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Anger is not your friend

Anger: sometimes it just feels right. Anger is happy to assume its place as your advocate, your defense against unfair actions.  And we are all too happy to welcome it. It just feels right!

When your spouse is insensitive, when the kids are selfish and squabble constantly, anger stands ready to come to your defense. When others are selfish, anger is there to encourage you. When your pride is wounded, anger offers its supposed “healing power”.

But the reality is that when human anger is embraced, good things will not happen.

But what about righteous anger? Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 that in your anger you should not sin. So, since it is possible to be angry and not sin, it easy to welcome anger like a friendly ally when others sin against you. But righteous anger results in God being honored, not you being justified.

Ephesians 4:26 is not all that Paul has to say about anger. Read just a few more sentences down to verse 31 of chapter 4 and you see that Paul commands that you must get rid of all anger! Is Paul contradicting himself? No, he is not. Anger does have its place, but that place is not one of self-defense. When anger leads to justification for your sinful responses, it is never a good thing.

Paul says that you must be clothed in kindness and compassion towards others. You must follow the example of Christ. Anger will be of no help here. This is why he says to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger. Relational anger will keep you from showing the love of Christ to those whom you love.

You must learn to ask this one question when anger offers you its assistance: “Am I showing the kindness and compassion of Christ or am I justifying my behavior?”

Instead of engaging in anger, show the compassionate love of Christ when you think others fail you. Isn’t that what God does for you when you sin against him? If God treated you as your sins deserve, you would not survive another minute!

Take another look at Ephesians 4:31-32. Anger is not your ally. It is a tool of the enemy to damage your relationships, causing you to feel alone and bitter. Listen carefully to Paul. Get rid of your anger!

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children and Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage. He blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared.


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Marriage, Theology

Angry? I'm not the type....right?

