The Christian and Anger
“My Pastor said it is a sin to get angry. I am a Christian, and that really bothered me. It almost seemed like he was saying you can’t be a Christian and be angry. Is that true?”
Well, let us look to the Word, to see what it tells us. There is a lot said in the Old Testament about anger, but mostly in the vein of how foolish it is to get angry; how it can get you into trouble. We are more concerned with what the New Testament has to say on this subject.
In the 4th chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, in which Paul is dealing with the way Christians ought to live, behave, as Christians in distinction from the way they had lived before they became Christians, he says in verses 26, 27, “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Initially, it seems Paul is saying that it is alright for us as Christians to be angry. But before we jump to that conclusion, let us consider the fuller context. We know that anger is an inescapable part of our sinful nature as human beings, and that no one—Christian or not—can constantly avoid being angry.
In fact, there is at least one sense in which we SHOULD BE ANGRY, and that is when we are faced with evil in life around us. We know this was the case with our Lord, Jesus. As Christians, we cannot help but be disturbed by the obvious wrongs we see in daily life. This is usually referred to as righteous indignation.
But, how much of our anger can truthfully be called righteous indignation Isn’t it more likely to be selfish concern, which can not be justified? The Christian must be certain that his anger is biblically justifiable, and not just an expression of personal provocation or wounded pride. It must have no sinful motives or results.
Too often pride is the problem. When pride begins to work, we forget our Christian love and forgiveness, and we allow our resentments and bitterness to flow out upon those around us. This kind of anger is, indeed, sinful.
So, what is the answer? Being sinful human beings, all of us will experience anger from time to time. The first thing to be said is that the Bible tells us we must not be continually angry. This is clear from the tense of the Greek verbs used. Next, it tells us that we must be clear about the nature of our anger, and what it prompting it.
Then, we must LOSE IT. The clear teaching here in Paul’s statement is that if we hold on to our anger, nurse it the way we are sinfully prone to do, it will be sin. So, to prevent that, we do what must be done to deal with the anger we are experiencing. And we must do it right away, which is what Paul means when he says, “…don’t let the sun go down on your anger. When we lie down in our beds at night, we should be able to do so with a clear conscience, so that God can bless us with blessed sleep.
To lose our anger, we must first of all be willing to swallow our pride; to forget self in the interest of others. There will be many times when we feel our anger is justified. In those times we must ask ourselves two questions: (1) Is this really righteous indignation, or is it merely wounded pride? (2) What will I gain by expressing my anger—even if I have a right to do so? Is it possible that I may win the battle, but lose the war?
And, then, to lose our anger as Christians will require forgiveness, in which our angercan be resolved and disappear. No matter how prone we are to flare up in anger, if we can develop a truly loving and forgiving spirit, we can control our anger. We can bury it in the forgiveness which seeks to accept others even as God has accepted and forgiven us, and which leaves judgment and vengeance to God—where they belong.
Paul’s final word here is, “…and don’t give Satan any opportunity.” Here Paul is telling us something important about the probable source of any sinful anger we experience. Who is most likely to want us to be angry and to get pleasure from it? You guessed it. So, we must close the door to that old serpent, by letting go of the anger we experience, and putting it completely behind it.
We must make sure that we do not nurse our hurt feelings, and let anger put distance between us and those around us. That is exactly what Satan wants us to do. But, remember, we don’t have to obey Satan. James 4:7 tells us, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
In conclusion, we can say that it is not necessarily a sin to be angry, and it certainly does not mean you are not a Christian. A further helpful word is given to us in James 1:19, 20: “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteous of God.”
Written by Dr. James Van Dyke for The John Ankerberg Show ©2007.