The third step in Christ’s cure for anger is to do what we must do immediately. This is the point of the next two verses of this chapter, for Jesus spoke of agreeing with your adversary quickly, lest the most terrible consequences follow. These verses do not teach, as some suppose, that God is the adversary and that we can lose our salvation if we continue in a course marked out for us by anger. Jesus did not mean that. Actually He was saying that sin has consequences, and that if you want to avoid the consequences you should confess and make right the sin as soon as you are able. In this sense the Lord was only saying in different words what Paul later said to the Ephesians, “Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Jesus was recognizing the great principle stated in the book of Hebrews: “Follow peace with all men and holiness… lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and by it many be defiled.”
A fourth step in the cure of anger must be added to these three obvious steps on the basis of all that Christ is saying. The fourth step is that we must ask God to change our heart, because only God is able to do it.
One Sunday evening I was talking with one of my daughters, and learned that she was greatly offended because she thought someone had mistreated her. He had held her upside down, and she did not like that. She was angry about it. She said to me, “I don’t like that man; I’m never going to forgive him. I’ll forgive Cici and Vicky and Pamela (her friends), but not him.”
I said, “Oh, you don’t want to say that. Jesus tells us that we are supposed to forgive one another; He forgives us, doesn’t he?”
She said “Yes, I know. They teach me that in Sunday school and at school, but I don’t understand it. What I’d really like to do is kick him.”
I said, ‘Yes that’s the way we are. But God wants us to be different.”
Now if you honestly look into your own heart when you’re offended, you’ll find that what you’d most like to do is just that—kick the person, or something worse. It’s often what I would most like to do. But the point is that we must not do it. In fact, we must even come to the point at which we ask God to change our heart and mind so that we do not even want to do it. And if you ask, “Can God change our mind?” the answer is yes, He can. And God will change it. We will be transformed from within by the renewing of our minds. And we will find it possible to do what beforehand we judged impossible.
Moreover, this will be possible for you even if the other person does not return the favor and maintains a white-hot anger against you. Paul wrote, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath. For it is written, ‘“Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” saith the Lord.’ Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
You see, Paul was saying that we should not retaliate against wrongs done to ourselves, but step aside and let the wrath of men work, even to our harm. And if you should be saying, “But they will harm me,” the answer is “‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord.” In other words, God says that if we live as He intends us to live, men will become angry with us. But He Himself promises to protect our interests. We may not see how they are protected until we get to heaven. But we will get to heaven, and there those who lived as Christ lived will be vindicated.
“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It’s a difficult statement if the heart of man is unchanged. But God will change your heart if you surrender your life to Jesus Christ and ask Him to transform it.