Anger is a common human emotion, and one that is difficult for many of us to manage. There are two Greek words used for "anger" in the New Testament. One is defined as "passion, energy" and the other is "agitated, boiling." Not all anger is sin. Often anger results from a sinful attitude. Other times, our anger has a righteous source. Either way, anger can quickly become sin if it is not handled properly.
What does the Bible teach about anger?
We know that not all anger is sin because God gets angry (Psalm 7:11). For example, He was angry at the Israelites for worshipping the golden calf they created instead of worshipping Him (Exodus 32:1–14). Jesus got angry when He was at the Temple and saw it being used as a place of business rather than as the house of God (John 2:13–17).
Some anger is righteous in nature because it is prompted by seeing things that go against God, for example injustice or mistreatment of others. We might also be righteously angry when we hear God's Word maligned or see people attempt to steal His glory. Though righteous anger is most often experienced as a result of offences inflicted on others, it is not inappropriate to be angry over true injustices done to yourself. But we are also wise to remember God's call to humility (Philippians 2:3–11; 1 Peter 5:5) and to recognize that not everything we might categorize as an "injustice" truly is, or is worthy of anger.
Anger over injustice or abuse done to you can be healthy, alerting you to dangerous situations and people, helping to keep you safe. The thing that is of crucial importance in these type of circumstances is how you handle the anger that results from them. If you have been through something unjust or that has caused trauma in your life, the ultimate goal that you should have is to come to a place of forgiveness. It will take time to work through the anger at having been violated and reach a place of true forgiveness. But taking this time is crucial not only to obeying God, but to receiving the fullness of His healing. Prayer and reading God's Word will be necessary in the journey, and you might also benefit from counseling to help with your anger. Ultimately, as God has forgiven us, we must forgive others. Forgiveness will make you free, leaving no room for a root of bitterness to keep you stuck in your anger. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31–32).
On the other hand, anger becomes sinful when it is motivated by pride and allowed to escalate into that "agitation, boiling" state mentioned earlier. Proverbs 29:11 says, "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." In these situations, anger can thwart God's purposes because it lingers and multiplies the negative emotions of the situation without offering a solution: "for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).
Ephesians 4:26–27 says, "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." The best way to handle our anger is to acknowledge it and do something about it. When we allow our anger to simmer or cherish grudges, we only save up more trouble for tomorrow. Instead, we need to examine our anger and handle it in a healthy way. Anger alerts us to something amiss. When we are angry, we need to ask ourselves why we are. If it is for a righteous reason, we should seek God's wisdom in whether He is asking us to intercede in the situation in some way. If it is for an unrighteous reason, we need to confess it to God and ask for His help. There is no sense in trying to pretend we don't have anger. Rather, own up to the situation and ask for God's healing and forgiveness where needed. Take the energy produced by anger to the problem itself instead of taking it out on the people involved.
Sometimes the best way to prevent anger is to establish boundaries in our lives that prevent us from being around people or situations that consistently give rise to anger. For example, there are some people who violate us that we must forgive, but should still refrain from allowing into our lives. A rape victim is required to forgive her rapist, but not to be his friend. If someone has embezzled money from you, you are to forgive that person, but it would not be wise to invest your money with her again. Use your God-given discernment to recognize when certain people or circumstances are unhealthy for you. Ask God for wisdom to help you handle difficult situations: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (James 1:5). The wisdom that God provides will help you have a rational mind and peace rather than anger (Psalm 119:66; James 3:17).
Regardless of the situation, one way to avoid sinning in anger is to look for God at work in our own trials and the trials of others. Even if things are unjust right now, God promises that He will ultimately enact His justice, so we are not to take enacting justice into our own hands: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Romans 12:19).
Also keep in mind that our primary enemy is not other people: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Any situation over which we might be angry is ultimately a result of the fallen nature of our world. The solution to the human problem of sin is Jesus. Jesus has also defeated Satan on the cross and will one day finally destroy Him. So rather than fight against one another, we do well to fight against our own sin, stand firm in faith, share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and wait in hopeful expectation for Jesus’ return.
Do what you can to live at peace with others: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). Ask God to help you process your anger in a healthy way without it turning to sin. The more you practice healthy methods to process your anger, the easier it will become.
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