A while ago, a situation occurred in my life, which caused me much anger and frustration, and led me to write the blog post entitled “GRRRR”. In that post, I said that I would deal with the topic of anger in a separate post, so here I am, inspired by yet another episode of “gnashing of teeth”, needing to be reminded of what God says in His word concerning anger.
Webster’s dictionary states that the word “anger” comes from the Latin word “ango” which means to choke or strangle. I don’t know about you, but there have been a few people in my life who have made me want to “ango” them!
Does anger have any place in a Christian’s life? When I was a “less informed” Christian, I was very confused about this issue. I used to think that because I was a Christian, that it was wrong for me to get angry. This made me feel very guilty when I did get angry. I would try to shove the anger down, but since I hadn’t really dealt with it properly, the anger just simmered away in a dark corner until that corner was so filled with anger that it would suddenly explode, often for the slightest reason, and woe to anyone who was standing in the way at the time! Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii all over again!
Another consequence of the confusion over anger was that I allowed myself to become everyone’s doormat. I felt like I was walking around with a sign on my back which read “Wipe Feet Here”. I thought that being a Christian meant that I had to allow people to mistreat me. After all, I was always taught that Jesus “turned the other cheek”.
I believe that the misunderstanding about the issue of anger and being a Christian can lead a person to feel confusion, defeat, frustration, feelings of low self-esteem, guilt and condemnation. Anger that has not been dealt with properly can lead to mental health issues and even affect physical well-being.
Let’s look at the Word of God and see what He has to say about anger:
First of all, I would like to point out that, contrary to what has often been traditionally taught in church, God is not a “grumpy old man”. He is not full of anger and He is not waiting to zap you with a lightening bolt!
Neh 9:17 And they refused to obey, neither were they mindful of Your wonders which You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But You are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and did not forsake them.
Psa 78:38 But He, full of pity, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; yea, many times He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath.
Psa 103:8 Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and rich in mercy.
Psa 145:8 Jehovah is gracious and full of pity; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
Notice that, even though the people were disobedient, forgetful, stubborn and rebellious, yet God either turned His anger away or was slow to anger! Also notice that all the above scriptures came from the Old Testament, so that the traditional teaching of an angry O.T. God was made by people who did not compare scripture with scripture ( a cardinal rule of biblical interpretation).
Now I am not saying that God never gets angry. Since scripture says that He is slow to anger, it must mean that He can and does actually get angry. That must mean that there is a proper time for “righteous” anger.
Isa 65:2 I have spread out My hands all the day to a rebellious people who walk in the way not good, after their own thoughts;
Isa 65:3 a people who without ceasing provoke Me to anger to My face;
Jer 25:5 They said, Turn again now, each one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that Jehovah has given to you and to your fathers forever and ever.
Jer 25:6 And do not go after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no harm.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
God doesn’t become angry just because He is in a bad mood; He becomes angry when He is provoked by mankind’s ongoing disobedient (sinful) behaviour. Another definition for “provoke” is “grieve”. Our disobedience (sinfulness) grieves God and our continuous disobedience is what finally provokes Him to anger. But remember, God is slow to anger, which means He puts up with a lot before He finally gets angry.
We also need to know, that even when God does get angry, He does not hold on to that anger forever. He doesn’t “nurse a grudge” for years on end.
Psa 30:5 For His anger is only a moment; in His favor is life. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Jer 3:12 Go and cry these words toward the north, and say, Return, O backsliding Israel, says Jehovah; and I will not cause My anger to fall on you; for I am merciful, says Jehovah, and I will not keep anger forever.
Mic 7:18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not keep His anger forever, because He delights in mercy
We have seen how the Old Testament tells us that God is slow to anger, only gets angry when He is provoked by sinful behaviour, and that God does not stay angry forever. Let us now look at what the New Testament has to say about Jesus and the subject of anger:
Mar 3:5 And looking around on them with anger, being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, Stretch out your hand! And he stretched it out. And his hand was restored whole, like the other.
Jesus was grieved or provoked to anger by the hardness of the hearts (sinful behaviour)of the Pharisees in the synagogue.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem and saw what had been going on in the temple, I think you could say he was a mite miffed!
Mat 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of those who sold doves.
Mat 21:13 And He said to them, It is written, “My house shall be called the house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of thieves.
Joh 2:14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers sitting.
Joh 2:15 And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, also the sheep and the oxen.
Although the verses don’t contain the word “anger” or “angry” I think that the actions of swinging a whip around and overthrowing the tables and seats is a good indication of Jesus’ state of mind at that time.
In Titus, we read a description of what a church bishop should be like:
Tit 1:7 For the bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward; not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Notice that a bishop is not told that he can’t be angry, but rather, that he shouldn’t get angry easily or quickly.
One scripture clearly states that you are allowed to become angry:
Eph 4:26 Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath,
Eph 4:27 neither give place to the Devil.
Please notice that there is a huge implied “but” in the first sentence: you can get angry “but” don’t sin just because you are angry. Just because you may be justified in feeling angry, does not give you permission to behave badly or wrongly. Do not allow the Devil to get a foothold, or give him a tool to be destructive with just because you are angry.
Also notice, that just as God’s anger does not last forever, we are not to “let the sun go down” on our anger. Don’t nurse wounds or hold grudges!
The Bible clearly shows that both God and Jesus experienced anger – righteous anger. So I think that as a Christian, there are times when it is appropriate and permissible for us to become angry too. However, it is very important to ascertain that you have a “right” to that anger. Is it truly a “righteous” anger provoked by the sinful behaviour of another? Or are you just angry because you didn’t get your own way?
Jon 4:4 And Jehovah said, Is anger rightly kindled in you?
Mat 5:22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be liable to the judgment.
I believe that Christians are allowed to experience anger, however, we must follow God’s example:
1) We must be slow to anger.
2) We must make sure that it is a righteous anger provoked by sinful behaviour.
3) We must not hold on to the anger.
Eph 4:26 Be angry, and do not sin.
And be guided by the following:
Rom 12:18 As far as it is possible for you be at peace with all men.
Rom 12:19 Do not give punishment for wrongs done to you, dear brothers, but give way to the wrath of God; for it is said in the holy Writings, Punishment is mine, I will give reward, says the Lord. (BBE)