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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández


Updated: Jun 14, 2022


So how do we begin to understand: 19 little children and 2 teachers dead? 10 people just out to get milk and eggs at a local grocery store never coming home. Worshippers are trapped by a shooter behind chained and glued locked doors in a US church most of the shooter’s 3 bags of arsenal are still unused.

And these are only the latest in what has become an undeniable epidemic of violence and hate. Senseless brutality. Anger from perceived and yes, sometimes real offences that infect then spread poisons that lead to the senseless and unthinkable. Anger justifies the unjustifiable as it lashes out.

The same poisons that allow a leader to release a barrage of weapons on a country’s citizens not caring who is killed all in his efforts to satisfy his wants and demands. The magnitude of evils like these is impossible to comprehend and yet the seeds of that anger, the same that raises our fist, our voice, our thoughts when someone blocks what we want, we deserve. And denied these, anger quickly rising to the surface then erupting as it justifies.

Justifying for wrongs done, things taken, accusations made.

Admittedly, our anger is not headline-making like the things just noted but the seeds are the same Our anger eruptions are nowhere near as horrific. But the one who pulls the strings of our anger is the same one who pulls the strings of those others. Only he knows what works best with us. For most, his work is done in our families, in our immediate relationships and fewer cases, in the places we work doing its damage, infecting, wounding and killing in its own type of way.

Scripture tells us that our enemy waits on our unchecked anger to get a foothold in our lives to do his work.

He knows our red rag issues that will make our snorting bull come charging. For some that may mean playing on injustices and wrongs in homes grown up in. For some, nurtured by people associated with or arising from a circumstance encountered. And yes, for some just angry by nature, only needing the smallest spark to ‘let ‘er rip’. Left unchecked, this anger is a fire that destroys, like the anger we are considering this morning from Scripture.

Before going further, consider this view of anger (see target) to help us understand that anger isn’t a primary emotion which is to say, that a lot of other emotions hide under anger. In short, anger is a symptom, not a cause. It’s a signal that something else is wrong. Most often the hidden emotion is hurt – hurt from a violation suffered, a worth not given, a goal denied. The problem is those things aren’t seen which too often means solutions focus on the anger leaving the hurt untouched. It’s like directing water on 20’ high flames while ignoring the fire’s source. The water may be effective in taking some heat out of the burn but it does nothing to quell the fire. And often those fires go underground.

There’s one more point that we need to look at when it comes to anger. Some anger is not only bad, it is justified. God has created us emotionally just as much as He created us intellectually. Our intellect isn’t good and our emotions bad, yet we incline to honour the intellect and devalue the emotion. It’s true, that we aren’t to be held hostage by our emotions nor make decisions that aren’t passed through our intellect but our emotions need to be listened to rather than denied. Eph 4:26 says, “Be angry, yet do not sin” which tells us some things will and should make us angry - when an injustice is done when an innocent is harmed when people are taken advantage of. When the hurt is done to us was incredibly wrong. Being angry is telling us that anger isn’t to be stuffed or denied.

Instead, it should drive us to first face and admit the wrong and then take steps to do what we can to make the wrong right. The answer then is not to say, I shouldn’t feel angry rather it is what am I going to do with the anger that I feel? With one major qualifier - in how we respond, don’t sin. Don’t get back. Don’t react to the wrong by doing wrong. Don’t use words and tones justifying or rationalizing these as your way of doing anger. Don’t harbour anger or give it a home. Let its stay be short and its purpose, as much as it depends on us, be redemptive and full of grace. All this to say, anger is to be acknowledged and constructively used - never to hurt or destroy; never to erupt and spew out on others. As we are told;

Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Eph 4:26-29

So with that as context, let’s dive in to look at events in Scripture that are steeped in anger, its major player allowing his anger to burn long, its intensity eventually consuming him.

The background, given us in Esther 1 begins with a king who invites every one of importance from his vast kingdom to come and spend time in Susa. This is no delegate restricted, numbers capped registration. This is a wide-open, you come if you’re important invite. The invite is quite the event, 6-month regalia during which we are told, the king displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendour and glory of his majesty. So understand, this is an invite with a catch, a be impressed,’ look what I’ve done’ expectation where ego and identity are on the line. Affirm the power and glory of who I am and all is well. Give me the honour I deserve, the outcomes I want, and all is well. But threaten this or don’t deliver this, and the conditions are ripe for the first type of anger seen, REACTIVE ANGER – close to the surface anger where my identity, my sense of worth is threatened. Note the setting.

