To Be or Not To Be Angry

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I need an impartial opinion. My husband and I argue constantly over my anger problem (that’s what he calls it). But I think my anger is justified. We’re both Christians, and I read in the Bible how Jesus got angry in the Temple because they were selling their wares inside God’s House. Why is Jesus’ temper OK, but mine isn’t? I see things on the news that make me want to throw something at the television. Why am I wrong to get angry? ~ Angry Annette

Dear Annette, the Bible gives us permission to be angry, but there is a caveat: “Be angry and sin not.” Did Jesus sin when he threw the money changers out of His Father’s house?
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Look, after years of counseling, I do know there’s a difference between “justified anger” and being a hothead. I grew up believing anger – all anger – was bad; but I grew up in a home where only the adults were allowed to be angry.

The bad news for hotheads is that Scripture contains many more verses warning believers against blowing their cool than verses advocating such behavior. The writer of Proverbs connects anger with foolishness:

>”Fools quickly show that they are upset, but the wise ignore insults” (Proverbs 12:16, NCV). >

And the apostle Paul recommends letting our heavenly Father fight our battles:

>”My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: ‘I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, NCV). >

Sometimes, however, God allows his people to fuss and remain faithful. Such is the case when King David furrows his brow and huffs:

God, I wish you would kill the wicked!
Get away from me, you murderers!
They say evil things about you.
Your enemies use your name thoughtlessly.
Lord, I hate those who hate you;
I hate those who rise up against you.
I feel only hate for them;
they are my enemies (Psalm 139:19-22, NCV).

Or when Nehemiah gets upset after learning about the wealthy Israelites’ exploitation of the poor:

>”Then I was very angry when I had heard … these words” (Nehemiah 5:6, NASB). >

What’s noteworthy in these situations is that David called down curses on sworn enemies of God, and Nehemiah directed his irritation at the “haves” repressing the “have-nots.” Both men were angry because of ungodly people or activities.

And Jesus expressed anger—at the Pharisees who exhibited such hard hearts (Mark 3:1-5) and at the crass commercialism that sullied the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48)—to convey extreme displeasure over sin. Those reasons are the key to righteous anger.

How does this affect me?

As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over sin, too. Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us.

But no matter how reprehensible the people or activities we’re condemning, we still aren’t justified to sin in our responses:

>”When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day” (Ephesians 4:26, NCV). >

Those of us with confrontational personalities might want to ask ourselves the question, Is my motive to be right or to be righteous? before ripping into the offending parties.

Such considerations also help us be pokey in getting peeved:

>”Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, ESV). >

Instead of replying immediately, simply counting to ten before reacting usually leads to much better results in a contentious situation.

Then after we take offense, we should take redemptive action. Christians must get involved with organizations working to free children from slavery and volunteer at shelters working to protect battered women. We must lead the charge against hatred and oppression and cruelty!

Ultimately, if our outrage results in restoring people into loving, healing relationships with Jesus, it’s righteous anger.

Should you care to read more about anger, these are the books I recommend:

Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Wayir?t=survinspitofi-20&l=as2&o=1&a=188127

The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About Godir?t=survinspitofi-20&l=as2&o=1&a=157683

The Anger Workbook: A 13-Step Interactive Plan to Help You… (Minirth-Meier Clinic Series)ir?t=survinspitofi-20&l=as2&o=1&a=084074

She’s Gonna Blow!: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Angerir?t=survinspitofi-20&l=as2&o=1&a=073691

I do wish you the best, Annette. After reading these books, perhaps some biblical counseling would do you a world of good. You certainly don’t want to be passing on any anger problems to the children God may loan to you.

Stay cool!

© 2008 April Lorier

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