Recently, I had an idea that anger was not always wrong. I thought to myself that when faced with injustice, anger could be seen as a righteous response and that it’s categorisation as a deadly sin was unhelpful.
Before I wrote this though I decided to consult the Bible for what it said, and I wanted to share what I found, as it was a worthwhile journey.
The dictionary definition of anger is as follows:
a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong
It seems logical that this is a natural part of life, to let injustice be met with anger and indignation. In Ephesians 4:26, Paul writes:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
The first is a quote from Psalms 4 verse 4, which goes on to say “on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still.” This suggests that some short term anger is acceptable provided that we reflect on it calmly.
This latter part made me think about what type of anger it was referring to, as being still is rarely linked to rage. Perhaps, I wondered, it was referring more to indignation than furious wrath, that feeling of dissatisfaction with the world we see. The command in Psalms however is clear; take every one of these thoughts captive and do not resort to rash decisions.
There is far more speaking against anger. In the same chapter in Ephesians, verse 31, Paul says that “all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.” Rather than quote every verse, I have included here a list of some which I found:
Job 5:2, Prov 15:18, Prov 19:19, Prov 22:24, Prov 27:3-4, Prov 29:22, Col 3:8, 1 Tim 2:8
Many times it is said of God that He is slow to anger, but it is true that He becomes angry. The wrath of God is a very real thing, something which we should all fear.
I therefore hit a stumbling block; if anger is a sin and something to be avoided, how come God does it? The answer I’ve come up with is that anger is not a sin, but a higher function.
James 1:19-20 reads as follows:
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.
This makes a very clear difference between God’s anger and man’s, which fits with the rest of the Bible’s teaching on it. Still though I could not grasp why it was acceptable for God but not for me. Until I read Romans 9:
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
Only at this point did I get the subtlety in the meaning of anger which meant that it is perfectly acceptable for God to be angry and not us. The fact that we are judging something as wrong makes it an act of rebellion to be angry at anything that God has ordained. We must submit to his authority and not just be angry as and when we please.
In conclusion, I think I now understand why some recommend to disregard anger and others that it is acceptable. Judgement is for God alone but to be angry with things that He judges as unjust is I believe acceptable. We must however always exercise control and not let ourselves be tempted to sin.
I hope you have enjoyed this discussion. Please add your own comments and thoughts below, I would welcome any further thoughts you have to offer.