By Dave Jenkins, Crosswalk.com
Handling anger properly is a critical life skill for Christians. Anger can cripple communication between two people and rip apart families and relationships in churches. God’s Word not only teaches how to deal with anger but also how to overcome sinful anger.
Righteous anger is expressed when we are confronted with sins such as in cases of child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexuality activity, sexual fornication, abortion, and more. The biblical Christ get angry at sin, even the sins of His disciples (Matthew 16:21; 23:1-26). Jesus is perfectly righteous, and holy and cannot endure the presence of transgression without responding in wrath because His anger is always righteous (Leviticus 10:1-3; Romans 1:18; 1 Peter 2:22-23).
James also gives us excellent instruction when it comes to righteous indignation (James 1:19-20). The Apostle Peter echoes this advice, especially for those times when we face those antagonistic toward God and the things of God in 1 Peter 3:14-17. Christians can also channel righteous anger into organizations that combat the influence of evil in society. Our outrage as Christians should lead to bringing others into a loving relationship with Christ.
Ephesians 4:15-19 helps Christians understand they are to speak the truth in love to build one another up not use their speech to tear one another down (Romans 3:13-14). Anger becomes sin when it is allowed to boil over unconstrained resulting in hurt being multiplied and leaving destruction in its wake (Proverbs 29:11).
Handling Anger Biblically
To manage our anger biblically, we must recognize our mismanagement of ungodly anger as sin (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). Such a confession should be to God and specific to those who have been hurt by our anger not excusing it, nor shifting blame to the victim.
To handle anger correctly because someone has hurt us, we need to see the Lord amid such situations. Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28-29, and James 1:2-4 help Bible readers understand nothing that happens in our lives is a surprise to a faithful God who redeems all situations for the joy of His people. The Lord is a good God (Psalm 145:8-9, 17). Reflecting on these biblical truths will move our hearts to alter how we react to hurtful people and situations.
Anger and Biblical Ethics
Responding to anger appropriately is a matter of biblical ethics. God the Father who is perfectly holy only gets angry when His holy unchanging standards are violated (Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 6:3). Since Christians are to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1), the people of God must only get angry at what God gets mad about. To do that, when we see the weak and helpless exploited for example, we need to understand the Lord’s wrath is kindled against the oppressor (Exodus 22:21-24). Hypocrisy in our lives and in our local churches must disturb the Christian because of Jesus’ anger towards those who honor Him with their lips only (Matthew 15:8, 23).
Every Christian, at some point in their lives, is going to get angry. The Bible does not minimize that reality but also teaches that the Christian is not to sin in anger (Ephesians 4:26). Every time Christians get mad, we need to stop, pray, and check ourselves to ensure we are upset at what God hates. For example, we might hate sex trafficking, but we pass from righteous anger at the exploitation of children to sinful anger if we have thoughts of destroying those who engage in such behavior.
In cases of injustice, it’s essential to make room for the wrath of God when evil men abuse innocent people. Genesis 50:19 and Romans 12:19 tell us God is righteous, and just so we can trust Him who knows and sees all to act justly (Genesis 18:25).
Christians Are to Put Away Anger
Anger is the emotion most often associated with abuse which is why Paul tells Christians to put away anger (Ephesians 4:31). Ephesians 4:26 is not a contradiction but a recognition that anger even it is righteous often leads towards malicious thoughts about wanting to see offenders repent. Such anger gives root to bitterness that destroys the soul (Hebrews 12:15). Rather than viewing people as opponents, we should seek to imitate our Savior by restoring the repentant like Jesus. Jesus was hard on the Pharisees because of their heart hearts (Matthew 23) but was kind and gentle to the women caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11).
One key to handle anger biblically is to return good for evil (Genesis 50:21; Romans 12:21). Instead of holding onto anger, pray for the person who angers you. The key is to convert your anger into love for others because of the grace of God. This is one key where we can change our feelings towards another by doing a loving deed. One example of this is praying for those who upset us and asking the Lord to change our hearts first and then to change the person who has hurt us.
Four Keys to Christian Communication
Be honest about the problem and speak to it (Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:25). After all, people cannot read our minds, and we must speak the truth in love.
Do not allow your anger to build up, so you lose control. It’s essential to address what’s bothering you before it builds up. Communicate how you feel with those close to you is one helpful tool to combat blowing up. Stay current on communicating about your feelings (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Don’t see people as opponents to be won but communicate in love with people (Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 4:31). One key to doing this well is to watch the volume of our voice and to keep it low (Proverbs 15:1).
- Counting to ten in our head is an invaluable tool to respond in a godly way to others (Ephesians 4:32).
Helpful Application Questions to Ask
The next time you feel that anger is coming I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:
“What tends to make you feel mad, and why?”
“What behavioral characteristics annoy me, and what are the reasons?”
“What is my anger revealing about the present state of my walk with Jesus?”
Address Your Anger in a Biblical Way
Anger is a God-given emotion and meant to be expressed righteously, not in unrighteousness. As the Lord by the Holy Spirit addresses your anger, repent, confess it, and seek help from your pastor and trained biblical counselors. By recognizing what causes you to get angry, you can grow in grace and prevent future outbursts of unrighteous anger. We all need one another. I need you, and you need me in our local churches. So, let’s keep the lines of communication open, share openly and honestly with one another and aim to grow together in grace in community with one another in the local church.
Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, or read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign up for his email newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.