Slow to Anger

Slow to anger. Abounding in steadfast love.

In the early 1990’s, I served as the Associate Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Massillon. In those years, I learned many valuable lessons that you can’t learn from a book or in a classroom, things you can only learn by experiencing.

One week comes to mind. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had drafted its first social statement on human sexuality. It was a draft. When it was released, the first copies were received by the media before pastors and churches got a chance to see it. It made the news. Even Paul Harvey was talking about it (Ask your parents who he is…“Good Day!”). It was not good. How were we to address the topic without having the document in our possession? 

That same week, a man in Massillon made the news with an announcement that he was going to open a “Christian Strip Club” – it would be a juice bar with no alcohol, and the dancers would be good church-going women and dance to Christian music, like songs by Amy Grant. TRUE STORY! 

Oh my!

The local clergy scrambled to gather to figure out how to respond. We Lutheran pastors had both issues before us. How to respond?

My colleague, the senior pastor at the church, gave wise counsel. He said, “We are not going to answer the phones!” 

The juice bar never came to be, and the human sexuality statement took on many more revisions over several years. But that week, in the middle of it all, the anxiety and turmoil were begging for quick responses and immediate action.

How often do things arise that cause you to be thrown off course, change direction and seek quick answers? How quickly do these emotions arise? How fast does anger, bitterness, hatred, worry, (you can name your own emotion here) take over?

How often do you wish you could turn off the phone, the news and the noise, and be at peace?

A legend attributed to the Native American Cherokees:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

Psalm 86:11-17

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,

    that I may walk in your truth;

    give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

    and I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;

    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.


14 O God, the insolent rise up against me;

    a band of ruffians seeks my life,

    and they do not set you before them.

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;

    give your strength to your servant;

    save the child of your serving girl.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

    so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,

    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

It may not be as simple as turning off the phone. It may be what wolf we feed. 

I have learned in years of ministry that the question that is out of our control is, “Why do these things happen?” The question we CAN answer is, “How do we, as Children of God, respond?” 


But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.


Let us pray:

Almighty God, help us to turn from bitterness and anger. Slow us in our responses. Give us the power and strength to follow in your ways of steadfast love and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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