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Dealing with Our Problems Biblically: Anger, Part 1

March 25, 2015

Grace to you! We’ve all felt that well known expression of “I’m mad as Hades and I ain’t gonna take it anymore!” At one time or another we’ve all been angry. Anger is such a common problem that there are classes on “anger management.” These classes can vary in their approach about how to deal with them. Scripture, however, not only gives us the way to deal with anger but also why we even have anger. We will begin to look at this very important issue in the weeks to come. First, let’s ask the question, “Is all anger bad?” Or, biblically speaking “Is all anger inherently sinful?”

Scripture tell us “in your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26) Is this just saying as long as I’m not angry when it’s dark, it’s ok to be angry? Not quite. But the verse does teach us that anger can be righteous and legitimate in some contexts. Even God Himself has anger; a very common theme in the bible. (See Isaiah 5:25, Mark 3:5) So God can be angry and be righteous. And scripture seems to say that we can be angry (though rarely!!) and it not be sinful. In short, scripture teaches us that there can be righteous and sinful anger in people. How do we know the difference?

Robert Jones in his book “Uprooting Anger” suggests 3 criteria from scripture for evaluating our anger if it is sinful or not. First, Jesus displayed anger when God’s grace for sinners and kingdom agenda were opposed. When people opposed the gospel or sought to hinder others from hearing about the message of salvation, this got Jesus very angry. Luke 14:21 shows Jesus expressing anger because sinners refused to accept God’s invitation to salvation. Second, righteous anger is always in response to sin, not my agenda, desires, will, or preferences. To the point, scripture has clearly been violated to give me a basis for being angry, not what I am wanting the way I want it. Third, righteous anger is always accompanied by other godly characteristics and expressed in a God-honoring way. Tirades, cursing, ignoring others, etc are not godly responses. Anger with love motivating it, patience, a desire for restoration, etc is evidence of righteous anger. When God expresses His anger, it’s always in relation to His other characteristics. If we are angry and no other godly characteristics are present, then we can be certain we are sinfully angry!

So before we jump to a quick conclusion that the bible says I can be angry and it not be sinful, we need to understand what that means. And that means that we first make sure that any anger in our life right now meets the biblical criteria. If we are honest, we’d have to say by far the majority of our anger is more about what I care about than it is about God’s glory. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31) And any sinful anger is dangereous for us to ignore because it will incite God’s anger against us. So how do we deal with it? How do we move forward? Stay tuned!

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