My wife can be quick to anger and equally quick to forgive. I, on the other hand, am slow to anger and slow to forgive. To be godly, however, requires some hybrid between us, which unfortunately has not yet manifested in either our children, each of whom has inherited the flawed temperament of either parent. A Christian, the Scriptures demand, should be like God – slow to anger and quick to forgive (James 1:19, Colossians 3:13).
“Love…is it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)
Anger in itself is not a sin. Even God gets rightly angry with human sin. But love for us (manifested by His patience), makes Him very slow to anger. Jesus was angry when he drove the money-changers from the temple for denying the Gentiles a place to pray (Mark 11:15-18). Likewise, we too can exhibit a righteous anger. For example, I get righteously angry when I see a grown man bully a woman or child.
The difficulty with my anger and your anger, however, is that we find it difficult to control. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” It is important to control anger, and as much as it depends on you, to resolve conflict quickly, “before the sun goes down.” The reason is that conflict situations easily build on unresolved issues.
In my experience, most conflict derives from misunderstandings rather than malice. We can avoid a great deal of unnecessary conflict by listening and understanding where others are coming from. For this reason, the Apostle James urges us to, “Take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Similarly, Stephen Covey in his best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” as effective habit number five. The underlying key to unlocking these pearls of wisdom is to practice listening.
When my wife and I were young, one invaluable piece of advice on resolving conflict we were given, was to accept that once a matter was resolved, it was never to be raised again as an adjunct to a later conflict. When it was over, it was done with. If one again raised an already resolved issue, they were immediately disqualified in any present quarrel. Like God who promises to forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), we were to practice true love and keep ‘no record of wrongs.’
This advice is so important, especially for married couples, families and long-term friends. Over the course of thirty, forty or fifty years we will hurt even those closest to us many times. We could have an enormous catalogue of hurts (both ancient and current) that can never be resolved when mixed together into a great stew of volatility. The best course is to resolve each injury quickly and then, like God, consign it to the great sea of forgetfulness. Brothers and sisters, be slow to anger and keep no record of wrongs.
For Prayer and Reflection: Ask God to remove any record of wrongs you hold. Think of those who have hurt you the most and try to pray your blessing on them. That way, you will know if you are harbouring any unforgiveness.
For Further Reading: Matthew 18:21-35.