Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Well, this is part 10 of this particular series, and unless the Spirit plants something, the last one
I want to preface this post by clearly saying that as I point that bony little finger at all of you, there still remain another three pointing backward at myself.
Can our should Christians ever, ever get angry? I hope we have clearly established that kindness should be the Christian way, and that anger should not. Still, the question remains: should Christians ever show anger?
This question in today’s world has even more significance in the Christian’s life because the world itself is in an angry state. Governments are mad at each other; politicians are mad at each other. People on the street are angry at each other. People are angry about injustice, perceived or real. People are occupying Wall Street, rioting in the cities, and beheading their enemies. People are angry, and the world is angry.
Anger has precedents in the Bible. Moses and Jesus both showed anger on more than one occasion. Jesus’ anger in the temple inspired the title of this post, in fact. Which raises an interesting point. People, including me, have been known to use Jesus’ conduct in the temple flailing a whip and tipping over tables to justify our own anger and acting out.
Well, there are indications that the possibility for appropriate Christian anger exists:
Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
That might possibly be telling us that we can be angry and not sin. I say possibly because frankly, not everybody sees it that way. I do think a Christian can be and show anger in appropriate situations and not sin. So, I’ll just share a few thoughts.
We are not Jesus. Next time you start yelling at your co-worker and use Jesus as your example and justification, step back and examine yourself. I have heard it said, “Well, I was mad, but it was Godly anger!” No, it wasn’t. Unless you suddenly became God. We don’t have the discernment or good sense to really know when our anger is righteous. Generally speaking, erring on the side of shutting up will serve us better.
Anger is actually a normal reaction to certain situations. Adrenaline, “fight or flight.” comes to mind here. There are situations of stress, danger or challenge which may very well produce a feeling of anger or tension. That is normal, and God made us that way. If a 300-pound brute suddenly appears trying to snatch one of our kids away in his car, a certain amount of anger might be needed and appropriate to deal with that particular situation.
It’s never about us. Righteous anger, if there is any possibility of it actually being righteous, is never about us or our needs, goals or desires. People are mean and people are irritating: so what? We have to get over it. Turn the other cheek and all of that, remember? Something to remember here is that anger is the temptation, and action is the sin. As we talked about earlier, anger is a perfectly normal reaction physically and emotionally to many situations life puts us in. The line between temptation and sin then becomes one between our feelings and our actions. In this case, there is almost no case for acting out in anger on our own behalf.
This never means we have to roll over belly up. The world, a very angry place, is also full of very angry Christians. In 99.9999999 percent of these cases, these angry Christians are simply in error and sin. On the other hand, our injunction to not sin on anger does not mean we just lay down and let the world run us over. Can we defend our faith? Of course. Can we out and out tell others that they are simply wrong in what they say? Of course, when we present Biblical truth. Can we confront sin openly and honestly? Of course, because again that is Biblical truth. Can we confront the co-worker who throws us under the bus at every opportunity? Of course. Can we confront that person who is spreading rumors about us? Of course.
Being angry at a situation does not mean I get to be angry at people. I find myself upset about numerous things. Abortion, same-sex marriage, rampant poverty in our cities and countryside are things that come to mind. I am angry about anger; the fact that people are so mean ticks me off. Anger is how I feel about these situations, not what I do. Anger is the temptation, acting out on it is the sin. We should find some things bothersome and agitating to us; God hates these things, we should also. It’s a distinction that I hope I need not explain. We may hate these things, but we simply don’t have the right to hate the practitioners of them. Period and get over it.
Jesus is the solution to anger. I hope everybody knew that one was coming. Jesus is the solution to our own anger. Through His presence in our lives and the indwelling of The Holy Spirit, we can tame our own anger, if we allow Him to work in us. By following the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can discern when our anger is proper and when it is not. Anytime we truly follow that leading, we will not err.
All the stuff we are angry about? Jesus is the solution to every bit of that as well. And that is our job. Our job is not to protest, complain and rail against the things we see wrong about the world and in the world. Next time you open your mouth and complain in anger about the sin and injustice in the world, just shut it. Then think, pray, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Then open your mouth back up and tell one of the people you are angry at about Jesus.