By Ron Hull
An angry person is filled with potential—for good or bad. We can be “good and angry”—helpfully angry, or we can be hurtfully angry. Of the “7 Deadly Sins,” anger is the only vice on the list that can also be a virtue.
First, the good stuff. Anger, per se, is not wrong. Jesus, himself, was angry at times. The Bible says that God is “slow to anger,” and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6). God doesn’t have a short fuse, but he does get angry. And, sometimes God’s “steadfast love” takes the form of “righteous” anger.
God’s followers are encouraged to imitate his nature and to likewise be “slow to get angry” (James 1:19). James implies, with caution, that there are times when people who want to do right ought to be angry, and not indifferent to injustice and things that are clearly wrong. Sometimes justified anger is channeled into something positive and productive, such as “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” (MADD) which developed after a mother lost her 13-year-old daughter to a drunk driver.
Unfortunately, our sense of right and wrong can be skewed by self-centeredness and James warns that too often “Human anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose” (James 1:20).
That brings us to hurtful anger. “If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27, TLB).
Whenever we are angry or depressed (a form of bottled up anger), we should always ask two questions: 1) why am I angry?, and 2) how long do I intend to be angry? It’s one thing to get angry and quite another to stay angry. If we don’t put a time limit on our anger, we give the evil one a “foothold” to add to it resentment, bitterness, rage, malice, thoughts of revenge….
In his depression, the psalmist repeatedly asked that first question: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me” (Pss 42:5, 11; 43:5)? Then he addressed the second question by making a decision to replace his depression with trust in God: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him…”
God essentially addressed those two questions to the first murderer, Cain: “Why are you angry? Why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, shall you not be accepted” (Genesis 4:6-7)? Cain was warned that he needed to honestly ask himself why he was angry. Deal with it. Now. If he let the anger linger, “sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
When I ask myself why I am angry and I decide to put a time limit on my anger, I am less likely to suppress it (which leads to depression) or express it (venting) in words or actions that may lead to sin. A better choice is to decide to replace the anger with something positive and productive: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Ron Hull is pastor of the Church of Christ. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2909.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.