I’ve always heard it preached, that anger is okay. People would quote Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not:” and say, “Look! You can be angry, as long as you aren’t sinning.” This made perfect sense to me, and I took it as truth. But in time I’ve come to find another verse not far away, it says:
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” Ephesians 4:31
So isn’t that a contradiction? One verse tells us to be angry and not sin, and the other tells us to put our anger away? How can this be?
On another note, multiple verses tell us to be “slow to anger.” So anger is permissible, but only if you are not quick to anger?
With all of these thoughts, let us turn to our ultimate example- Christ.
It may surprise you that Jesus was angry upon multiple accounts. One time is mentioned in Mark 3. Jesus is about to heal the a man in the synagogue. He challenges the Pharisees ideas and they do not reply. In that moment, He was very angry. It says that he looked around at them in anger. Then, he healed the man.
Notice Jesus didn’t become violent, He didn’t act out in anger. He kept to His purpose. He continued His ministry. He continued to love. And from everything we read in that passage,
He moved on.
I think the answer to the anger question is simple.
In our anger, we should not sin. So that means we don’t lose control. But more than this, we don’t lose our focus. Not sinning in anger is more than just not yelling at someone, or not punching them in the face. No. It’s much more. In order for us to have anger in it’s proper place, we must be able to
Be angry, and still love
Be angry, and still prefer others above ourselves
Be angry, and still have Christ as our supreme focus, delight, and desire.
I have come to this conclusion, which I ask you to consider carefully before you accept. If our anger detracts, deters, or detours us from any objective- it is sin. If we flicker in our devotion to God. If we glance away from His plan for our lives. If we use it as an momentary occasion for pride, it is sin. If we feel anger as a reaction to an affront against us, instead of being angry for the sake of God’s honor, it is sin.
I do not know what kind of anger you have known, but my anger is most assuredly always an occasion of pride. It is always a moment of “How dare they ____ to me.” My anger is always in defense of what I think I “deserve.” True humility and love teaches me that I deserve nothing. And I need no defense.
I truly believe, if we are angry, it should be on behalf of God, and not ourselves.
If you have known this righteous anger, then I salute you, but there is still another aspect to consider. Ephesians 4:31 says, we must put our anger away. No matter how righteous your anger is, it will not be righteous for long, if you allow it to stay. The children of God must not live in a spirit of anger. We must not let it dwell in our hearts. Read the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . .
Do these all coexist with a heart full of anger, I think not. Let us be like our glorious Creator, of which it has been said,
“The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.”