We have been watching one of The Great Courses on Pompeii. It is a fascinating look at the society that formed in the Bay of Naples centuries before the time of Christ. The predominant physical structure of the area is Mount Vesuvius. The lecturer said that today, the volcano is about 3,000 feet high. Prior to its eruption in A. D. 79, the volcano was in excess of 7,000 feet high. The effect of the volcano blowing its top was a sudden cataclysmic pouring of lava, volcanic ash and pumice throughout the region. Notably, Pompeii was buried in 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice. That is blowing your top in a big way!
When we were in Yellowstone National Park, we observed a number of geysers including one call the White Dome Geyser. It was clear why it was called that – it was a white dome that looked like the top of an ice cream cone.
It would erupt at different times each day with a spray that went high into the air. Although it is the result of volcanic activity deep underground, clearly the White Dome Geyser is on the scale of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. It is much more controlled, still venting, but not destroying.
Fortunately, few of us ever experience a Mt. Vesuvius explosion. But, on a personal level, blowing your top can take a variety of forms. Usually there is loud, sometimes abusive, language accompanied by throwing things, slamming doors, or breaking items that are in our way … in short, there is dynamic activity that potentially destroys something, or someone, in the process of relieving our pent-up anger. Then, when all is done, there is a, perhaps, strained quiet, but after the outburst at least it is quiet. The outburst is over – now it is time to assess the damage.
Scripture talks about blowing your top … not in those words, but the meaning is abundantly clear. Take these Old Testament references for example:
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.“
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,”
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”
This theme is continued in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”
Ephesians 4:26. This verse states that it is alright to become angry; but we must not let it fester so that you become enraged, and out of control so that you then are guilty of sin.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Jesus Christ showed us what should cause our anger:
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.””
Jesus was angry when His Father’s house was subject to desecration, when people were being cheated and when people could not pray there.
Scripture tells us that God can become angry, very angry indeed! But His is a righteous anger when His creation has become so sinful that He cannot tolerate to even look upon it.
Consider the flood which wiped out all people, animals and plants, except for Noah, his family, and the animals secreted in the ark. (Genesis 6 and 7) Consider Sodom and Gomorrah where God said He would spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people in them. When He could not identify even that few righteous ones, the cities were destroyed by fire from heaven. (Genesis 18 and 19)
David recognized that God could become angry.
“Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”
David also recognized that God was merciful and slow to anger.
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
If we are honest, our anger is usually triggered by a feeling of personal hurt, by a sense of being ignored or cast aside. Our own agenda has been violated, our desires have been dashed, our wants have been slighted. We feel that others have taken advantage of us to our detriment and to their benefit, and we are angry. In short, our anger is usually self-centered. We are focused on I/Me/Mine.
As Christians, we are called to be like our Father and to follow the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. James, the half-brother of Jesus said we should live like this:
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
We are called to keep our anger under control. Note the list that includes anger and the list that includes self-control in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Don’t blow your top. When the acid of anger wells up in your heart, quench it with the fruit of the Spirit. Remember that you did not deserve to be saved from your sins – it was an unmerited gift from God. Because of that gift, you should give others undeserved love as well. Remember, Paul gave this instruction, from Deuteronomy 32:39, to the Christian:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.””
For the Christian, there really is no need to blow his/her top!
Father, forgive me when I have become angry with others, when I have vented my anger in an ungodly manner rather than seeking the other person’s good. Help me to remember the Holy Spirit is my strength and guide and may I grow in self-control today, and throughout my life.