“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
While the list of inappropriate behaviors referenced earlier in Colossians 3:5 was primarily internal, the second list given to us in here in Colossians 3:8 is mainly external. Despite these differences, these characteristics are alike in one respect: they each have the potential to be highly destructive.
The first among these behaviors is anger. When it comes to feelings of anger, there is a common denominator that exists for virtually everyone: people usually get angry when they sense an injustice has been committed. With this in mind, let’s look at an expression of anger from Jesus’ life and see what we can learn from His experience…
“Now He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a paralyzed hand. In order to accuse Him, they were watching Him closely to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath.
He told the man with the paralyzed hand, ‘Stand before us.’ Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent.
After looking around at them with anger and sorrow at the hardness of their hearts, He told the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:1-6 HCSB).
If we accept the premise that people often respond in anger to the presence of an injustice, then what sort of injustice might have occurred in the Scripture quoted above? Well, it seems that these religious leaders were more concerned about maintaining their traditional interpretation of the Law than they were about freeing this man from his physical disability.
You see, there was no question that Jesus was a legitimate miracle-worker, even among his opponents. But Jesus also represented a threat to the authority of these leaders. In response, they placed an unjust priority on maintaining their position of leadership (and the system of tradition that sustained it) at the expense of meeting the human need that was set before them.
This unjust lack of consideration for the suffering and pain associated with this man’s physical condition led to Jesus’ angry response. However, there is one important difference between the anger displayed by Jesus in this passage and the anger that many experience today. We’ll consider that difference next.