My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. (Psalm 119:136, ESV) This verse was part of the passage I read for my devotional time yesterday. The verse and the accompanying devotional really made me think. How do I react when people do not have the time of day for God’s law?
It is not hard to look around and see examples of people who want nothing to do with God and the way God wants us to live. And, I have to admit it, those examples often make me angry. I am angered by our culture’s sexualized state and how something like pornography has reached into the families in my church and wreaked its havoc. I am angered at people’s rejection of God’s good plan for the family, even to the point of punishing those who do not agree with their perversion. I am angered that even though Planned Parenthood officials admit selling fetal body parts, our government is powerless to do anything about it. I am angered that my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East face arrest, rape, torture and death, and yet those events don’t seem to be news. I could go on.
Sometimes it is okay to be angry. If we are angry at the things God is angry about, if we can practice a righteous anger, we do not sin in that. (Eph. 4:26) But it is hard to be righteously angry, and it is even harder to stay righteously angry. Our sin nature is very adept at taking anger that may have started righteously and twisting it into something ugly, prideful or self-centered.
We have to ask ourselves, is anger the Christian’s only right response to sin? According to Psalm 119:136, mourning and tears is also a response that honors God. Does our anger keep us from mourning the fact that sin is so prevalent in our lives and in the lives of others? The psalmist weeps streams of tears in response to sin. I am guessing that a more accurate rendering of that verse in most of our lives would be, “My blood is boiling, because people do not keep your law.”
The devotional I read this morning asked some important questions. “Are we angry merely because the biblically informed traditions of Western culture in which we have become accustomed seem to be dying, or are we upset because God and His glory are not being honored? Do we mourn over the world’s failure to respect the Creator’s good law because we know that those who are breaking it inflict much pain upon themselves in the process, or do we relish in an unrighteous manner the judgment that they are bringing upon themselves? If we are not grieving that our Maker is not being glorified and that people made in his image are callously throwing their lives away, we must return to God’s Word and reorient our priorities.” (Tabletalk, Sept. 14, 2015)
Friends, it is easy to lash out in anger at the sin against us. And while there is a proper place for righteous anger, it is wrong to allow our anger to prevent us from shedding tears and mourning over sin. Anger should never prevent us from praying for repentance. And anger should never stand in the way of sharing the gospel with sinners with compassion.
Let us ask the Lord to cultivate within us a heart that mourns for lost people and grieves over sin, both our sin and theirs.