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Many of us have known someone who is easily angered. We may say they have a short fuse, or they are hotheaded, or things like that. There are others who store up anger to the point that when it is finally released it is as explosive as a volcanic eruption or a nuclear blast. Of those people we might say they go ballistic or they go postal. Then there are persons who seem to be perpetually angry. Whatever the case may be, for everyone who has an unimpressive level of anger there seems to be somebody else whose anger goes above and beyond what we would expect.

Abundance of anger is frowned upon in the Bible. Here are a few Scriptures which exemplify this:


Proverbs 22:24-25:  Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.


Proverbs 29:22:  An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression.


Ecclesiastes 7:9:  Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.


Matthew 5:21-22a:  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…”


Among many these days it seems that, contrary to the Word of God, a lot of people consider anger and the resulting behaviors to be virtuous. From school playgrounds to night clubs to the streets, you hear laughter and ridicule hurled at the losers of fights. While somebody is getting pulverized—stomped, kicked, perhaps cut up—others are cheering on the attacker and making fun of the one losing the fight. People boast about how they told someone off, cussed them out, and so on. Apologizing is considered weak. Forgiveness is discouraged by a number of people. All this should not be surprising, although it is disappointing and, at times, disturbing. After all, such attitudes come from the domain of the lost. We as Christians should live by the Word of God, and that Word warns that such anger is evil, as we have seen. The Bible also discourages such anger among believers. For example:


Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32:  “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sin go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil…Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.


In the above verses, one of the meanings of bitterness in the original New Testament Greek is bitter anger, which is implied by the context here. Wrath here is fierce or boiling anger, anger itself in this passion is anger in general that is of a sinful nature, clamor is an outcry as in shouting while angry, evil speaking is injurious speech (think of an angry person hurling insults or profanities), and malice is ill will and a desire to injure (think of someone either threatening bodily harm or actually inflicting it). In this and many other passages also, we see the contrasting attitudes and behaviors given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit—the kindness, compassionate attitudes, and forgiving of wrongs that we are to exhibit as Christians.


It has been stated that apologizing is considered weak and that a number of folks discourage forgiveness. We already saw in the Ephesians passage the importance of forgiveness. There are other Scriptures where both apologies and forgiveness are commanded or at least implied, and consequences for not doing so sometimes spelled out, such as in these examples from the Sermon on the Mount:


Matthew 5:23-26:  “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”


Matthew 5:38-48:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”


Matthew 6:14-15:  “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”


The first passage above is an example of how we should conduct ourselves both with brethren in the faith and with enemies. We are to always make sure if at all possible that things are settled between us and them, refraining from revenge (Romans 12:17-21). It is not always possible to be reconciled to others, but as long as we do our part to make peace then we are in the clear with God. The keys to the Matthew 5:38-48 passage are an understanding of the culture of Christ’s day and the word  “persecute.” To take this passage at absolute face value would make it seem that there is never an occasion to be angry and defend oneself, and this passive behavior has been exhibited throughout history by Christians undergoing fierce persecution.

In the time that Jesus Christ was upon the earth, the entire area of the world in which He lived and ministered was under the dominion of the mighty Roman Empire. Roman soldiers and government officials were a constant part of life wherever they were in control. A soldier could compel an ordinary person to do various things, including going with them a certain distance, as when they compelled a man named Simon to carry the Lord’s cross (Matthew 27:32). The Romans, with their firm rule and cruelty, were not always well-liked by their subjects. Jesus was telling His disciples that if they were to be compelled to such duty, do more than what is asked of them. Implied is humility of character, which is what is needed to comply with such a demand.


In the same part of Matthew, the submissiveness that Jesus is requiring of His disciples can be best understood, you might have realized, in the context of persecution. There are times when Christians are called to suffer for the faith, submitting to persecution rather than fighting back. Such humble suffering is pleasing to God (1 Peter 4:13-16).Forgiveness, however, is not only to be extended to persecutors but to all others as well. Forgiveness does not mean failing to hold someone accountable.

A person can be held accountable for wrongdoing yet forgiven (Luke 17:3-4). In the passage from Matthew 6, the Lord issues an extremely stern warning about not forgiving others, also implied from the last part of Matthew 5:23-26. It can be hard to forgive someone, but we must, no matter what. It is good that we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen us so that we can forgive even when it is not possible to forgive a person in our own strength (1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:16).


With all this negativity associated with anger, are there ever times when anger is appropriate? The answer is yes. Remember the context of the verses we just discuss. Recall the Scripture in Ephesians we looked at earlier. The very first part of it said, “Be angry, and do not sin.” The fact that we can be angry but not sin means that anger can sometimes be appropriate. God gave us that emotion for a reason. Anger provides the impetus to execute judgment on evildoers (Romans 13:1-7). It also fuels the  wherewithal to defend ourselves and/or others if need be (Luke 22:35-38).

Military personnel understand what the phrase “in the heat of battle” means, and some of that involves anger against a military adversary. When Roman soldiers came to John the Baptist, he did not tell them to stop being soldiers, and when the Roman soldier Cornelius got saved, Peter did not tell him to leave the service (Luke 3:14; Acts, Chapter 10).


We live in a lost and fallen world. Sometimes it is necessary to use force, particularly against those who are wicked and violent (2 Samuel 23:6-7). Self-defense, correction, the use of military force, the enforcement of laws against criminals—all these scenarios require some degree of anger. Properly used, anger can be a powerful ally. If it gets out of control, it can be like playing with fire. Sooner or later you and those around you will be burned by it. So if you are going to be angry, know how to control your anger and not let it get out of bounds.

Always leave room for prayer, for forgiveness, and when appropriate and safe, restoration. Remember also that anger has an end. Once the great white throne judgment is finished and all evil beings—be they angelic, demonic, or human—have been forever banished to and confined in the lake of fire, and God has renovated the heavens and the earth with fire, there will be no more need of anger forever, not from God, not from the holy angels, and not from His saints. We will know, share, and receive love, peace, joy and bliss for all eternity. Do not let sinful anger cheat you of your eternal reward. No insult, no slander, no attack, no theft, no violation—nothing—is worth going to hell for. Here are some Scriptures both to meditate on and to live by:


1 Peter 4:8:  And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”


1 John 4:7:  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.


1 Corinthians 13:1-13:  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.



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