By Shawn McMullen
For some time, I’ve been asking the Lord to bring to light every area of my life, great or small, that doesn’t conform to his holy will. As he makes these areas known to me, I ask the Holy Spirit’s help to put to death every misdeed of the body (see Romans 8:13).
God certainly answers prayer! In the last few years he’s brought to my attention several areas of my life that were not firmly under the control of his Spirit—and I’m sure there are more to come. Recently, he has helped me deal with anger.
I’m not an angry person by nature. In fact, I think I’m rather easygoing. I’m not quick-tempered, I’m not a shouter, and I try to think before I speak. But I have discovered that controlling my temper in a way that honors God goes beyond the obvious.
Not long ago, Ree and I were traveling on a highway that runs through our town. We weren’t in a hurry, and we were keeping a comfortable distance between our vehicle and the driver ahead of us. But for some reason, the driver in front of us hit his brakes several times while looking into his rearview mirror. He seemed annoyed at us, but for no apparent reason. Finally, we moved into an adjacent lane and passed him. As we did, I made eye contact with the impatient driver and pointed to the lane where he should have been driving. Realizing my response stemmed from anger, no matter how subtle, I apologized to Ree and dismissed the incident.
Later that day, we were standing near the checkout lanes of a retail store when a loud altercation erupted. I turned to see two customers, toe-to-toe, screaming at each other, exchanging accusations and hateful looks. Their verbal battle continued until the two angrily parted company. It was an ugly, awkward, uncomfortable scene.
We stopped at a local drug store on our way home. Ree went inside while I stayed in the car. Suddenly I heard a long, loud string of expletives coming from a car parked behind us. I couldn’t see the entire scene, but knew someone was being very vile—and very ugly—to someone else in the parking lot.
That evening I spent some time processing the day’s events. I had witnessed two mean-spirited confrontations fueled by ungodly anger. I thought about the ugliness of the two encounters. And then it occurred to me. Although my own reaction to the driver on the highway may have seemed more refined than the two emotional outbursts I witnessed, my expression of anger that day was just as ugly in the sight of God.
I’m sure when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger . . . along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31), he wasn’t making allowance for degrees. He was telling us every form of ungodly anger displeases the Lord.