"Angry? No, not me.  I’m not an angry sort of person.”  Actually, I suspect very few of us think we are.  So allow me to share a story. Bob had been gone for some days, and couldn’t wait to see his wife again.  On the ride home from the airport, he could already hear her enthusiastic hello, relish her eagerness to hear all about his experiences, and taste the tea and favorite bit of baking she’d prepared for him. He hopped out of the car, dashed up the front steps, pushed open the door and hollered eagerly, “Lauren, I’m home!” Silence. He walked down the hall, looked around the corner, and there she was, ticking away on her laptop.  Enthusiastically: “Hi, Lauren!  I’m back!”  Response: a mild, “Oh, hi, Bob” and her fingers kept tapping the keys…. Response You’re Bob.  How should Bob respond to this bucket of ice?  How would you? Bob could blow his stack and let Lauren know in no uncertain terms that this is no way to welcome your husband home. Bob could remain very calm, and admonish her that the Lord is not pleased with her coolness to his return.  (And, for the record, I’d argue there’s ample justification in the Bible that she ought indeed to welcome her husband with much greater enthusiasm.) Bob could turn his back, disappear into his man cave, and bury his head (and his pain) in his project.  “Be like that, then!  See if I care….” When a good buddy phones to welcome him back, he could let on that he feels badly hurt by his wife’s coldness. He could even suggest that his buddy try to get his wife to have a chat with Lauren and make clear that her behavior just isn’t acceptable. Losing it, righteous instruction, sulking, slander, manipulation: which response is acceptable?  For that matter: is there a common denominator under all five? Disclosure I didn’t make the above story up.  I actually heard it at a conference hosted by the Christian Counseling Center. Robert Jones came up to Ontario from the Carolinas to talk about anger, and somewhere in his presentation he told this story. We were asked to consider where the problem was in relation to Bob. Was he justified in giving Lauren a piece of his mind?  Was he right to tell her what the Bible says about how she ought to welcome her husband? Was he justified in retreating within himself? Or in sharing his hurt with another, let alone gently manipulating another to set Lauren straight? The thing is, of course, that each of us can relate quite well to every aspect of Bob’s response.  That’s because anger is much at home in the heart of every sinner. Really? I’ll admit that when I entered the doors of the conference building, I tended to define the term "anger" as a burst of outrage, be it slamming the door, pounding the table, shouting, and the like.  But our speaker made clear it that this was far too limited an understanding. The rage and the slamming and the pounding and the shouting are, in fact, expressions of an irritation rooted deep within the heart. That irritation is awakened by events (or words) that strike you as unfair or wrong or insensitive, etc. You can give expression to that irritation in various ways, be it blowing your stack or retreating within yourself, or slandering the perceived wrongdoer to your friend, or manipulating a third party to influence the wrongdoer, etc, and etc. Anger is, biblically speaking, not first of all an action but is, instead, an attitude of the heart.  Some bump in the road, some irritation, will cause the anger inside to express itself in some particular action...including Bob’s various responses as outlined above. All are expressions of inner anger. And since inner anger is wrong, all these expressions of anger are wrong. When Jesus Christ was angry I was surprised to learn that the gospels record three incidents – yes, only three! – when Jesus became angry. That’s when Jesus healed the man with the shriveled arm (Mark 3:1-6), when He received the little children (Mark 10:13-16), and when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple (John 2:13-17). We might expect Him, instead, to become angry when they sought to stone Him, or when they associated Him with Beelzebub, or when they ridiculed Him. We’d expect Him to be angry when He was arrested, mocked, spit upon, and crucified. But there’s nothing of the sort in His reactions. The Scriptures tell us that He went like a lamb to the slaughter. As to the instances when He did become angry, in each instance God’s name was blasphemed through the hardness of human hearts, and that’s what triggered anger on Jesus’ part.  His anger, then, was in tune with God’s holiness and in step with God’s own anger against sin.  Never did the man Jesus become angry in response to feeling slighted or being sinned against.  That’s highly instructive, given that the child of God is meant to imitate Christ Jesus (cf Ephesians 5:1). Bob's anger So where’s the wrong in Bob’s situation? Could Bob rightly point a finger at his wife and insist the wrong lay fully and only with her?  Could he plead that his response was a justifiable and righteous response to her failure? Our speaker asked us to consider Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Here is the driving thought behind Jesus’ conduct in life, and this is to be the driving thought in the lives of all His people.  The application for Bob? He let his thoughts on his way home be self-centered, and so he expected his wife to be there for him.  Since she didn’t satisfy his expectation, he became angry, and that anger received expression in, well, any of the options listed above. Had Bob, on the other hand, approached home seeking not to be served but to serve his wife, he would have been in the right frame of mind to reach out to her and perhaps support her in some burden unknown to him. Such a mindset would reflect the Lord Jesus Christ. Back to Christ But, we protest, we can’t always give! Our speaker did an excellent job of drawing out that we, in fact, have all we need in Jesus Christ.  He mentioned 2 Peter 1: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (vs 3), and asked us to contemplate the force of the word "all."  In Christ we actually have all things that we require for this life! We say: but I need that kiss, that show of affection, that attention, that promotion, that….  And when we don’t get it we get annoyed, exasperated, frustrated, irritated – all expressions of anger….  In our anger is an implicit criticism of God; He’s not truly giving us what we need. Paul responded differently.  He wrote his letter to the Philippians while he was imprisoned (perhaps in Rome). But from his cell he wrote: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (4:11). “In whatever situation”??  Yes, he says yes.  “I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (vs 12). What is the secret??  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vs 13). So he tells the Philippians: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (vs 19).  Note the word “every need.” Irritated at a slight? Upset at a knockback? Peeved because you didn’t get what you thought you should? Livid at a demotion? Anger will never do, because Jesus Christ gives me all I really need. The question is: do I believe that? Or do I, in fact, believe that I actually need people’s approval, because... well because the Lord, you know, actually disappoints…. Entitlement?? One little tangent before I sum it up….  The thought is alive and well in North American culture that we’re entitled to happiness, satisfaction, accolades, etc – and actually entitled to our own definition of happiness. Because North Americans are not getting what we think we deserve, we end up with more and more frustrated and angry people across our continent. But that has enormous – and very devastating – social consequences. Behind marriage failure is the anger (or irritation, or frustration, or mention whatever parallel word you would) that results from not getting what we think our spouse should give us. But the Christian may not think in terms of entitlement. If anyone had an entitlement, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But He did not cling to His divine glory, nor insist on what was His. He gave it all away, to redeem the undeserving. That’s the Christian’s example. As Jesus Christ did not come to be served but to serve, so the Christian does not think in terms of being served, but thinks in terms of how he can serve the other. That fight against selfishness will put a huge dent in the anger that stays too close to our hearts. And our culture needs guidance and encouragement in that fight. That’s the task (in part) of the Christian. I’m grateful for the work done by Christian Counseling Center. It’s good to be reminded that anger (be it quiet or loud) is actually an ungodly response to what the Lord puts on our path. With the exception of “righteous anger” – where one is angry because God has been blasphemed – anger is in fact sin, and so it needs repentance and then resistance. That will be ongoing work for us all. Robert Jones’ book on the topic, entitled "Uprooting Anger," published by P & R Publishing, is available in Christian bookstores or from Amazon. Rev. Clarence Bouwman is a pastor in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church....


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