Be Angry--Sin Not
"In your anger do not sin."1
In one church where I was teaching I stated that it was okay to be angry. One lady was absolutely amazed. She could hardly believe her ears. She told me that she had been taught all her life that Christians never get angry. So she had reasoned in her mind: "Christians never get angry. I'm always angry. Therefore I can never be a Christian!"
That night she was freed from 20 years of anguish and received assurance of her salvation. She was indeed a Christian because she had received Jesus as her Savior. But she had never understood that anger is amoral; that is, of itself it is neither right nor wrong. It's what we do with it and how we handle it that matters. The Bible actually teaches, "Be angry—sin not."
Anger itself (not rage, hostility, or bitterness) is a God-given emotion. Its purpose is to fight evil and right wrongs—to bring about change for good where change is needed. This is how Florence Nightingale used her anger. She was angry at the way wounded soldiers were being treated, or rather, being mistreated, so she did something about it. We are meant to use our anger in the same way.
The reality is that everybody gets angry at one time or another. Some people bury and deny theirs while others lash out and hurt others. Neither of these is healthy, right, nor Christian.
When expressing anger, we need to own it as our own, and remember that the biblical principle is to speak the truth in love. One way to do this is to say something like, "I know my feelings are my responsibility, but I feel angry and need to talk to you about such and such."
Never say to a person, "You make me angry" This is because nobody can make me angry without my permission. All others can do is trigger my anger, but the anger is mine. And it is always my responsibility to handle and express it in helpful and not in hurtful ways.
Unfortunately, however, when we have a lot of bottled-up anger or anger from the past that has never been faced and resolved, our "anger button" can get triggered very easily and we then overreact. What the other person does to me is their issue; how I feel and react is always my issue and my responsibility. To the degree that I overreact that is always my problem.
One of the great needs (at least in our Western society) is to learn to identify our feelings—positive and negative—to be honest about them, and learn how to handle them in creative, rather than destructive, ways. Until we do this, we have little chance of developing wholesome and intimate relationships.
As the Bible teaches, "If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly, for when you are angry [and don't resolve it] you give a mighty foothold to the devil."2
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You for the gift of feelings. Please help me to be in touch with all of mine, be honest with them, and when expressing them, help me to always speak the truth in love.3 Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus's name. Amen."
For more on anger, click on "Taming Your Anger" at: www.actsweb.org/articles.
1. Ephesians 4:26 (NIV).
2. Ephesians 4:25-27 (TLB), (NLT)
3. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)