My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20
Anger, a feeling of frustration, displeasure, and hostility. I think we can all admit that we have felt this emotion at varying levels before, be it with family, friends, in church or at work. Whilst this is an emotion that can arise in us, what does the Bible say about anger? Is it a sin? Is it not just a natural human response to unfair situations or something someone did to wrong us? As Christians what should be our response to anger and how can we effectively overcome it, to continue being the fragrance of Christ and not slaves to our flesh?
Is anger that dangerous?
What comes to mind when you think about anger? What memories are triggered in you? I believe at this point we all have a memory of being angry whether as a young child or fully grown adult. Anger is often a manifestation of unfulfilled lust, covetousness, hatred, jealousy, resentment, or a desire to take vengeance on someone else if they have wronged you in the past.
Whilst anger is an emotion present in everyone, if we allow it to consume us it can often lead to sinful actions such as violence against our brothers and sisters. There are some prominent Bible stories where anger has led to death in some cases. Cain murdered his brother Abel due to jealously about his intimacy with God. David who out of a lustful heart for Bathsheba, a married woman, orchestrated for her husband Uriah to be killed in the frontline of battle so that he could have her all to himself.
When we allow anger to dominate us, it can cause us to do unrecognisable things, things that are incompatible with our Godly nature. Not only this, but anger can also have a negative impact on our emotional and physical health such as causing stress, high blood pressure and heart problems. Also, it can damage interpersonal relationships, affecting your relational wellbeing. This being said, there is a term called “righteous anger” where you are angry against actual sin, offence to God and you express this anger in a manner consistent with your Christian nature. For example, when Jesus was cleansing the temple of unrighteous acts (John 2:13-25).
How do we overcome anger?
As we grow in our walk with God, we learn to see people through His eyes. Through a lens of grace and mercy, even when they have offended or frustrated us. Matthew 5:9 says, “blessed are the peacemakers”, with God’s help we can be vessels of peace and unity in our home, our church, and our community at large. Let us constantly ask God to search and cleanse our hearts of toxic thoughts, because harbouring angry thoughts lead to actions carried out in anger. The condition of our heart is critical when it comes to anger because;
out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaksLuke 6:45
The world will know us by the fruit we show them (Matthew 7:16-20).
Now the obvious question is, how can we diffuse such anger and find coping mechanisms and outlets, so we are not storing up hatred towards others. As Christians we carry the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to do the will of the Father and to be angry, and not sin, (Ephesians 4:26). The same power that resurrected Christ from the dead is at work in us (Romans 8:11) and unites us in Christ to ensure we are not slaves to our emotions.
Train your mind
Just like Paul said, we must train our mind like an athlete, master our ourselves (1 Corinthians 9:27), this could be through writing down your thoughts in a journal, talking it through with a trusted friend or mentor, finding quiet time to pray and meditate or exercise! In doing this, we create space to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2.)
God gives us His Holy Spirit, who helps us to obey and seek Him, to enable us to display self-control and peace in the place of unrighteous anger. Anger is a hard emotion to control, yet with God’s grace and wisdom it is an emotion that can be mastered and overcome.