There are many things in this sin-cursed life that make the blood of the believers boil. When things like abortion, corruption, prostitution, riots, and abusive relationships fill the news and seem to be promoted by so many, we as Christians should feel a certain level of moral outrage. Even in the more personal trials of life we rightly sense some anger at unjust and dishonest behaviour by individuals or organisations that we regularly interact with.
But, in all this, even righteous, anger, we may not sin. How is that even possible? Psalm 4 has something to teach us regarding that godly road of non-sinful anger.
Be angry, and do not sin;Psalm 4:4-5 (ESV)
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.
Almost all anger we know is sinful anger. We get angry when we don’t get our way, and we respond in shouting or pouting, in violence or apathy, in confrontation or avoidance, in worry and fear. Such anger is never ever OK (Ephesians 4:31)
But here in Psalm 4, David is angry because his righteousness and honour and godliness, though known to God, is being turned into distress and shame by the lies and schemes of evil men (Psalm 4:1-3).
His anger though, is not our typical, sinful, anger. Instead, because sin done against him is so abhorred, he himself commits not to sin in his anger against sin (Psalm 4:4). Instead of venting his frustrations, he goes to bed and reflects on it in the worshipful meditations of his own mind (Psalm 4:4). We know that worship is his focus, for in Psalm 4:5 he affirms that the mental state of his nightly meditations did not produce bitterness, but rather a desire to go to the tabernacle and offer sacrifice to the LORD in whom He trusts.
Furthermore, he doesn’t angrily demand justice from the perpetrators, but instead knows that God will set all things straight again (Psalm 4:6). The end of Davids ‘angry episode’ is defined by more joy than a good party, and a sense of perfect peace (Psalm 4:7-8).
This anger of David is completely different to the normal anger we select when responding to bad things that happen. Next time, take instruction from David. Choose a better anger. Be outraged by sin and its effects in this world and in your own life. But don’t sin – not with your mouth; not with your actions. Instead, use the opportunity to infuse the sinful situation with theological meditations so that your attention is placed back on God’s sovereignty. Unlike the consequences of common anger, this will result in personal joy and peace.
Test your anger with this: Does it make me more zealous to go to pray, read your Bible, and go to Church?