Getting angry is very easy nowadays. Hardly a week goes by that we don't get upset over at least three or four things.
Millions of honest, hardworking people are outraged because their
savings or pension has been slashed due to the greedy dealings of big
corporations. Others are mad because they've been laid off from their
job. Still others have lost their house. Many are trapped in painful,
expensive illness. Those all seem like good reasons to be irate.
We Christians find ourselves asking: "Is getting angry a sin?"
If we look through the Bible, we find many references to anger. We know that Moses, the prophets, and even Jesus got angry at times.
Is all the rage we're feeling today justified?
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11, NIV)
Getting angry is a temptation.
What we do after that can lead to sin. If God doesn't want us to vent
our anger, we need to see what's worth getting mad about in the first
place, and second, what God wants us to do with those feelings.
Worth Getting Angry About?
Much of what gets us worked up could be classified as irritants,
those time-wasting, ego-bruising nuisances that threaten to make us
lose control. But stress
is cumulative. Pile up enough of those insults, and we're ready to
explode. If we're not careful, we can say or do something we'll be
sorry for later.
God counsels patience toward these aggravations. They will never stop, so we need to learn how to handle them:
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not
fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked
schemes. (Psalm 37:7, NIV)
Echoing this Psalm is a Proverb:
Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you. (Proverbs 20:22, NIV)
There is a hint that something bigger is going on. These
annoyances are frustrating, yes, but God is in control. If we truly
believe that, we can wait for him to work. We don't need to jump in, thinking God's off napping somewhere.
Distinguishing between petty trifles and serious injustice can be difficult, especially when we're biased because we are the victim. We can blow things out of proportion.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12, NIV)
Patience is not our natural reaction, though. How about
revenge? Or holding a grudge? Or shock when God doesn't immediately zap
the other person with a lightning bolt?
Growing a thicker skin so these insults bounce off is not easy.
We hear so much today about our "rights" that we see every slight,
intended or not, as a personal attack against us. Much of what gets us
angry is just thoughtlessness. People are rushed, self-centered,
worried about their own little world.
Even when someone is deliberately rude, we need to resist the urge to lash out in kind. In his Sermon on the Mount,
Jesus tells his followers to abandon that "eye for an eye" attitude. If
we want nastiness to stop, we need to set the example.
We can seek to live our lives under the control of the Holy Spirit
or we can let the sinful nature of our flesh have its way. It's a
choice we make every day. We can either turn to the Lord for patience
and strength or we can allow potentially destructive emotions like
anger to run unchecked. If we choose the latter, God's Word cautions us
over and over of consequences.
Proverbs 14:17 says, "A quick-tempered man does foolish things."
Proverbs 16:32 follows with this encouragement: "Better a patient man
than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a
city." Summing these up is James 1:19-20: "Everyone should be quick to
listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does
not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (NIV)
When Jesus got angryâ€”at the moneychangers in the temple or the
self-serving Phariseesâ€”it was because they were exploiting religion
instead of using it to bring people closer to God. Jesus taught the
truth but they refused to listen.
We can also get angry at injustice, such as killing the unborn,
human trafficking, selling illegal drugs, molesting children,
maltreating workers, polluting our environment ... the list goes on and
Rather than stewing about the problems, we can band together
with others and take action to fight, by peaceful, lawful means. We can
volunteer and donate to organizations that oppose abuse. We can write
our elected officials. We can form a neighborhood watch. We can educate
others, and we can pray.
Evil is a strong force in our world, but we cannot stand by and
do nothing. God wants us to use our anger constructively, to combat
Don't Be a Doormat
How are we to respond to personal attacks, to the betrayals, thievery, and injuries that hurt us so deeply?
"But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39, NIV)
Jesus may have been speaking in hyperbole, but he also told his
followers to be as "shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
(Matthew 10:16, NIV).
We are to protect ourselves without stooping to the level of our
attackers. An angry outburst accomplishes little, besides satisfying
our emotions. It also gratifies those who believe all Christians are
Jesus told us to expect persecution. The nature of today's
world is that someone is always trying to take advantage of us. If we
are shrewd yet innocent, we will not be as shocked when it happens and
will be better prepared to deal with it calmly.
Getting angry is a natural human emotion that need not lead us
into sinâ€”if we remember that God is a God of justice and we use our
anger in a way that honors him.