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There are many verses and passages in the New Testament that talk about not liking, hating, holding grudges, and other forms of anger that we can accrue toward people. See 1 John 2:9; Ephesians 4:31; Proverbs 8:13, 10:12; Luke 6:27-28; Matthew 5:23-24; 1 John 3:14-15. Regardless of whether the person is in the body of Christ or is an unbelieving image-bearer (James 3:9-10), addressing all types of animosity, no matter how tiny a strain, is humble and wise.
If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).
John is using strong language to make his point. James also did this when he called anger, murder (James 4:1-3). John or James did not sugarcoat their words. What you don’t want to do is exempt yourself from their language, and you won’t do that if you see the word “hate” or “murder” like basket words that hold all kinds of anger. It’s not wise to splits hairs here by saying, “Oh, it’s not that I hate him; I just don’t like him.”
Please choose the proper label to describe any sinful attitude toward anyone but never make the mistake of thinking that a “little sin” will cause the nails in the hands of Christ to be less painful. He died for all our sins, big and small (James 2:10).
One of the most popular graphics on our website is”The Anger Spectrum.” I’m using James’ word, “murder” to show the extremes of anger, and then filling in the middle section with only a few manifestations of murder (anger). I’m sure you can think of more than these.
The Anger Spectrum
Perhaps you live in a professing Christian family where there are forms of anger, which could include hostility or unforgiveness between two or more of your family members. Perhaps you attend a local church where there is a conflict between two professing believers. If true, there would be something fundamentally wrong that person if they talked about how great Christ is while harboring things like anger, bitterness, resentment, or other forms of frustration with another member of His body.
Paul puts forth an analogy in Ephesians when he likens our unity in Christ to the physical body. I do like the many parallels that you can derive by comparing the organic self to our spiritual lives. Notice what the great apostle said.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:29-30).
Paul was talking about the husband and wife relationship, but he quickly expands his thoughts to make sure we understand that the mystery that he is referring to is about our relationship with Christ and His church. Notice two verses later.
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).
If I say I love Christ and harbor any form of frustration in my heart toward a Christian brother or sister, whether the person is my spouse or someone else, then it’s theological insanity and relational incongruity. This problem is an incredibly serious matter. Paul talked about it in the following passage.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:16-21).
Don’t be incongruent in your relationships. Seek to love everyone. I’m not suggesting that you have to be everyone’s best friend, or having an ongoing relationship with them. I’m not saying that everyone will reciprocate. Those ideas are not realistic, and sin is never that cooperative.
But regardless of how folks treat you, their actions do not have to manage you. You may never be besties, and there will be some relationships that will never reconcile. But you can have the love of Christ in your heart toward them, and you can measure that love by how you think and talk about them, i.e., non-judgmental, non-cynical, not critical, not harsh, not unkind, do not gossip, and you don’t devalue them when talking about them to others.
Cause and Cure for Anger
Be aggressive. Do not let sin reign in the body of Christ. Christ cannot be your all in all when you do not care for His all. Should the hand say to the foot, “I do not like you”? Of course, not. But this matter can raise a few questions, which always happens when folks are unwilling to cooperate with problems biblically.
You may read my questions for you in the “Call to Action” section below. Each relationship problem is unique, so you cannot map one process over every reconciliation and relational situation. You need wisdom, discernment, and someone to walk with you as you address those problematic relationships in your life.
The best place to begin, of course, is with your eye, not the eye of the other person (Matthew 7:3-5). You may not be able to motivate another person to change, but you can change yourself. I trust these questions will help you in thinking rightly about your troublesome relationships.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).