This 6-month exhibition ended with a banquet of too much food and too much liquor. The lights and bar did not shut down at 2 AM. This wine-flowing feast tacked onto the end of the 6-month tour and went on for 7 days. On the 7th day of this drunken bash, the host of this ego trip, King Xerxes, called for his wife to be paraded out as a spectacle before all those assembled. But Queen Vashti is having none of it, which enrages the humiliated king, so in an act of reactive rage, Vashti is removed as Queen.

Chapter 2 gives us one more interesting snippet, When the anger of King Xerxes subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done, and what had been decided regarding her. In other words, in his inebriated anger, he was unaware of his actions, but his rash, the angry decision wasn’t open to change. His reactive anger resulted in consequences from which there was no point of return, no ‘do over’. Reacting because his need for respect wasn’t met. His reputation and his image are at stake. His anger and ours, so often about our image where we aren’t validated as we think we deserve. And when it’s not, our anger bull, snorting and stomping, often leading to actions taken that in the light of day, we deeply regret.

From here we move into the heart of the story where anger runs amuck. Chapter 2 introduces us to Mordecai, some of the descriptions seemingly unimportant but far more important than what appears at 1st glance – Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite while Haman, a central player in what happens next, is an Agagite. We’ve seen these genealogies before in 1 Sam 15:8 where King Saul, a Benjaminite, the son of Kish, has captured but not killed King Agag as God commanded. God’s command was given because these people hated Israel and would try to destroy her. In this case, further evidence that anger’s power can pass from generation to generation, in this case, all the way to Haman, an Agagite.

GENERATIONAL ANGER passed down that leads to unspeakable atrocities justified by considering some less than. Anger that poisons and distorts. Anger that warps what we think selects what we see, then justifies what we do. De-personalizing then dehumanizing. Because that’s what anger does, leading to actions that enslave.

Taking young from families to satisfy someone else’s wants or needs. Invading a continent to enslave an entire race as an economy required a workforce. Justifying inhumanity, brutality and slaughter – blacks enslaved and held down, Khmer Rouge eliminating Cambodians, Hutus against Tutsis, Nazi atrocities against Jews. A dictator is greedy for more. Events are always justified even though no justification is possible.

We’ll see that belief in Haman who transfers what he considers the offence of one, Mordecai, a Jew, to represent the offence of all, an entire nation. And as he sees it, the way to remove the offence is to remove the offender and in this case, that means the removal of all.

The thing about anger is it often goes underground not making itself known sometimes even to ourselves. It’s planted in words said, opinions held, treatment given, ‘evidence’ from an isolated event, slowly absorbed until they are collected to validate viewpoints that are never examined. Anger biding its time, waiting for the right time to flame into action.

Nursing thoughts and attitudes until they are revealed in actions. Because our actions follow our thoughts. Thoughts that swirl and go unchecked. Beliefs revisited and put on replay. Attitudes grown and stored, oxygen supplied. Consider where the honour offence took Haman -

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel or pay him honour, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead, Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. 3:5,6

It’s likely Mordecai refused to bow to Haman because he would only bow to the Lord God but no doubt a contributor was also because of what Haman stood for and his simmering hatred of the Jews as well as the foreign gods he represented. Whatever the reason, Mordecai’s refusal to bow, despite the King’s command, infuriated Haman. And it was that seething anger that gave birth to a plot where Haman wanted to put an end to Mordecai and his people, the Jews.

At least he had a context for ending Mordecai’s life but there was no case for going further except that anger and hate had coursed through him so long that those actions were easy to justify. Take a look at the JUSTIFICATIONS OF ANGER he presents to the King.

There is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, —

and they do not keep the king’s laws, so it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, so that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.” So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. The king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, and the people as well, to do with them as it seems good to you.” Esth 3:8-11

Notice how Haman presents his case - There is a certain people – those who are different and don’t belong because they’re not like us. Scattered and separated – in other words, people of a small number and no account. Who doesn’t keep the King’s laws – in other words, marginalized as ones who oppose and pose a threat, they’re not to be tolerated and should be destroyed – now no longer people, rather more like vermin in a field that should be removed. So based on the evidence presented, the Kings, do with them as it seems good to you.

The language of the ‘less than, the expendable, planted seed by seed – each seed on its own small but with enough seeds planted, something too easily believed. The language of anger going unchallenged from which comes incomprehensible evil. Exactly what is seen as Haman’s unsupportable evidence was accepted, the plot to destroy all the Jews was set in motion with an added enticement of 10,000 silver talents in order to exterminate the Jews.


