This blog is a follow up to other references I have made to anger in the past. When we get angry, we tend to focus on who or what we are angry about rather than examining our hearts and discovering why we are angry or even looking at the purpose and dynamics of anger. I would like to look a little deeper this time as I discuss anger.
I. Anger and blame – We all automatically look for the source of anger and usually conclude that the source is what someone else did or said or what just happened in our current circumstances. We look for someplace to lay the blame for what we feel. “You make me mad!” or “That makes me so angry!” is something that I frequently hear. We get angry faster than we can think it through. Then we conclude that the source of our anger is external to ourselves. Because we believe it is external to ourselves, we blame what we consider to be the source. That is a natural thought process when we believe we have no ability to control our anger or an outside source causes our anger.
II. Anger sources – There are two main reasons that we get angry.
- Righteous anger – This type of anger arises in us when we encounter sin and injustice. It is appropriate to get angry in these circumstances. Sin is wrong. It destroys the sinner and tears apart relationships. It causes pain and suffering in those around us. Injustice is a sin against someone else. It causes harm in other people’s lives. The scripture tells us to go ahead and be angry about these things. But it also gives a caution, warning us to not sin in our anger. That caution is there because we so often do sin in our anger. We lash out in angry defense or we dwell on the event that we are angry about and it festers in our hearts creating a sinful stronghold that the devil loves to take hold of. It can make us bitter, grouchy, hateful, spiteful, etc. all of which are sinful attitudes and actions. Anger against sin and injustice is appropriate. When we are angry we must not give any opportunity for the devil to use that. He can only use it if we let him. That is because ultimately, we must oversee our own hearts to bring all our thoughts and feelings into subjection to God’s will. Here is the rub. If we have anything in our own hearts that the devil can take hold of, we become incapable of controlling our own reactions because that part of our heart carries false beliefs and is subject to control by the evil one.
Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
- Unrighteous anger – This is anger that may have started out as righteous anger but the devil has taken hold of it. This anger is tricky. It is deceptive. It rears its head before we realize what is happening (cognitively). We have allowed this anger to reside in our hearts. We no longer can control it. It controls us. This is righteous anger that has been warped and there is no righteousness left to it. This kind of anger is what we use to defend ourselves from a perceived threat. This is anger with sinful action. It is destructive and breeds hate, malice and all kinds of other sin. It is anger misused and misplaced. Now, I mentioned that this kind of anger is “used.” That is because we do use it by choice as a tool. We use it to put defensive walls up when we feel attacked. The choice to use it was obviously a subconscious decision, but it was still a decision. This is the anger that the scripture speaks against.
Psalms 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Proverbs 29:22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
Proverbs 30:33 For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.
This anger causes harm. It is one of the fruits of the flesh mentioned in Galatians.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The problem here is not just the sinful action of misplaced anger. Anger that is used as a tool is an action that leads to other sins such as jealousy, envy, rivalry, dissension, divisions and wrongful addictions (drunkenness). It becomes a compounded problem.
III. Anger and belief – The source of anger is our belief system. The source of anger is not external to us. If it was, there would be no hope of changing because we would be under the control of the person or thing/event that we believe causes our anger. The truth is, when we make the source of our anger external to us, we hand control of our life and our spiritual relationship with God and others to someone or something that we have no control over and cannot change. If we blame someone else for our anger, we have given them all the power.
Our anger is our own choice and our own responsibility before God. But at this stage, we cannot and will not change in our own power. We can stuff it well for a while but that coping mechanism will fail us some day and then out comes the same old anger again. But this time, it will be worse because we buried it in our hearts where our subconscious mind has been dwelling on it all this while. It has morphed into a super anger because of all the other fruits of the flesh that are attached to it.
When it gets to that point, the only one who can help us is God. He does that in one way. It is called mind renewal the source of which is the Holy Spirit, “leading us into all truth.” John 16:13. We are not to follow the patterns of this world or culture which is following the flesh. But we are to follow the patterns of the kingdom of God. That means we renew our minds, get rid of lies that lead us into sinful thinking patterns and actions. Change our belief systems. Because we have a sinful nature, we cannot do that ourselves. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, renewing our minds. Our job is to go to Him and ask Him to do that in our hearts. When we submit ourselves to that process, He will do it. It is a process and we must be active participants in it.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What is the result of going through this process? Mind renewal leads to receiving the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. It leads to maintenance free victory against anger and all the other fruits of the flesh. It is a process and takes time, but in time we will see the evidence of it if we faithfully continue.
Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Seek the Lord with all your heart. Ask Him to guide you into truth. Be obedient when He tells you to do something. He will never tell you to do something that goes against scripture. If you obey, He will take you the next step. Sometimes He just gives you the truth, sometimes He asks you to follow a plan to renewal and transformation. Follow Him. It will lead to freedom like you have never experienced before. Living with anger is bondage.
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Be free in Christ my friends. His grace is sufficient. But His grace is not an ideal we live for or static ineffective thing. It is real, active and dynamic. It is a freely given gift. Accept it.