it seems to me that anger is taking judgment into our own hands and out of God’s.
We can look at culture but ultimately we must look at ourselves. Saul was driven by anger to destroy others, thinking he could wipe out the evil misinformation. It did not. Christianity spread. So what are we angry about today? Are we angry enough to kill…ok, hate? Let us take a moment and ask God to shine the light of truth in our heart and reveal any unresolved anger that we need to deal with before the sun goes down. Sometimes we need God’s help to face the truth and then to help us figure out a way to master the problem and resolve it. This is hard stuff we read today. Lord, help. Have mercy on us and on those suffering from the anger of others!