The Nature of Anger

Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger”

I used to think that human emotions such as anger were completely justified, as long as you didn’t sin when you were angry then the anger was justified. Human nature has always been a quick way to justify human failure. “We’re all human” is the response someone gives when trying to justify sin, but is this response adequate when considering the weaknesses in mankind?

Psalm 37:8 “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

In one frame it seems Paul is encouraging people to only abstain from acting out in anger, in another verse David reminds others to completely refrain from anger since it only leads to sin.

Can we justify human response?

Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”

I suppose I attempted to justify anger in my life because of the anger I stored up in myself as a young man. Because the response was so automatic in given situations, and because of my failure to move on from getting angry, I found it easier to look for ways to live with it. If someone made me angry, I felt justified as long as I took a nice walk and just ‘cooled off’ for a while.

The Nature we live by

It seems that every act of a believer in Christ comes down to two options; acting in righteousness or unrighteousness. Unrighteousness comes forth from a sinful nature; the rebellious, defiant, prideful, evil nature we all inherited from Adam. Righteousness comes only from God. The nature of God brings forth purity, holiness, faithfulness, obedience, faith, love, joy, peace, and every other attribute that exemplifies God’s nature.

Philippians 3:9 “And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—”

For those who are not followers of Christ, there is no option of acting righteously, they only have a nature of sin by which to act.

Romans 3:10 “As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;”

Just as God calls sinners to His grace, God then leads the sinner toward righteousness. Once a heart is turned to God by faith in Jesus Christ, then God’s Spirit dwells within them. It is this Spirit of righteousness that leads God’s people into obedience. Learning how to listen and obey is part of the growth of a believer in Christ. Drawing from the well of God’s abundance is the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the hearts of God’s people.

1 Corinthians 1:30 “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,”

Learning how to act upon God’s leading as opposed to being led by a sinful nature is the process of dying to the flesh. The leading of the Spirit of God, leads believers in the ways of God and His path is straight.

Proverbs 11:5 “The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.”

Anger in the life of a believer can come from a sinful nature that is aroused by pride, selfishness, or vain conceit. The anger that comes from God is always a righteous anger. Jesus exhibited a righteous anger when He witnessed the defilement of the Temple.

Righteous Anger

Matthew 21:12-13 “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Righteous anger doesn’t act like someone who is expressing the anger of man, the intent is different.

It’s very easy for anger to become unrighteous. Although anger in itself isn’t a sin, acting upon it, in many circumstances, can be.

1 Kings 11:9-11 “So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.”

Righteous anger doesn’t always act upon the response. God himself is anger with sinners every day and yet withholds His judgement in mercy.(Psalm 7:11) God is likewise slow in His anger toward sinners, a value that we are encouraged to do as well.(James 1:1 & Psalm 145:8)

The anger of God is closely tied in with the vengeance of God, it always has an eye toward restoration and healing.

Controlling anger is then a process that is more like directing our response that comes from a heart of love rather than a heart of hate.

Unrighteous Anger

The Association of Biblical Counselors explains there are three faces of anger: explosive, brewing, and embittered.

All those types of anger can lead to sin.  

For instance, explosive anger can cause us to say hurtful things. Consumed by our anger, we don’t temper our words and end up maiming others in the process.

Stewing anger and embittered anger can blow the situation out of proportion in our minds. Sitting with the anger longer than a day (Ephesians 4:26), can cause deep rifts in a relationship and more likely cause us to sin, the longer we percolate in our anger. 

Unlike righteous anger, unrighteous anger seeks to hurt. It doesn’t care about the person the anger is directed toward.

Matthew 5:22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Human nature is a sinful nature.

For those who attempt to excuse their actions based off their inherent qualities, this becomes more of an indictment against them for it reveals the nature by which they live.

There is much more that can be said regarding human nature but I’ll leave that for another day.

The reminder of how we express anger is a reminder I have to practice every day. If we want to be set apart from this world, this is an aspect of our character that must be brought under God’s leading…..only by His grace.

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