Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. ~ Ephesians 4:26-27
In the last post, we began by looking at the nature of anger. We saw that Scripturally, anger is a heart issue that resides within each of us. It is not the result of someone wronging us or something happening to us. While, truly we may be genuinely wronged or an injustice may have occurred, those things do not cause our anger, they merely reveal what is lying in wait within our hearts. Additionally, we saw that fundamentally, anger is revealed by us wanting something too much. At the simplest level, anger is the result of idolatry. We are desiring something more than Christ. To deal with this, the first step is to determine what that is. James 4:1-3 gives us some insight:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Here we see that the passions we have in our hearts is at the root of our anger and quarrels. Regardless of how we may feel, the Bible states that our anger is often the result of wanting our own “passions.” Our minds are affected by the Fall of Adam and Eve, and part of the depravity of our nature is in our way of thinking. This is why Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 that we are to have our lives transformed by the “renewing of our minds.” We need to think rightly about ourselves and the world. Part of this is recognizing what God says about anger and our desires.
That is the first step in dealing with anger rightly; (1) recognize that it is within the human heart which is not subject to change due to human influence. Secondly, in dealing with anger, realize it is your attempt to serve justice in a situation. When you fell yourself getting anger, (2) realize you are not God who is the Judge. A wonderful illustration of this is found in the case of Joseph in Genesis 50. Let’s see the situation there:
‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. ~ vs. 17-20
Here we see Joseph telling his brothers (who had REALLY wronged him) that he was not in the place to judge them. Realize that he was the most powerful man in Egypt behind the Pharaoh; he could have done what he wished, but he knew the correct response was that God would judge them for their evil and Joseph trusted in that.
Thirdly, realize that God has been gracious to you in Christ. There is no person who has wronged us nearly as much as we have wronged God. There is no situation so unfair that it equals nor rivals the atonement actions of God. We are often the epitome of the unjust steward of Matthew 18:
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.‘ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ~ 23-35
God has forgiven our massive sin debt, yet we require pounds for pennies out of those who wrong us.
Fourthly, when feeling the emotion of anger, realize that God is in control of the situation. He is doing good! That is what we saw in the case of Joseph when his brothers wronged him. What his brothers intended for evil, God meant for good. God never abandoned him, nor was He ignorant of the injustices. We cannot see behind the veil of eternity. We are bidden to trust our Heavenly Father who would never wrong us. Though we may not escape pain, we can trust that God is working even in the midst of our suffering (see Romans 8:28-29).
Lastly, when dealing with anger, realize who you (if you a believer) are. You are a new creature in Christ (see 2nd Corinthians 5:17). You now have the ability to see sin for what it is, but it shall not be your master any longer. You have the Holy Spirit of God in you now. God’s grace is given so that we can now exercise self-control, gentleness, and patience. We can love those who wrong us.
But Paul says “be angry, yet do not sin.” This means that anger in and of itself is not sin. It is the improper response of anger. It is the outburst of wrath that are motivated by revenge instead of correction (love). It is the internalizing of the emotion in such a way that bitterness takes hold of our lives and the familiar “passive aggressive” stance happens. It is that smoldering feeling of retribution which is such an intimate companion many of us know. That is sin. It seeks revenge.
But God got angry! Yes, He did. We see pictures of his anger throughout the Old and New Testaments. We see Christ clearing out the Temple with zeal. So, when is anger justified? There are only three instances in which anger is truly justified: 1) When a real sin has taken place 2) When it concerns God’s Kingdom, not our own 3) When it is rightly expressed (out of correction, not revenge). Unless your anger falls into these categories, then we must own it for what our anger is, sin. We must humbly recognize that we have sinned against the One who loves us and gave Himself as an offering for our sin. We must repent and trust in His graciousness to forgive us and cleanse us from our unrighteousness (1st John 1:9). Do not smolder in your own misery any longer. Take your sin to Christ and seek His gracious hand.