|RPM, Volume 12, Number 1, January 3 to January 9 2010|
Anger in and of itself is inherently neutral, and will emerge—depending on the motivations—as being predominantly good or predominantly evil. The analysis provided here deals with the bad kind of anger, or actually, with the kind of anger that starts out good then goes bad. This was probably the kind in my case. The analysis of my anger had occurred during the cooling stage after some time had lapsed, when my anger was somewhat remote and I was in a more rational rather than emotionally tumultuous state. It was a fascinating study involving a myriad of implications. I noticed some interesting things concerning the anatomy of unrighteous anger and the pathetic process by which I went about justifying it.
First of all, we must try and see sin as serious as God sees it. The severe warnings given in Matthew 5:21-24 concerning anger and the denigration of others, only serve to underscore the importance of continually striving to acquire a sober posture concerning the gravity of this particular sin or any other type of sin.
The main thing that I noticed while analyzing my anger was that the antagonist underwent a radical—though temporary—transformation in my mind, a strange metamorphosis…. I noticed that the inner arguments and vilifications I had made against this individual were often of a harsh, dehumanizing kind. When I wasn't angry with this person, positive qualities could be seen abounding, overflowing, this individual was considered to be precious, a creature created in the image of God, a being of inestimable worth. When I was angry, while abiding in the flesh, this person became magically transformed into a hideous beast. My denigrations had rendered this person into a thing. In my anger, I ruthlessly debased this person and whether I was aware of it or not, my thoughts made him out to be a soulless entity, or in short, like an animal. The being of this person—the very substance of this person's nature, had been severely diminished or annihilated. My attack had been an ontological one. With regards to this specific individual, a part of my Christian worldview temporarily vanished and was replaced by something more akin to a materialistic conception of creation, which of course, renders humanity into a meaningless conglomeration of atoms, a worthless mass of colliding particles. (On a side note: Sins—whether habitual or not—are often encouraged by distortions, blank spots, weak areas, or heretical places within our worldview.)
All sin, not just unrighteous anger, is an idolatry of the self. There may be other secondary idols involved, but the self is the core idol. Sin is a monstrously rebellious attempt to usurp the authority of and exalt oneself over, the Creator. This is, in essence, the corrupt and incomprehensibly arrogant base from out of which every single sin emerges. When sinning, every single person, even Christians, at least for the duration of the particular sin, tries, in general, to do this. Though Christians can certainly engage in moments and seasons of rebellion towards God, for the unregenerate person, this rebellion never ceases, there's never the brief stay of a truly righteous action in their warfare against God. In one sense, on a horizontal plain, the unregenerate man—through common grace—can do something good for his fellow man, but these acts, from a vertical perspective, can never account as something good done before God.
Lust, like anger, obviously dehumanizes people as well, for the object of lust is only of any worth in so far as he or she holds the capacity to impart pleasure, to satiate the lustful one. As a matter of fact, upon reflection, along with lust and anger, many, if not all of our sins committed against others or ourselves, seem to contain this same dehumanizing denominator, this same kind of denigration to one degree or another, and ultimately, each of our sins are, whether consciously or unconsciously, attempts to rebel against, suppress, diminish, or even annihilate, God Himself. Of course, regardless of our thoughts, desires and actions, the Triune God will forever remain the immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, sovereign Lord over all creation.
Why is this destructive, dehumanizing, devaluing factor, of which, is so deeply woven within the very fabric of sin, embraced and used by the one committing the sin? One reason is the fact that the devaluing element fosters the illusion in the mind of the one committing the sin, that he's better than this particular person or better than others in general. It's yet another temptation, among the billions, which appeal to our pride, though in reality, any attempt to devalue others ends up debasing the one committing the sin. If an individual, whether Christian or non-Christian, fails to find his esteem and identity in Christ—Who is unchanging and Who alone can give him joy, contentment, and a true understanding of who he is and his worth in the great scheme of life—then he will have to try and find it somewhere and in something else, a process by the way, which always involves idolatry, and these mutable idols will always betray him. Thus, this rebellious and radically insecure individual will continually busy himself with establishing a sense of self and identity in a number of ways and it will always involve the worship of an object or another person, or the dehumanization, at some level, of others to make himself feel superior to them, for within the illusory world of unrighteous comparison, for it to work, at least one of the individuals in the interaction has to be considered lower. All of these efforts are merely manifestations of a pernicious, manufactured religion centered on the worship of the self. This sinful process of fashioning a sense of self and identity through ones own efforts may actually look marvelous on the surface, and the various occupations and enterprises engaged may even be neutral or noble in and of themselves, but the motivations will always be primarily, if not totally, corrupt, and as we already know, God looks at the heart. To repeat myself, every single attempt by an individual to establish their identity apart from Christ, is sin, no matter how splendid it appears on the surface.
