Throughout the book of Genesis, we have found many people who had problems controlling their anger. Cain's jealousy of Abel and his anger at God for not accepting his sacrifice led him to kill his brother (Genesis 4:5-8). The strife between Lot and Abram's herdsmen caused them to separate. Lot's life decayed from that point as his family crept towards sin (Genesis 13:7-8). Even within Abram's household, there was strife between his wife, Sara, and her handmaid, Hagar (Genesis 16:4-5; 21:9-11). Esau hated his brother Jacob mostly for mistakes which Esau had made, causing Jacob to flee from his home (Genesis 27:41). The prosperous Jacob then suffered under the hatred of Laban (Genesis 31:1-5). Simeon and Levi's hatred of the man who had sex with their sister caused them to destroy an entire town (Genesis 34:25-29). Finally, we find the jealousy of Joseph's brothers led them to sell their brother into slavery (Genesis 37:4, 8, 11, 18-20).

Our society contains many misconceptions of the problem with anger. It is certainly not from lack of experience with anger. Angry people are everywhere, doing all sorts of violent things to those around them. No, the problem is understanding how people should deal with their anger. Some people, when they get mad, lash out at everything and everyone. They do not care about the consequences of their actions. Others don't become visibly mad, but they quietly plot how they can get even with those they don't like.

When anything goes wrong, the hot-tempered man uses it as an opportunity to blow his stack. However, the Bible teaches us that anger must be controlled. We are to be slow to anger (James 1:19-20). We are not to be easily provoked by circumstances (Ecclesiastes 7:9). The reason is simple, when we get angry without consideration, we often do foolish things which we will later regret (Proverbs 14:17). The man who is quickly angered commits many sins (Proverbs 29:22).

It is not only quick-tempered people who have problems. Holding on to anger for a long time is also dangerous. In Psalm 37:8 we learn that fretting over a sin done to us will lead to sin on our part. You see, holding on to sin means you don't understand the meaning of forgiveness. Many people claim to forgive others of their sins, but they remain mad. Yet the Scriptures teach us that forgiveness involves forgetting past sins against us (Jeremiah 31:34). When God forgives us, the memory of the sin no longer exists (Isaiah 43:25).

Some people manage to forgive once or twice, but when they are faced with a repeat offender, frustration drives out forgiveness. However, if we remember that our Father forgives us no matter how often we sin, can we do no less? Recall our Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:12. Jesus taught us to ask for forgiveness in the same manner that we forgive others. As often as someone offends us, we must be willing to forgive them when they ask us (Luke 17:4). There is no credit limit where a person runs out of their forgiveness quota.

Instead of holding on to sin, we need to learn to seek the forgiveness of others. Paul taught us not to let our anger last for more than a day (Ephesians 4:26). Sometimes this will require effort on our part to get the person to relent from their sins against us.

But don't get me wrong. Sometimes anger is a proper response. God was angry with those who refused to listen to His word (II Kings 22:13). In John 3:36, the same chapter that discusses the love of God, we are told that the wrath of God will come upon the unbeliever. All unrighteousness and ungodliness bring out the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). Specifically, we are told that contentiousness -- constantly stirring up trouble -- and disobedience makes God angry (Romans 2:8). People who follow empty words make God angry (Ephesians 5:6). God is also displeased with those who try to prevent the teaching of God's word (I Thessalonians 2:16).

Jesus demonstrated anger at appropriate times. In John 2:13-17, Jesus threw money changers out of the temple because they made merchandise out of the worship of God.

The apostles also demonstrated anger in certain situations. Paul rebuked Peter for his sins (Galatians 2:11). Peter rebukes Simon for his presumptuousness (Acts 8:18-23). Notice that even though sharp words were given, the relationship of these men remained firm (II Peter 3:15, Acts 8:24). Both men who were rebuked realized they were wrong. They both listened to the rebuke and did not get angry with the messenger of God's truth. Both men repented of their sins.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 gives detailed directions on how to correct and improve our brethren. At times it may stir our anger, but at all times we should work for the betterment of our brothers and sisters. When we are rebuked, we must always strive to never become angry with the truth (Galatians 4:16).

Anger is appropriate in the proper time and place. As Christians, we need to rid ourselves of unrighteous anger and its results (Colossians 3:8). Before taking any action, we must take time to think through the consequences (James 1:19). Christians should not stomp their feet and throw temper-tantrums. Modern philosophy teaches that an angry person needs to get his anger out of his system. However, all that is accomplished is an expression of anger. Temper-tantrums do not deal with the cause of the anger. It does nothing to improve the situation. Be a mighty person and control your emotions (Proverbs 16:32).

Instead of learning how to be angry, we need to learn how to promote peace. When we stay around hot-headed people, we absorb their ways (Proverbs 22:24-25). So cultivate level-headed friends.

Questions to Meditate Upon:

  1. Who in Genesis was properly angered?
  2. Who handled their anger improperly?
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