While it may take different forms, most of us have struggled with anger. Some of us turn our anger inward by clamming up or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. Some of us explode at the least provocation. Anger can be extremely destructive. It can cost us our jobs, our marriages, our families, our testimonies, even our health.
Much has been written about anger and how to control it, but the Bible doesn’t call us to control sinful anger. It calls us to something much deeper.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Handling Anger Biblically
We have just wrapped up a series on God’s design for marriage. If you missed it, you can access the lessons here. Now we’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” Doing so helps bring peace and stability into our lives. Today and for the next two weeks we’ll be talking about “Handling Anger Biblically.”
Then over the following weeks, we’ll be discussing:
Fear & Worry
Trials & Suffering
I hope you’ll be here each week (post goes live at 5 PM MST on Sundays).
While it may take different forms, most of us have struggled with anger at one time or another.
We may simply stuff our feelings into an invisible gunny sack and refuse to deal with them. Until, one day the sack is bursting and it explodes on everyone around us.
Worse, we may be agitated, even boiling within, just waiting to explode.
Some of us react by exploding instantly for the least provocation. This kind of anger can be cruel, sarcastic, violent and vengeful.
Make no friendship with an angry man,
And with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
And set a snare for your soul (Prov. 22.24-25).
An angry man stirs up strife,
And a furious man abounds in transgression (Prov. 29.22).
To fully understand anger we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth. In verse 26 He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness …”
And in verse 31, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”
It sounds elementary, but God is the One who created us and everything else.
Sinful anger flows out of our unwillingness to accept the fact that He is the Creator, that He gets to make the rules, and that He is the Sovereign God of the Universe.
What we’re really saying is, “I don’t like the way You are letting things work out in my life!”
“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?” (Is. 45:9).
When we get angry, it’s because we want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for us (Gen. 3.5).
Instead of seeking to understand how God wants to use the circumstances to conform us to His image, we allow the “feelings” to take over.
Not Always Sinful
Not all anger is sinful, at least not in its early stages. But if not dealt with biblically it can quickly escalate into sinful thoughts, words, and actions.
26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil (Eph. 4.26-27).
We know not all anger is sinful because God gets angry.
Ps. 7:11 says God is angry with the wicked every day.
Jesus got angry with the Pharisees over what was going on in the temple.
12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them (Matt. 21:12-14).
But notice what he did right afterwards. He continued to minister. He didn’t allow anger to take over.
There are things we should be angry about. Things like: child abuse, abortion, “those who call evil good and good evil” (Is. 5.20).
But as sinful human beings, even righteous anger can turn into something else.
Righteous anger is not me-centered. It’s centered on God and His glory and on others. It can be the drive we need to over come evil around us.
Righteous anger over child abuse might drive us to babysit for a stressed out young mom or to mentor her.
It might also drive us to get involved in sharing the gospel, discipleship, or missions.
But it has become sinful anger when we’re willing to violate God’s commands ourselves or justify evil means of solving problems.
An Issue of the Heart
Anger is not just an emotion. It’s an issue of the heart.
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man (Matt. 15.18-20).
So, it’s not enough to “control or manage anger,” anymore than we would try to control adultery or thievery. Like getting rid of the weeds in our gardens, we need to get the root, not just cut off the top or it will quickly return.
The High Cost of Anger
It’s vital to deal with anger biblically for the sake of our churches, our families, our testimonies and the cause of Christ.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12.1-2).
Sinful anger destroys marriages, families, friendships and all kinds of relationships.
If you’re single and dating an angry man or woman, you need to think twice. It doesn’t matter if the anger is not directed toward you. Marriage tests us all. That man who is always angry with the waiter over the least infraction will quickly turn it on you when things don’t go his way. And then there’s the admonition we read in Proverbs 22.25 to “make no friendship with an angry man … lest you learn his ways”!
Sinful anger keeps us from being the parents God has called us to be.
4 And you, fathers [and mothers], do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).
It affects our health.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (Jas. 5.24-16).
Verse 16 is talking about sickness that’s caused by sin. Anger and bitterness can contribute to ulcers, high blood pressure and a host of other diseases.
But instead of seeing anger as sin that needs to be dealt with, we often excuse it. We blameshift. We justify.
- “Sure, I get angry, but I get over it quickly.”
- “If you had to live with my wife (or husband) …”
- “He just knows how to push my buttons!”
- “She made me angry!”
- “Sure I was angry, after what he did!”
The world has no real answers. Here are things people have been told to do to help them control anger. Some may have a temporary calming effect by letting off some steam, but others can, actually, fuel anger.
- Punch a pillow.
- Leave and drive or walk around until your anger dissipates.
- Go somewhere and scream as loud as you can for ten minutes.
- Take a shower. Let the water wash away any negative feelings.
- Do an angry dance.
- Blow into a paper bag and pop the bag.
- Play angry notes on the piano.
- Pull weeks and say “I’m so angry” with each pull.
- Masturbate to relieve stress and anger.
This is the kind of stuff that’s doled out by some counselors, psychologists, therapists and anger management specialists.
One little boy who went to his step-father and confided that he was struggling with anger, was told to go punch a tree. He ended up killing a toddler.
Some of it is laughable, some of it is sad, some of it sinful, and some of it tragic.
These methods don’t lead to permanent change. Sooner or later something else will cause the next explosion.
Christians who buy into this are saying, in effect, the Bible has no answers for dealing with anger and other emotions. And none of these things address the root of the problem, what’s going on in the heart.
Over the next two week we’ll talk about when and how anger become sinful and biblical steps to overcoming anger. I hope you’ll be here.
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