We live in an impatient, angry society. If you don’t believe it just try going the speed limit on Highway 62 (or any other highway for that matter.) What happens? Some lead-footed racer with a stopwatch for a brain flies up on your bumper so fast you have to check your speedometer to see if you’re still moving. Then at the earliest possible moment he or she blast past, white knuckles gripping the wheel, wide-eyed glaring, pedal-to-the-metal. The next time you see this road terror they’re stopped right in front of you at the light. All this death-defying driving has accomplished is an added car length in the journey to town. Man, the only thing that makes me madder than being tailgated is having to slow down for some idiot that can’t figure out which is the gas pedal….. 

O.K., it’s a driven world (no pun intended), a world with demanding achievements, quantifiable goals, squeezable schedules and bubbling blood pressure. It’s a world filled with stress and trauma, rush and bustle. And we get caught up in it all, don’t we? Sure we do. “After all”, we say “The Lord put us here for the purpose of living and that means having goals, projects, work, desires, priorities, schedules – none of which are bad in themselves. He has called us to live productively and purposefully in this world. True? True. we must deal with it. It’s a jungle out there and a little animal-ism (that rhymes with cannibalism) helps get the job done.” 

But there is a very important aspect of our call as Christians which is often forgotten, especially by those of us who are extremely goal-oriented and production minded. It’s the part of the call that says we’re to live in this world by the next world’s principles. That means it’s not just the things we do or the goals we set, but the way we go about it all that counts. Not matter how godly the goals the value is lost if we adopt the world’s carnal way of accomplishing them. The culture around us gets a lot done by anger and force. The end justifies the means. But God says that the anger of man does not achieve His righteousness. Have a look at James 1:19-20. 

This you know, my beloved brethren. But let every one be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 

This does not mean that righteous anger is impossible. Anger should arise on certain occasions in the minds of godly and sensitive people. What it means is that when anger arises in our hearts we should not assume that it’s righteous. We must check it. About ninety percent of the time we’ll find it stems from frustrated plans or bruised ego. Not only is most of our anger carnal and culturally induced, but it also serves as a very effective anesthetic for the pain of a convicted heart. It runs interference for the flesh and frustrates the fruit of the Spirit. It reminds the owner that he or she really does have a right to be miffed (and maybe they do), then tells them that they cannot forgive because the offender doesn’t deserve it. (This of course is a lie. As a matter of fact no one deserves forgiveness. If they did, they wouldn’t need it. Forgiveness by it’s nature assumes the offense to be real and punishable, but refrains from punishment.) 

Unchecked, carnal anger is at the root of a host of interpersonal ills which could otherwise be healed. It becomes a narcotic. We get hooked on it. It induces us to grieve the Holy Spirit by trashing each other verbally and emotionally (Eph. 4:29-32). It is a sickness and a sin. And many of us accept it as a way of life, nursing our grievances, squelching grace. 

Praise the Lord that He doesn’t let us rot in our own wrath. He prods gently, pries pointedly until we unclench our teeth. Then He gives us good, soothing medicine to put out the fires of indignation. 

It takes time for some of us and the medicine doesn’t always taste sweet (it is better than bile). But the relief in letting go of the anger is worth it. His cure? Grace. Free, fresh, abundant, healing, selfless, undeserved, forbearing, patient, loving, compassionate grace. First it fills us as we let go of the anger, then it overflows onto the monstrous offender transforming them back into a weak, failing, forgivable person like us. After that it sponsors the growth of a trait which will forever fight the anger – patience. As that fruit of the Spirit grows stronger and more plentiful it covers the scars of our lives. 

Patience is the ability to take insult, pressure, frustration and failure without invoking the law of retribution. It’s the ability to love slowly, the art of not taking an eye for an eye, the soft response that reduces wrath. It’s the characteristic you want your spouse to have, or your boss. It’s the quality you think you think you probably have enough of, but which nobody can get too much of. It stops arguments, promotes communication, nurtures love, oils the grinding gears of family life, and deepens friendships. We can’t live long without it and we’d all live longer with more of it. 

Patience is always the right response. Always. We never have too much of it. Can a person have too much of the fruit of the Spirit? Folks who accuse others of having too much patience are always the ones who have so obviously run out. Losing patience should be treated like losing blood – as an emergency to be dealt with quickly. The reason this is so is that you can do, say, and think anything with patience. You can correct patiently, teach patiently and rebuke patiently (II Tim. 4:2). If you think about it, you can even raise your voice and take forceful action without losing patience (John 2: 14-16). Patience is not the absence of passion but the presence of grace. Righteous anger can and does co-exist with true patience, if nowhere else at least in the Person of God. It’s unrighteous anger that is the sworn enemy of patience. It’s selfishness that strangles grace. 

Wise and mature Christians know when their patience is being stretched and they take steps in prayer to restore the supply. Even when the hard thing must be said or the tough decision made they wait until the anger of the moment has either passed or been sifted to righteousness. They also have patience with themselves as they persist in gracious living. 

May the Lord have patience with us as we learn to live by His Spirit in a world that is for ever boiling over.