By Joanne Highley
All of us have felt anger and probably continue to feel anger when we are hurt, abused or wronged. There is no doubt that we need to look at this very powerful and potentially deadly emotion and learn how we can deal with it in our lives. The scriptures speak clearly in regard to this emotion and show us how to deal with anger with the purifying power of the truth of God. We see that the scriptures do not expect us never to be angry and even set forth the truth that there is a righteous form of anger. But we must work to change the way we have justified the sinful reactions that accompany anger if we do not guard against them. Let's look at the truth about anger.
In the dictionary anger is defined on four levels. 1. Anger as deep, strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice or wrongdoing. It is sudden, violent displeasure accompanied by an impulse to retaliate. (A sudden burst of anger) 2. Indignation is a more formal word and implies a deep and justified anger often directed against something unworthy. (Indignation against cruelty or corruption.) 3. Rage is vehement anger. 4. Fury is rage that is so great it resembles insanity. (Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.) We should also factor in the word wrath which means a strong, stern or fierce anger or deeply resentful indignation, ire and punishment as the consequences of anger.
In looking up anger in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, I found 232 references to the word "anger" and to my surprise, 163 of these referred to the anger of the Lord, not against man, but against man's wickedness and/or disobedience. This fact of God's anger and wrath verify that there is righteous anger called indignation. When we have that form of anger we are actually doing a good thing because we should be displeased with everything that is not for the glory of God and the good of mankind. But the remaining 69 references give us plenty of instruction to lead us to freedom from ungodly anger.
In the book of James 1:19, the writer of this epistle states: " My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." Here we see that it was expected that we would at times be angry, but the accompanying instructions of being quick to listen and slow to speak are ways of dealing with anger. We must work these qualities into ourselves until they are a practiced godly response when we feel anger. We must write, pray and think about these qualities and earnestly desire them for our own. Do not put this off. Start practicing being quick to listen and slow to speak and pray for the ability to do so. Think about this as you walk on the way or sit at home. It is time to take this seriously.
Being slow to anger is another thing, because in most people, anger comes over them in a flash. This is not an irreversible state, but rather the result of years of feeling justified in being angry and not at all convicted by the feelings. Perhaps you were raised in a rage-filled household or with a rageaholic parent. Do you want to perpetuate this kind of atmosphere to live in? Then work to see the truth about anger. Anger makes the mind inoperable and the hot feelings have their way unimpeded by the rational or spiritual input of the mind and the Holy Spirit. Therefore to be slow to anger, we must see the inherent danger and sin of anger that is justified and let go to "have its way" in retaliation or "getting back" at the person who hurt or wronged us. We must make a dedicated effort toward being slow to become angry by writing, praying and seeking a godly response which we have worked out on paper and plan to use when wronged or hurt.
In order to do this we need to be sobered by the seriousness that Jesus placed on being angry when He spoke about it in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5:21-24. "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill and whoever kills shall be liable so he cannot escape the punishment imposed by the court. (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17, 16:18) But I say to you everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin and whoever says, "You cursed fool!--you empty-headed idiot" shall be liable and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar and you there remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift at the altar and go, first make peace with your brother, then come back and present your gift."
By this great scripture we can see that when Jesus came to fulfill the law and the Prophets and bring in the age of grace, He raised the standard in regard to our sin. It is no longer "Thou shalt not commit adultery." but Jesus said, " If you look on a woman to lust after her, you have already committed the sin in your heart.” By the same token, here we see Him saying, "You have heard it was said to men of old, "You shall not kill", but I say to you "Everyone who continues to be angry with his brother and harbors malice shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. Whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin and whoever says, 'You cursed fool--You empty-headed idiot!" shall be liable and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire." In some translations of the Bible the word, "raca" is used in the second level of anger and its meaning is taken from the Hebrew word "rak"--to be empty signifying a vain, empty worthless person with shallow brains. A form of insulting contempt.
The saying of "You cursed fool implied more than simply calling a person a fool.
The Bible in Psalm 14:1 states "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." So obviously if we are trying to awaken someone to their foolish state by calling them a fool for not believing there is a God as the Psalmist does, and attempting to get them to see the truth, this is not sinful. But when calling someone a fool comes from a state of having anger and hatred behind that name, then we have joined with the destructive forces of hell and have begun to murder with our tongues. It is this reason that Jesus includes anger with His warning about murder in the Sermon on the Mount. Malicious slander and contemptuous words are poison under the tongue that kills slowly and secretly. It is evidence of such bad feelings against our neighbor that would strike at his life if possible. This must be uprooted by the realization of our sinful judgment and destructive, justified anger that can kill and our daily work to remove the poison from our tongues and the hatred and judgment from our hearts. It is very serious to God and should be to us.
It is important to note that in His teaching on anger, Jesus made the punishment fit the crime. Anger against our brother will bring the anger and judgment of God. The insulting and contemptuous calling of names of empty-headed worthless person will be punished as such and saying "You fool, you profane person, you child of hell" will be in danger of hell if not turned from and repented. (The word for fool used in the Bible is marah which means to rebel or a rebel against God--an apostate from all good.)
In Ephesians 4:26, another way to fight anger and uproot its sinful qualities is set forth. "In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold." You must take notice when you are angry and guard against allowing yourself to justify hatred and vengeance toward the offender. It is imperative that we only acknowledge our displeasure and wounds but not go into retaliation or name-calling. God has told us He will take vengeance--it belongs to Him and not us. That is because He can do it perfectly and we cannot. We must guard against constant repetition of the injustice or letting it grow in our hearts and minds until we are irritated, frustrated and exasperated to the point of hatred and desire to hurt back. Or we may go passive and become a slave to anger to let it have its evil way. Some people have told me that anger makes them feel powerful. This is an emotional lie.
So dealing with anger before the sun goes down is a great principle of God. Get the fire out of your heart and mind before you go to bed so you will be able to sleep and be rested to fight the roots out in the ensuing day. Get on your knees and tell God you want to uproot this ungodly reaction to pain and abuse, injustice and wrongdoing by working on it His way and not the way of the devil. If you continue in your justification of anger and vengeance you do give the devil a foothold in your heart, mind and emotions. Write in your journal and take back your mind from the clutches of irrational anger. Get the truth in so you will not let the devil have the parts of you that have agreed with him. Do not listen to others who may be tale-bearers, slanderers or backbiters who would try to put fuel on the fire of your anger and ungodly reaction to pain.
Watch yourself on the street as you see other people and make instant, unloving judgments about their appearance or the ways they treat you. It is a place of redemption of our ungodly judgment as we turn from judging them and begin to love and pray for them. Then we will be more prepared, if injured or unjustly treated to have a godly response.
This work to be angry and not sin is a godly part of our sanctification and will play a major part in breaking up homosexual sin because anger connects to the sex drive in homosexuality.