by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

There are many misconceptions about anger in our world. The misunderstandings do not come from a lack of experience with anger. Far too many people have never attempted to control their rage. They have daily experience with anger. The misconceptions about anger come from taking extreme positions. Some people have hot tempers and have little reason to restrain them. They lash out at everything and everyone, caring very little about the consequences of what they do. Others see the mayhem that results from uncontrolled anger and conclude that all expressions of anger are wrong, even sinful. However, both extreme positions are wrong.

There are wrong types of anger. As an example, consider the quick-tempered man. Anything that goes wrong is an opportunity to blow his stack and to retaliate, even if it is at an inanimate object. God advises us in James 1:19-20 to be slow to anger. In Ecclesiastes 7:9 we are also warned not be easily provoked into anger. A passage in Proverbs 14:17 tells us why: When we get angry without thinking, we do many foolish things that we will later regret. A quickly angered man commits many sins (Proverbs 29:22).

Holding on to anger for long periods of time is also wrong. David warns us in Psalms 37:8 that fretting over the wickedness done to us leads to sin on our part. Holding on to your anger means you have not properly learned the lesson of forgiveness. Forgiveness involves not remembering past faults (Jeremiah 31:34). When God forgives us of our sins, it is like soaking up spilled ink with a blotter (or a more modern analogy would like erasing the marks from a paper). When He is done, the memory of the sin no longer exists (Isaiah 43:25). It is as if the sin never happened. We need to learn to forgive as God forgives. You may wonder about those who repeatedly wrong you. It is reasonable to forgive someone when they have wronged you once or twice. After all, they may not have realized what their actions were doing to you. However, when someone repeatedly and purposefully does us harm, why that is just too much! At these times we need to remember our Master's teaching in Luke 17:4. As often as someone wrongs us, we must be ready and willing to forgive them. There is no set credit limit where you run out of your forgiveness quota. Finally, consider Paul's advice in Ephesians 4:26, do not let your anger last for more than a day.

It is proper to be angry at some things. God is always angered by sin. God was angered in II Kings 22:13 at those who refused to listen to God's Word. He is angered by those who refuse to believe (John 3:36). All unrighteousness and ungodliness bring out God's wrath (Romans 1:18) along with contentiousness (continually stirring up trouble) and disobedience (Romans 2:8). Those who actively fight God are not the only ones who stir up God's anger. God also is angered by those who follow empty words (Ephesians 5:6). Those who try to prevent the teaching of His Word will face God's wrath (I Thessalonians 2:16).

Jesus also showed anger at sin. He threw the money changers out of the temple because they were profiting from the worship of God. (John 2:13-17).

We can also see the use of proper anger in the firm handling of sinners by the apostles. The apostle Paul once had to rebuke the apostle Peter for sinning (Galatians 2:11). Just as Peter once had to rebuke Simon for his presumptuous sin (Acts 8:18-23). You may think that this would have ruined their relationship, but notice the reactions of both men after they had been rebuked. Read II Peter 3:15 and Acts 8:24. Both Peter and Simon realized that they were wrong and listened to the rebuke. They did not become angry with the messenger of God's word. Instead, they repented of their sins. Take a moment and read Ephesians 4:25-5:2. Never should we allow ourselves to become angry with the truth (Galatians 4:16).

Anger has a proper time and place. We must rid ourselves of unrighteous anger and its results (Colossians 3:8). Instead of being easily provoked, we need to take time to think - to be slow to anger (James 1:19). We do not stamp our feet and throw a tantrum as "Sesame Street" teaches little children to deal with anger. This is worldly wisdom and it doesn't deal with the cause of anger. The truly mighty people control their anger (Proverbs 16:32). Sometimes, to battle our own wrath, we need to limit our association with people who are quick-tempered. By being around those who easily fly off the handle, we learn to pick up their ways (Proverbs 22:24-25).

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