Listen to what Esther 5 says, That day Haman left full of joy and in good spirits. But when Haman saw Mordecai at the King’s Gate and Mordecai didn’t rise or tremble in fear at his presence, Haman was filled with rage toward Mordecai. Yet Haman controlled himself and went home. He sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh to join him. Then Haman described for them his glorious wealth and his many sons. He told them all how the king had honored him and promoted him in rank over the other officials and the royal staff. “What’s more,” Haman added, “Queen Esther invited no one but me to join the king at the banquet she had prepared. I am invited again tomorrow to join her with the king. Still, none of this satisfies me since I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s Gate all the time.” Esth 5:9-13

Look how we see Haman at the beginning of this account, he’s got almost everything he could want. He is 2nd in the Kingdom. His mood – on top of the world, until one man doesn’t see him as he sees himself. One man who won't bow and life implodes. His anger consuming him because what he doesn’t have is what he must have. As he sees it, he is entitled. His position tells him that. His reputation tells him that. His accomplishments tell him that.

If the consequences from his anger motivated actions weren’t so dire, it would be easy to think Haman is little more than some petulant, snivelly nose child – it’s not fair, you’re not nice. I deserve; I should have. The problem is we often act the same, the consequences less but what drives is the same. Our anger appearing in more presentable ways that thankfully, don’t make it to print. Like the shaking my head that I do when another car cuts in front - how dare they? how could they? or when I retell that story of being wronged or misrepresented just one more time because my side deserves to be heard or …. you get the point.

Violations – just like those that blinded Haman to everything he had. Power, wealth, family, friends, accomplishment. His blessings significant enough that he wanted others to know. There was only one problem undealt anger never goes away, it only grows. Dangerously – until it hates. And in that hate it justifies, making the other less than. As someone observed, Anger is the poison we drink and expect the other person to die.

Anger going from offense to payback as Haman had done. All because of something he’d been denied. Respect never given. Achievement never rewarded. And from those things – the anger of damaged pride and pain driven revenge. And what results? - anger that soon destroys.

I wonder, how many relationships do we have that are still damaged today because of something that was said or not said, a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago? Things that have never been made right. A marriage that’s on life support. Kids emotionally distant because of their wounds. Friendships no longer held. Things we think have been left in our rear view mirror, the problem is, they are still bumper attached; and no matter how fast we travel, they are carried with us. Things we need to make right as much as in our power to do.

So what more does the Bible tell us about how to tame our Raging Bull? First.

DON’T MINIMIZE THE DANGERS of what we still hold to.

What that first requires is taking a good hard look at the hurts we carry from wrongs done or perceived to have been done. Hurt still alive, doing its damage. Eph 4:30,31 tells us, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. This tells us several things, first that when we hold to anger, anger holds to us which grieves the heart of God. The 2nd is that we are to put away anger, which is telling us that getting rid of anger is a choice - not a choice we can make, but a choice we must make. First by admitting our anger. Not denying it, not stuffing it. Not minimizing it. But acknowledging it, then giving our hurts, our pain to God.

SUBTRACT RATHER THAN REACT Eccl 7:9 tells us, anger abides in the hearts of fools. Prov 15:18 says, a hot tempered, quick to anger spirit causes quarrels and stirs up conflict. So we are to get rid of a spirit that damages and instead be people who forgive. In part this is to take every thought captive, doing this before thoughts gather steam and take us where we don’t want to go. Thought catching where we become aware of our thoughts that add fuel to what we feel. Where the how could they’s and why did they’s have light shone upon them so we can stop what they are saying and in that awareness, strip them of their power.

DON’T INTERACT with angry people. Don’t make friends with an angry person, and don’t be a companion of a hot-tempered one, or you will learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Prov 22:24,25 Don’t listen to their stories, don’t be part of their company. If that means breaking off relationships, do it. Cut them off. As 1 Cor 15:33 says, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” When wrong is done to us, it’s easy to find others who are happy to reinforce our anger stories because anger is how they do life. Don’t give them that power.

DON’T FAIL TO ACT by letting anger hang around. So be careful with your words, doing what Jam 1:19 tells us, Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

And when we do get angry, put a timer alarm on your anger - Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.

"Never forget, the one who wants you to hang onto your anger after the sun goes down is an enemy who loves the darkness as he waits for a foothold to step into your life to do harm."

One more thing, too often we fail to act because we hold onto the ‘fact’ that they were in the wrong. Who cares! Is our pride that we were in the right, worth the loss of that relationship? Is the damage done by holding onto the wrongs worth the damage paid by those who mirror how you live? Is your need to get payback worth your emotional and physical cost? Is it worth what you are doing to the cause of Christ?

As I close one thought and then some words of wisdom. 1st the thought - Haman’s anger took him to a gallows which is the place you and I need to take our anger – doing to it what it wants to do to you.

Some final words of wisdom from Frederick Buechner: Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back - in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

Or, this morning, let it go and begin to live free in the power of God’s truth.

Don’t make friends with an angry person, and don’t be a companion of a hot-tempered one, or you will learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Prov 22:24,25

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