Pastoral Letter 20 Feb 2022

My dear readers,

Are You Slow to Anger? 

Proverbs 16:32: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” 

Anger is an emotion bestowed upon man when God made him in His image. This conclusion comes from the fact that God demonstrated the emotion of anger. Exodus 4:14: “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.” And Exodus 32:9-11: “And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?”

When man fell into sin, all the attributes of God's image in man were very badly marred, but not annihilated. If that had been the case, man would not be able to function. He would have been reduced to a beast without the ability to possess self-determination, to create, love and relate to his fellow human beings and appreciate God's creation. He is able to do all these things albeit corruptly because of the marred image of God that still remains in him. Just like love has turned into lusts, anger has turned into sinful retaliation and vengeance. This uncontrolled anger has resulted in many concluding that anger is bad and must be “snuffed out” in every person’s life. This they try to do by all kinds of means and arguably the most common is meditation. However, no matter how they try, they will not succeed. They might succeed for a while but anger will surface again from within the angry soul like the perennial rising of the sun every morning. It is impossible to eliminate anger because anger is an emotion that is ingrained in man like all his other attributes that he is endowed with by his Creator. Instead of trying to “snuff out” anger in our lives, we need to control it like all the other emotions.

This control is given to man when he accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Before his salvation, he was helpless to control his anger. The moment his anger surfaces, it is like a train out of control and running down everyone and everything that stand in its way. Lives are ruined. Hearts are broken. Deep remorse and regrets dominate the sinner’s soul once his anger recedes. No amount of apology can undo the wrecked lives and broken hearts. No matter how determined he is, and how he promises to not let his anger control him ever again, he will fail miserably and repeatedly. He is like a broken record breaking every promise. No one will take him seriously. Almost everyone dear to him will distance themselves from him. 

But the moment he becomes a Christian, there is a transformation within him that he has never experienced before. All his emotions have metamorphosed. He is able to unconditionally and sacrificially love all the people that God brings into his life, including his enemies. The bitterness that usually wells up within him (when hurt or betrayed) is much subdued and put under control. His anger management is powerful. He knows when his anger is about to rise, but he can keep it under control and it bursts forth less. At the beginning of his faith, he might still exhibit bouts of anger but they are not as bad as before. Vulgarities and hateful destructive adjectives no longer flow from his lips. Slowly but surely the gaps between the outbursts of anger will widen more and more with the study of God's Word. The precious peace of God prevails and dominates within his heart, mind and soul. After many years as a Christian, he will not even recall when he last lost control of his anger. Literally, he has become a new man in Christ by the grace and mercies of God.

Therefore, the LORD encourages all believers to be “slow to anger” (Prov 16:32). The Hebrew word for “slow” is sometimes translated as “longsuffering.” Exodus 34:6-7: “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Numbers 14:18-19: “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Psalm 86:15: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.”  

Notice from the above examples that the LORD is described as “longsuffering.” Every believer, in Christ, has God’s image restored, albeit not yet to perfection. He is now able to be like his LORD in exercising longsuffering, i.e. to be slow to anger. To be slow to anger is an evidence of salvation! Believers who can control their anger are better than the ones who are “mighty.” The “mighty” are those who are physically strong, including the military, political and financial sense. Their strength destroys lives as seen in the behaviour of despotic kings and leaders of old and the present when they conquer cities. Tens of thousands of lives are killed and cities that took years to build are destroyed in an instant and thousands are left homeless if they are not killed by the weapons. Their strength is also temporal as they gain only things that are earthbound. When this world is destroyed by God in the last days, so will all that are gained by man’s carnal means. Their strength is very superficial as it cannot heal relationships or forgive sins. Their strength brings destruction as they come from hearts and minds that are depraved. The more powerful they are, the more lives they hurt and destroy!

On the other hand, the believer in Christ is able to forgive, thus enabling him to be “slow to anger.” He conquers the hearts and souls of his enemies by his longsuffering. He is compassionate and empathizes with others by his patience and understanding. His transformed life of longsuffering impacts his loved ones who have seen him before and will see him after his salvation. This gives him the moral strength to share the power of God's love in Christ with people. The Holy Spirit will gladly take the gospel shared by such a longsuffering child of God to save sinners.

Let us seek to rule our spirit more than to be mighty. Lives around us will be built up and relationships will be restored and strengthened when we are “slow to anger.”  

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

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