Apart from the temptation to glorify ourselves, another reason why we dehumanize people when improperly angry or committing any other kind of sin against them is that it's far easier to sin against a thing than a person made in the image of God. Devaluing the object we are currently sinning against is an attempt to douse the burning of our conscience, to suppress the reality of the situation. It's a fallacious attempt by the sinner to make himself feel better about his thoughts and actions towards real or perceived antagonists. Does a murderer think thoughts of the great worth of an individual before committing the crime? Of course not, only later, will he (possibly) agonize over the crime. Try listening closely to the running commentary in your mind when angry with someone. It can be quite hideous to hear. The person is often reduced to a mere collection of chemicals, a worthless configuration of atoms. Our judgment is harsh and severe. David, in 1 Chronicles 21:8-14, when offered a choice between three possibilities of punishment, of which, included three years of famine, three months of devastation by his foes, or three days of the sword of the Lord, responds to Gad in part of verse 13 by saying: "I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man."
After the sin of unrighteous anger, or any other sin, we often attempt (as I did) to justify our sinful behavior through a continuation of the dehumanization process. If the individual refuses to repent and the conscience hasn't been completely seared in the person, it provokes an awareness of sin and guilt, convicting him, and thus, in response, the individual will desperately desire to use something—anything, to silence its searing voice (as well as silence the conviction rendered by the Spirit of God) and justify his actions. Therefore, he keeps digging a deeper and deeper grave, sinning to drown the throbbing pain of his guilt in a sea of sensory stimulus, his mind developing more and more sophisticated mental machinations as he strives, ultimately, irrationally, to hide from God and avoid the reality of a forthcoming judgment. This is often the sad, pathetic response of those laden, whether a Christian or non-Christian, with a burden of guilt. If they refuse to humble themselves and deal with their sins in the only way possible, that is, by confessing them and repenting from their sins before Jesus Christ, and asking for His forgiveness—for it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (to the Glory of God alone!) that the unregenerate is saved, and for the Christian, grace whereby we continue in or deepen our sanctification—then they will passionately endeavor to contrive all sorts of ways to try and alleviate their guilt, none of which, save, perhaps, hardening the conscience, (a temporary fix) will work. This burden of guilt is immense and tragically works all manner of problems spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically on the individual. He's a desperate man, passionately striving to use the furthest reaches of his physical and imaginative capacities to rid himself of his guilt. And so our sinner engages in all sorts of actions, inner philippics and creative rationalizations to resist not only his conscience, but the conviction rendered by the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the blessed Trinity.
Sin always involves a level of unhealthy, unrighteous fantasy, which could be defined as the use of the imagination to engage in and rationalize sinful desires and actions. I truly believe that the main motivation within man ever since his fall, is that of trying to hide (Romans 1:18-25) from the presence of a Holy God in an attempt to suppress the truth that we might avoid judgment and retain the pleasure of our sinful actions. All of our philosophies, every theory, even every single action done in the flesh, that is, exerted through our own strength, by our own will, in an effort to acquire love, joy, revenge, possessions, knowledge, power, pleasure, fulfillment, or to fashion beautiful works of art or whatever—whether or not the objects or ideals made and sought for are good or evil in and of themselves—is motivated, in general, by the desire to suppress the truth of God, usurp His authority, and direct worship towards ourselves.
The study of the human heart is a fascinating, sobering, humbling and indeed an almost overwhelming thing, for the deeper one delves, the more acutely aware one becomes at how horribly corrupt it is. God graciously veils the deeper levels of our inner darkness until we are ready, allowing us to see only what we need to see at the right time that the darkness therein may be exposed and burned away by the light. It's a slow process of sanctification. As we abide in Christ, slowly, slowly, the light advances and the darkness retreats, a process God foreordained before the foundations of the world, starting at salvation, and ending at glorification. With regards to believers, 2 Corinthians 4:16 states: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day."
|This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.|
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