It has become apparent over the course of the last four months that perhaps one of the biggest sins I currently struggle with is anger.
Growing up I couldn’t control it. I have distinct memories of embarrassing my mother as a child at a bowling alley when I mouthed off to the bowling coach (I was in a bowling league in mid-to-late elementary school) who was just trying to help me after a gutter ball. Early adolescence saw the anger transferred to video games. As I hit late Jr High, and then High School, it subsided (not went away, but subsided). Probably better put is that I learned to mostly control it outwardly and channel it into passive aggression. That lasted many moons. Still exists to a certain extent.
But within the last few months, the ability to control the outward stuff has all but disappeared. I’ve felt rage that I haven’t felt in years. I could throw out guesses as to why, but they would just be fruitless guesses at this point. In the current state of things, perhaps it’s better to, with the Spirit’s help, fight off the sin and then, once it’s in some semblance of control (and another sin has come forth to replace it… isn’t that how it always seems to work), look back to the symptoms that caused it.
So with all that as precursor, this blog will Lord willing see a series of sorts on anger. Had been reading through Deuteronomy lately, but gonna put that on hold and do me a little study on anger and post the results. And hopefully by me stating this, I actually stick with it. Let’s start shall we:
Open up the PC Study Bible just now and find that there are WAY more references to anger and being angry in the Old Testament than in the New. Interesting. Wonder why.
But being that I have some knowledge of Greek now, I start with the New Testament verses (that and the total number of verses to look up is WAY smaller).
There are a few references in the Gospel:
- anger at someone=murder in the Sermon on the Mount
- the lord getting angry with the forgiven slave with the slave does not forgive
- the older brother of the Prodigal Son getting angry about not getting the fattened calf…
Then Paul’s epistles:
- anger seems to show up in some form in most of the list of sins that Paul writes (2 Cor 12 – the list of Corinthian sins that Paul thinks he will find (and be embarrased by) should he come to them again; Gal 5 – in juxtaposition with the fruit of the Spirit; Col 3 – the things we are to put aside since we are new creations)
Lastly, anger shows up a couple of times in James and Hebrews, and in Revelation.
- James – personal anger, not so good. More in a sec.
- Hebrews – God’s anger with Israel in the desert
- Revelation – God’s anger with worshipers of the Beast
Now that we’ve got the shotgun approach down, we’ll just briefly focus on two passages.
Ephesians 4:26-27 – Be angry and do not sin (quoting Psalm 4); do not let the sun go down on the basis of/at your anger. Do not give a place to the devil. (Hutch’s loose awkward translation).
These verses have been discussed much, especially in relation to marriage. I’ll say two things:
- Paul is using a command in saying ‘Be angry’ and he is using a similar command (but the negative type) to say ‘Do not sin’. K, so being angry is okay as long as it is not associated with sin. Right. Anybody figured that one out yet? Talk about a thin line. It was okay for me to get angry/frustrated at Steph today for a costly miscommunication. Three seconds later, however, it was not okay for me, in that anger, to stomp off in a huff to the bookstore like some third grader exploding at the bowling coach. That was wrong. Not following Ephesians there. (Yes, I’ve apologized to Steph).
- Interesting how Paul quotes Psalm 4 here, but then says do not let the sun go down on the basis of/at your anger (I know it sounds weird, but this is as much Greek as I know, okay? 🙂 ). To save you the trouble, here’s Psalms 4 (NAS).
For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.
2 O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach?
How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah.
3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself;
The LORD hears when I call to Him.
4 Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And trust in the LORD.
6 Many are saying, ” Who will show us any good?”
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD!
7 You have put gladness in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine abound.
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.
The reason I think it’s interesting that Paul quotes the Psalm here is that the Psalm seems to say that if you get mad, don’t sin, but chill out on your bed til you’ve calmed down (the point I remember from a sermon Paul Jackson (our pastor back in the ‘Couv) gave on anger… he said that sometimes one of the godliest things you can do is to go to bed angry, cause you just might wake up in the morning not having a clue why the thing that upset you the night before was such a big deal… or at least you might have calmed down to a point to talk about it rationally). How does that idea jive with what Paul’s saying on ‘Do not let the sun go down…”? Well, I could look up uses of the word ‘sun’ in the NT and see if it’s an idiom regularly used in the Bible, or we could just look at the rest of Ephesians 4 (NAS):
28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Simply put, I think the ‘sun going down’ and ‘do not give a place to the devil’ commands from Paul refer to the bitterness, etc. listed in verse 31. Do not let your anger (which can be okay as long as it’s not sin) turn into those things that give the devil a place.
The second passage we’ll look at is rather straight-forward (and since this has gone on long enough now, we’ll just read James 1:19-20:
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
So, with recent inspiration from Sarah’s working on Scripture memory, here’s what I’ll take from all this today. May the Lord put in my mind James 1:20 in future moments of anger, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”