"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26)
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
One of the first accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry told by the gospel writer John describes Jesus going into the temple courts, where the merchants and moneylenders were conducting their business. Jesus makes a whip and drives them out, declaring “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-17).
Jesus was obviously angry. Why? The honour and respect due to His Father was being usurped by the dealings of selfish men.
This passage demonstrates two things about anger:
First, in some cases, it’s a legitimate emotion. When we observe cruelty, or injustice, or behaviour which flies in the face of God’s principles, or when our Heavenly Father is treated disrespectfully, we rightfully feel grieved and sometimes angry. God has given us a moral code and the ability to discern right from wrong.
However, the Bible warns us that this feeling of anger is dangerous. God is judge, not us. We may need to intervene in a situation and need to do so in a way that does not retaliate or escalate the behaviour. We need prayer and a sense of handing the other over to God. Jesus was without sin. He had every right to intervene in the temple situation. His Holy Spirit needs to be our Counsellor and Guide in every conflict.
Secondly, Jesus tempered his anger. The son of God could have destroyed those concerned in a glance, however, he merely moved them on, with the possibility perhaps that they lost some of their goods or money in the hubbub. He left them with the opportunity to regather themselves and start afresh elsewhere.
What does this imply for us?
There are many in our society today, including Christians, who struggle with the problem of anger. Not righteous anger in the face of injustice to others, but sinful anger used to vent our own frustrations, or fuel our own pride and self-centredness. This anger is a tool used and inspired by Satan to wound others and destroy relationships, ministries and lives.
Sometimes anger is the result of much pain and many years of struggling with unforgiveness over past injustice which remains unresolved.
Anger may have been found to be an effective means of controlling others who have learned to diffuse the potential rage by compliance.The angry person gets what they want - but at a terrible cost.
Anger hurts those around the angry person.
The most hurt, however, is within the angry person themselves – they are trapped in an endless cycle from which it seems there is almost no escape.
But there is hope.
One of the greatest blessings of God is that of a changed life. He knows the desires of our hearts. Where there is a desire to change, He will provide the wisdom, resources and most of all the ability to do so. He has promised in His word, and His promises are true:
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22).
If anger is a significant problem in your life, affecting relationships with loved ones, work colleagues, other drivers on the road or anyone else in your life, I would suggest seeking counselling. There are many low-cost counsellors available, often through a local church. Community phone helplines or community health centres are other useful sources of information. There are community courses to help people manage anger effectively.
Remember, it’s not a sign of weakness to admit you have a problem. To seek help to change is actually a sign of commitment and strength. It’s the first step of change.
The following little strategy may be of assistance. It greatly assisted me at a time in my life when I was learning to deal with angry feelings which affected the loved ones around me.
Write down on a little card these three things and carry the card in your purse or wallet:
1. Admit to God that You are feeling angry.
2. Ask God to take away the habit pattern of anger.
3. Thank God for His love and grace.
Whenever you find you are starting to feel angry, stop, take yourself apart from the situation and read the little card.
In the joyful letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul reminds us that what we think about will affect our moods, our words and our actions. Perhaps it is no coincidence that after addressing an issue of personal disputes and church conflict Paul exhorts us:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)
Dear Heavenly Father God, I come to You in prayer and praise of who You are, sovereign Lord of all, our Maker, Redeemer and friend. You alone are holy and worthy of the highest honour and praise. Father, I pray for anyone reading here who is struggling with the issue of anger and pray that You will impart to them that there is hope for release and change. May You guide them with wisdom to seek help where it is needed, Father. We pray for healing for individuals and for relationships that have been broken because of anger. Give us clean hearts we pray, that we might be faithful witnesses for Your kingdom and reflect Your glory. We come to You acknowledging that we can only do so through Jesus and all that He accomplished for us on the cross. We ask these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen