Anger is a feeling of annoyance or resentment arising from real or imagined grievance or injury. It is our feeling of displeasure when something evil or unpleasant happens to us. It often moves us to chide, rebuke or punish the offender.
Because it can lead, and often leads, to sin; Christians may feel the need to suppress their anger. However, anger is a natural, God-given emotion. Both the righteous and the wicked get angry at one time or the other. God does not deliver men from anger. Neither does he hinder the expression of our emotions in general. As usual, he gave them to us for the very best of reasons.
Our feelings are needful. They are not expected to be hindered in the redeemed, provided they are expressed appropriately and are not allowed to exceed legitimate God-defined limits. Problems only arise if and when there is the perversion of God’s original design. What we need is the wisdom to know how to deal with our feelings in a way and manner consistent with the word of God.
Looking unto Jesus
God gets angry, validating our anger. Isaiah says: “The Lord is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies.” (Isaiah 34:2). Samuel records that: “The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.’” (2 Samuel 24:1).
Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, was also an emotional person. He felt sorrow, grief, frustration, anger, love and compassion. He was not only angry at times, he was very angry on some occasions.
He was very angry when the religious orthodoxy of the Pharisees led them to object to the alleviation on the Sabbath of the suffering of a man with a withered hand: “When he had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5).
Jesus was also angry when he saw the money-changers buying and selling in the temple court: “He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16).
Indeed, the Holy Spirit has been known to prompt men to righteous indignation: “Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused. So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers.” (1 Samuel 11:6-7).
When the father of Samson’s betrothed wife gave her to someone else: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house.” (Judges 14:19-20).
In some cases, anger is the godly duty of man. For example, the believer is expected and enjoined to be angry at evil and to hate it: “You who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10). It is not enough for God’s people to love righteousness, they must also be angry at sin. A man incapable of being angry at sin cannot love righteousness. “God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalm 7:11).
Expect to be angry and don’t be surprised when you are. Where the spirit of God is there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17). Go ahead and be angry when necessary: “Be angry, and do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4). Anger in reaction to injury is legitimate. It neither negates nor compromises our Christian faith.
An okada driver pushes you into a ditch and you are angry. A man tries to slap you and you are angry. You dash your foot against a stone and you are angry. All this is proper and healthy. It is a mechanism placed by God in our nature, providing immediate self-protection before we can sit down to work out a more measured response.
But there its legitimate office ends. Taken further, it leads to wrath, bitterness, malice and revenge. If anger is prolonged, it almost always leads to sin.
When we are angry, there is danger we may get beside ourselves. We may not be able to respond with sensitivity to the needs of others. We may lose in that moment our ability to feel compassion. We may cause estrangement with others. We may create strife and enmity in our relationships. We may cease to give generously. We may require unrealistically high standards of behavior from others that we don’t even meet. We may become highly judgmental.
Things done and said in anger are often regretted. This is because anger can be a mild form of madness. You say what you don’t want to say and do what you would not have wanted to do. Anger is the cause of so many regrets. You can build a relationship for years and destroy it in one outburst of anger.
A wise man does not keep malice. He does not let anger sleep in his heart, otherwise, it will wake up when he least expects it. Anger is a fire which, if quickly put out, dies. But if allowed to burn inordinately can consume and destroy everyone, including the angry. Therefore the scriptures enjoin us to deal with it immediately:
“Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry-get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Self and God-control
Many of our feelings are not ours but are promptings of the devil who will use every opportunity to get us to harbour and nurture ill-feelings towards others. He is always busy when we are angry, embellishing the wrong in order to provoke us into sinful reactions. Don’t fall for this. No man sins by restraining his anger. But we will surely sin if we indulge our anger for more than a moment.
The devil, in this case, may be talebearers, gossips or slanderers. These are human devils or agents of devils. Don’t give place to them. Therefore: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
A believer is a fool for Christ but not for men. However, a believer who is prone to anger is a fool. Therefore, Solomon cautions: “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
Anger makes us open to temptation and deception. It easily makes us subject to attack, manipulation or provocation. Therefore, anger must be subject to self and God-control: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28).