“Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26)
We seem to be living in an angry world. So, the question I want to pose is this: Is it really a sin to be angry? I do not believe so. Anger, like any other emotion is not a sin. Is it a sin to feel happy? No. Is it a sin to feel sad? No. Is it a sin to feel excited? Again, no. Emotions are not a sin, including the emotion of anger. Before healing a man with a deformed hand, Jesus looked around at his critics and the bible says he was “angrily and deeply saddened by their hard hearts.” (Mark 3:5). When Jesus cleansed the Temple, he was angry because people had turned his Father’s house into a market. (John 2:13-17). What Jesus experienced was righteous anger.
But anger can get us in trouble. Proverbs 14:29 tells us, “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” So, why at times is our anger righteous, and at other times foolish? I believe foolish anger is a result of two things:
First, self. When self believes it is entitled to something, but does not receive it, the emotion of anger will fester inside us. Or when self is hurt by someone’s actions or words, resentment will start stirring up a pot of toil and trouble in our hearts. This anger stems from the fact that we have not gotten our way.
Second, shame. Shame is something most of us probably don’t associate as being a cause of our anger, but unresolved shame can cause a great deal of pent up rage inside us. Perhaps we did something no one else knows about, but it has been imbedded in our conscious for months – or maybe even years. The load of guilt we carry decays our hearts with bitterness. As time goes on, we find our attitudes eroding, and our tempers looking for ways to get into the ring and fight about something – anything. The bible says, “A hot-tempered person starts fights.” (Proverbs 15:18). We find angry poison dripping from our lips, and we don’t care who is the target of our venom.
If our anger stems from self, scripture puts the responsibility to deal with it squarely on our shoulders. Ephesians 4:31-32 reads, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander…..Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” We have within us, through God’s Spirit, the ability to overcome our selfish anger, because first, we have been forgiven. Out of gratitude for the forgiveness God has given to us, we can pay it forward to others. God’s grace always gives us the ability to move beyond self. Memorize and meditate on the list of fruit the Holy Spirit bears in Galatians 5:22-23.
And if our anger stems from shame, I want to encourage you with the truth that we can be free from the rage that control us. I John 1:9 promises us that “if we confess our sins to God, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God will forgive us for the sin that has kept us in bondage to shame and guilt – no matter how long it has been hanging like a millstone around our neck.
Whatever controls our irritable attitude, God has the means to deliver us. He has a door we can walk through to find the peace our hearts and minds so desperately seek. We do not have to live with hearts boiling over.