This post was a writing assignment for my doctorate in Christian counseling. It is a slightly different direction than I originally planned for this blog but a friend suggested that I add it to Blessed to Be Broken. Anger is often an unresolved issue for those of us who have gone (or are going) through brokenness. It is usually a sinful anger that festers into bitterness. Both anger and bitterness must be resolved if we are to be vessels useful to God.
The Root of Anger
The first thing we need to realize is that not all anger is sin. Many times, in the Old Testament, God was angry. In the first chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the children of Israel that God was angry with them for refusing to trust Him and enter the Promised Land. In chapter four God was angry with Moses. In chapter nine God was angry with Aaron and the children of Israel for making and worshiping the golden calf. First Kings 11:9 says, “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice.” Psalm 7:11 says, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” Idolatry makes God angry.
Though the Bible doesn’t directly say that Jesus was angry in Matthew 21:12-17 (also John 2:13-22), His actions in making a scourge of cords and driving out the money changers, turning over their tables, tell us that He was likely very angry. John 2:17 says, “And His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.’” Strong’s definition of the Greek word zēlos is “properly heat, that is, (figuratively) ‘zeal’ (in a favorable sense, ardor; in an unfavorable one, jealousy, as of a husband [figuratively of God], or an enemy, malice).” Jesus was angry because they were putting the love of money above love of God. They were not giving the Temple as God’s place of worship the reverence God demanded.
In Isaiah 42:8 God says, “I am the LORD: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.” In both Old and New Testaments, when we see God angry, it is because people try to take His glory and either give it to idols or keep if for themselves. This was the sin of Lucifer that resulted in him being cast out of heaven. It is the sin he tries to get people to perpetuate in themselves.
Though one of the qualifications of a bishop (pastor) is to not be “soon angry,” (Titus 1:7), we are also told in Ephesians 4:6, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Anger becomes sin when its roots are in our offended pride. It is when our pride is offended that we react with revenge and sins that the Bible condemns. Gossip, back-biting, slander, lying, and all sins of the tongue that we do in anger come from offended pride. It is offended pride that responds with “I don’t deserve this” attitudes. It is offended pride that says, “I should be treated better than this.” It is offended pride that lashes out in defensive words that hurt others. It is offended pride that seeks to harm others whom we have perceived as keeping us from getting what we think we deserve.
The biblical way to combat offended pride is found in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” Again in 1 Peter 5:6 we are told, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we accept the fact that He is in control, not us. We realize that it is up to Him to exalt us in the eyes of others; and when He does exalt us, it is for His glory, not our own. When we realize that we belong to Him, we do not need to attack those who verbally hurt us. We can walk away from situations where we would normally lash out in anger. We can choose to respond to those who would hurt us in ways that glorify God, instead of trying to “return fire” at their attacks.