The fourth step in the cure of anger must be added to these three obvious steps on the basis of all that Christ is saying. We must ask God to change our heart because only God is able to do it.
One Sunday evening after the 7:30 service in my church, I was talking with my daughter Elizabeth and learned that she was greatly offended because someone had mistreated her, as she thought. They had held her upside down, and she did not like that and 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.” And I said, “Yes, that’s the way we are. But God wants us to be different.”
It’s true that if you look into your own heart honestly when you are offended, you will find that to kick the person is what you would most like to do. It is often what I would most like to do. Yet we must not do it. In fact, we must even come to the point at which we ask God to change our hearts and minds so that we do not even want to do it. For if we do, God will change our minds; as Paul says, we shall be transformed from within by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), and we will find it possible to do what beforehand we would have judged impossible.
Moreover, did you know that God says that this will be possible for you even if the other person does not return the favor and maintains a white-hot temperature of anger against you? God writes through Paul in Romans saying, “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” (Rom. 12:19-21).
What does this mean? It simply means that we are not to retaliate against wrongs done to ourselves, but that we are to step aside and let the wrath of man work, even to our harm. And if you should be saying, “But they will do me harm,” 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, the wrath of man will come; but when it comes he himself promises to protect our interests. He may protect them here, or we may not see how they are protected until we get to heaven. But we shall get to heaven, and there those who have lived as Christ lived shall be vindicated in the presence of the universe.
“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It is a most difficult statement. In fact, it is an impossible statement if the heart of a man is unchanged. But God will change the heart if we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and ask him to transform it.