“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
We live in a sinful world where the majority are undisciplined and unable to control their feelings. As a result we are impatient and are quick to anger. As believers it is a daily challenge to overcome sinful tendencies and traits, for though there are many things that we ought to be angry about, we have to be careful not to let this anger become sin.
Being angry is not sin
Most people think that a Christian who gets angry is a hypocrite, and even amongst other believers there is the idea that it is sin. Scripture teaches that we ought to have the nature of God in our lives, but let us not forget that it also tells us that He is angry towards those who persist in unrighteousness, wickedness and disobedience. “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses” (Exodus 4:14). In the New Testament we find the Lord Jesus Christ displaying anger at the religious leaders, “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5) … “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:14-17). When Saul heard about the wicked plans of the Ammonites, “The Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly” (1 Samuel 11:6). So we find that the Father and Son get angry, and the Holy Spirit produces anger, therefore anger in itself is not sin.
Our response to life’s situations
Switch on the TV news and it will not take long before we get angry over some foolish law that the government seek to introduce. How can we not get angry when unruly youths vandalise everything they see? There are times when we get ‘hot under the collar’ over the wickedness we see in society and the church, but we have to beware that we do not ‘seethe with anger’ so that it causes us to sin. In other words, we must be in control. Here are several ways that we can deal with anger when it arises in us:-
a) Remember mercy: We cannot stop ourselves becoming angry over the injustice and wickedness in the world, but we can learn to show mercy instead of wrath. Though “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11), we must not forget that “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6). We are encouraged to have the same character, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). It may mean that we will have to change the way we think and those we mix with, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25).
b) Do not seek revenge: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21). If we sinfully react to those who offend us, then we are guilty of being like them, and we usurp God’s authority. Leave the recompense to God.
c) Keep it zipped: The Rainbow character, Zippy, was so called because he had a zip for a mouth. Whenever he ‘mouthed off’ the other puppets zipped his mouth shut. It is so easy for inappropriate words to be spoken when anger gets the better of us, and the more we fume, the more likely it is for us to sin. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Sometimes it is far wiser just to keep quiet. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28) … “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11) … “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8) … “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
d) Be mature: Uncontrolled anger is called a ‘tantrum’ in a child, but that is exactly what happens when adults lose control too. Tantrums cause embarrassment to all around. “A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame” (Proverbs 12:16). The mature avoid those things, people and situations that cause them to be angry. “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11) … “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling” (Proverbs 20:3).
e) Carry a mirror: Before we judge others we need to take a long look at ourselves first. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2) … “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:1).
It is not the anger but how we deal with it that causes us to sin. We must be careful that we do not let the devil to get a foothold in our lives. “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).