Be Angry but Sin Not!
Many situations provoke us. We get hurt then get hot. These testing circumstances, when we are tempted to react, are spiritually precarious. We need to pause and reflect. We should let "red mist disperse". We must take a long, deep, breath. How we react, and the next steps we take, are sure to have repercussions which cannot be foreseen, determined, controlled or guaranteed. The way we respond, for good or ill, may be the first in a string or saga of events, which bring us joy and relief, or sorrow and regret.
This verse teaches that while we should be angry at sin, wickedness, deception and rebellion - as David Himself endured at the hands of sinful men as the Anointed of the LORD - we must not be guilty of multiplying evil or returning it with interest. Instead we are to rest, muse over the trouble on our bed - when the heat of the hurt has subsided a bit, with a serene and settled composure, react in a manner that is godly and faithful. and, as far as we have light, is consistent with God's will and accords with truth and love.
If we are in any doubt, as to the advantageous nature of this course, the following reflections are aimed to give good reasons to motivate us to restraint of righteous anger: we must refuse to let justifiable outrage spill over in into a bitter, resentful, all-out, no-holes-barred, outburst:
First, as I've said, we just never know what the ramifications will be, if we respond to rage with wrath. Brothers! Check your step before you act!
Second, when we our hot, wrath tends to cloud our judgment: it is hard to be angry and, simultaneously, see things lucidly - we view bleakly, judge harshly, observe blindly. Brothers! Pause, wait, look more penetratingly and get clarity!
Third, the Lord commands us, through His prophet David, to be angry but sin not: from deep waters of bitter experience, and his own tale of woe, he gives wise counsel to both self and church - he had lived through conflict; he had survived insurrection; he had felt the bitterness of betrayal; he had beheld the fickleness of false allegiance; he had seen casualties pile up; he had observed others harshly misjudged; he had been shocked at just how lacking in discernment some of his right hand men could be; he had been cheered by friends over whom others expressed doubts; he had refused to react when under pressure from Saul; and in the end, when conflict had died down, the Prince was esteemed in the affection of the people, who happily were able to acquit him of any vengeance. So, we should always ask ourselves, before we react, will I be able to still stand tall, in three years time, once this turbulence subsides.
Fourth, when we are angry, we tend to overreact, and to resort to measures, in haste, that we later live to regret. Reflection in our heart, puts offense on hold - quite often we find, by a less-reactionary, more-measured, patient, response, that we get surprising answers to "serious questions" that we raised: facts are filled in that we had not accounted for; there is a sudden turn of events that we did not anticipate. Giving breathing space for "red mist" to clear, lets the picture of the problem come more clearly into focus. Now being fully appraised of all the facts of the case, we are in a proper place to judge the situation right. In the painful, interim, wait, room was created for people to repent - the phone was picked up, a conversation took place, apologies were issued, recompense was made, and things were put right, and the situation reconciled - to the praise of God's grace, forgiveness was sought and granted, with friends and allies, momentarily at-odds, now fully reconciled (and each much happier for that).
Fifth, it gives time for self-reflection, in which we ask tough questions like "Am I viewing this situation correctly?" or "Have I unfairly distorted or misjudged this case?". We allow ourselves to wonder "Did I give the most unfavorable assessment or take the dimmest view of others motives?". We can take time to launch uncomfortable, searching, probes into to our own role in the storm, rehearsing whether we spoke, thought and acted/reacted in love, for peace, like Jesus would have, under intense scrutiny and pressure. It may be, of course, that we emerge from the inquiry with an entirely clear conscience. Or we may simply pray: "Lord, be merciful to me! I don't think I am at fault. If I have sinned, forgive and show me, that I may put it right what I can't yet see was wrong." The process will certainly lead to a softening on our part towards any who offend - it will produce a readiness to show mercy if, and when, true repentance is forthcoming; it will permit us to confess that we all have many weaknesses, none is entirely free from sin, and all daily offend God; and it will make us more sympathetic with brothers who dropped their guard, and got snared in Satan's trap.
Sixth, it leaves room for the vengeance of God, that He, and not us, might repay, chasten or correct. If He is Judge of all, we will be put back in our box (or dock).
No doubt, there are manifold other reasons that we could append to these - but the above should suffice to keep imbalanced, fulminant, overflowing, unabated, anger in-check, and only respond with what is due, proportionate, and just.
How can we pause to reflect, and let heat subside or seek the grace to cover over mis-steps? After all, our flesh is very strong and our lusts tend to predominate - when passions are aroused, it can be hard to press back down a lid which is about to lift on a bursting pressure-cooker of anger's "Pandora's Box".
Christ was always reasonably angry, with just cause, in proper proportion to sin he met or a incalcitrant rebel heart. Yet, our excellent, sinless, Lord never once gave way to the pressure or stress of an assault on His person by an uncontrolled outburst against a perpetrator: He could drive money-changers out in order to cleanse God's House; or He could look around indignant at stubborn hypocrites; or He could feel anger surge at the horrible ravages of death; yet, our Savior always struck the right balance of holy, patient, love which was ready to forgive. He always fixed his heart on service of saints and not on self - for the serene Nazarene, the Glory of the Father was always paramount. His abounding merit and mercy provides for us all the pardon, power, purity and willing mind, to enables us, in faith, to pursue the right course - to be angry in a manner which is both channeled and controlled: His grace both overflows and overpowers His sheep, that they might seek the good of His Flock and bring our Lord honor in the world. It was His mighty Spirit, through union with His Cross, that worked in David's heart, to suppress unwarranted, ill-advised, sinful, foolish, damaging, rage. And it was His exalted, resurrection life, that mellowed the heart of the early King of Jews - He is the latter, infinitely sweeter, and holier antitype. By grace, through faith, in Christ alone, there is motive and strength to BE ANGRY AND SIN NOT.