Fly off the handle lately? Are you set to a constant simmer, ready to boil over at any second? Has your road rage started to follow you home, and into the office? Know anyone who struggles with short-fuse syndrome? Maybe it’s time to revisit the Biblical counsel on anger.
Idioms of anger
Whether Biblical or contemporary, the idioms of anger teach us that we have a powerful and potentially dangerous force at play. In the Bible anger is fire. Both God and men “burn with anger”. Anger “smolders”, is “stirred up” and it “flares up”. The suggestion is that anger can be unpredictable and destructive. Our modern speech suggests the same thing. Angry people lose their ‘temper’ (emotional balance), lose their ‘head’ (wisdom), and they ‘get mad’ (lose their sanity). The connotations are not good.
Hang on, we protest angrily, isn’t there such a thing as righteous anger!?
God’s anger and yours
There is. But the only perfectly righteous anger belongs to God. Generally speaking, the difference between God’s anger and yours, is the difference between His purity and your filthy rags, His omniscience and your tunnel vision, His longsuffering and your tinder-box temperament. In what other area of life are we perfectly righteous? Our motives are always mixed. Our actions are always some alloy of sin and good intent. Jesus shows us that righteous anger in a human being is possible, but he was without sin. We, on the other hand, are far too quick to label our latest outburst as righteous anger.
OK fine. So my anger is mostly unrighteous. So now what? The first step is to acknowledge this: God’s anger is righteous. Our anger is sinful. Jesus died to deal with both.
Jesus has dealt with our anger. He has dealt with His Father’s anger. The cocktail of the two no longer ends in spontaneous combustion. Now, forgiven in the power of the Spirit, we are free to live a life without anger. We don’t have to be angry. But how?
Dousing the flames
1. Be slow.
(James 1.19-20). We need to slow down. That means you don’t press “send” or “post”. You don’t say the first thing that comes to mind; you don’t rush to conclusions. Take a moment. Sleep on it. Consult an older, wiser head for perspective. Breathe.
2. Be quick.
(Col 3.13). Be quick to forgive. A readiness, an instinct to forgive, is the mark of one who follows Christ. And the thing that will motivate you is what you have been forgiven in Christ. What is this small-change offence against the national debt of your life of sin? If you are in Him, if you are His, you will be ready to forgive, and that leaves anger bankrupt.
(Eph 4.26). Anger can be sinful in itself. It also leads to other sin. Who hasn’t said a sharp word, or raised a hand in anger? Anger is a foothold for the devil, and he will take it. We must learn to recognize the tell-tale signs of anger in ourselves, so that we can exercise self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. When you feel the red mist rising, take a seat until it passes. If you charge ahead like a madman, blind with your rage, you are going to fall into a hole.
4. Be patient.
(Rom 12.1, 19-21). People can do heinous things to us. Things that make us deeply, profoundly angry. We can harbor that anger for months, and even years. It can enslave us, embitter us, make us cynical, and poison our relationships. It can even drive us into evil out of a desire for revenge. But, in view of God’s mercy, we are to leave vengeance to Him. He is the only one qualified to judge justly, to defend your cause without infringing another. We, on the other hand, are called to overcome evil with good. When we get into a feud, our only weapons are kindness, forgiveness and love. In our fallen anger, we are called to trust in Him whose anger is perfect.
Written by Royden Frost. Original article can be found here.