I think God is disappointed if we don’t get angry sometimes – like if we just avert our face and walk on by when injustice is happening to a child, a pet, or another person. Sure I feel angry at times (often at myself). Why do I have that emotion? The Bible acknowledges that we (people created in the image of God) will get angry from time to time. But does that mean that
All anger is sin
Anger equals hatred
No good can come from anger
If I am angry about injustice then angry reactions are excusable as righteous indignation
I try to answer my question with questions – beginning with: What is anger anyway?
- Dictionary definition: To excite annoyance, antagonism or exasperation as the result of a real or supposed grievance; to provoke; to rouse resentment. Strong emotional reaction of displeasure, often leading to plans for revenge or punishment.
- Emotion definition: Anger is described as a secondary emotion – a reaction we feel immediately after we feel something else – a warning to let us know when a situation is not right. Anger is a strong motivator to speak up or act and make change happen.
- Biblical potential:to stretch oneself out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire change (i.e. to correct an injustice –a flame stretching out to warm rather than to consume)
Many great leaders have been commended for their commendable control in managing their anger to take action and correct is wrong in their environment, or in themselves. In The Wrath of a Great Leader, Hitendra Wadhwa says “Without anger, they would not have the awareness or the drive to fix what is wrong. “
Now let’s take a look at what anger means in a couple of verses
Ephesians 4:26-27 (New American Standard Version)
Be angry (provoked)
And yet do not sin
Do not let the sun go down on your anger,
And do not give the devil an opportunity
Anger, according to Strong’s 3709 in in this verse comes from orgḗ (“settled anger”) proceeds from an internal disposition which steadfastly opposes someone or something based on extended personal exposure, i.e. solidifying what the beholder considers wrong (unjust, evil).
Proverbs 14:29 (International Standard Version)
Being slow to get angry compares to great understanding as being quick-tempered compares to stupidity.
Here, anger stems from aph -which means nostril, or nose – the image of someone puffing, or swelling up or snorting in rage and loss of self-control
Have you ever seen an injustice and felt yourself puff up and inhale in anger that someone could do such a thing. This is the instant emotion – an original susceptibility that is not necessarily sinful but certainly can lead to sinful action. That is why this verse encourages us to be slow to ever let our anger control us.
So neither of these verses indicate sin is feeling angry, but both indicate it can become sin if the emotion is allowed to be continual (family members not speaking for years), excessive (brutal or to exact revenge), not controlled (reaction not response), or without cause.
One of my favorite illustrations of foolish anger is the story of Jonah, where the exhausted rebel collapses to give up and die, and overnight God gives him a plant for shade, then overnight God allows the plant to wither and die. God’s point was to reveal to Jonah his compassion for the plant was greater than for the people whom God wanted to give opportunity for reconciliation. Jonah wanted the Ninevites to suffer – and perhaps they deserved it, but it was not Jonah’s decision it was God’s.
- I can accept that anger is a natural reaction to injustice, but, like all emotions, needs to be under the control of the Holy Spirit.
- Recognizing the goal of spiritual battles with principalities and powers are aimed to weaken relationships and divide churches helps me direct my anger, provocation or reaction to injustice at the right enemy (Who are my Ninevites that I do not think deserve forgiveness? Where does the idea that only those who deserve forgiveness should receive it? If I do not take steps to resolve the issue or surrender it to God, I am giving the devil control over my emotions)
- Staying angry and nurturing bitterness takes more ongoing effort than dissolving it. It is more painful too.
- I am not responsible for anyone’s opinions or attitudes but my own – and I have to answer to God for them. Will I be as ignorant as Jonah stating my reason to be angry?
- It is said that whatever keeps me angry controls me. Scripture says I must not go to bed angry – I can resolve it, I can let the provocation incite me to do something good about the situation or I can leave it with God to resolve.
- Retaining anger at my own action or inaction is useless and defeating, and destructive self-talk is misuse of a God-instilled emotion. One-another in Ephesians 4:32 stems from allelon, al-lay´-lone and includes: each other, mutual, (the other), (them-,and your-)selves) – Eph. 4:32 Be gentle with one another,( sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
- Gentleness and anger can coexist. Deal with the problem, the motive, and not the person.