Q: #151. Is being angry at someone a sin?
By: Steve Shirley
A: First off, let me begin by saying that I believe there are two types of anger: righteous and unrighteous. Righteous anger is when we become angry over an injustice done to another, be it another person or God. This kind of anger seeks to right a wrong. It is a holy anger.
Jesus gave us some examples of righteous anger when He drove the moneychangers out of His Father's Temple because they were defiling it (Jn 2:15-16)(Jn 21:12-13), and when He was angry at the Pharisees for telling Him it was wrong to heal on the Sabbath (Mk 3:5).
God is also shown to have righteous anger in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. The main reason was because He saw His chosen people doing things that would ultimately lead to their harm. God gave His people guidelines and laws to follow that would lead to blessed and bountiful lives, and when they failed to follow these standards, it angered God because He wanted the best for His people. When we fail to put God first in ALL areas of our lives, it can do nothing but harm.
Today, we can have righteous anger for such things as abortion, racism, oppressing the poor, etc...
On the other hand, unrighteous anger is when we become angry over injustices done to US. In the Bible, we never see Jesus becoming angry over anything that was done to Him personally. On the contrary, He was quick to forgive those who accused and attacked Him. Even in His dying moments, He asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Lk 23:34).
*** Note: I think it is also important to keep in mind that (as far as I am aware), the Bible never once tells us to forgive a wrong done to someone else, but rather we are to help and defend the one who is being, or has been harmed. We are only commanded to forgive wrongs done to us.
This being said, I do believe that anger is an emotion. It begins as a natural reaction. For example, if we are cut off by someone in traffic, our natural reaction to that is generally anger. (I am sure you can think of other examples too.) This is not necessarily sinful. However, what do we do with that natural reaction? Do we immediately forgive the one who caused the anger and turn from it, or do we "give birth" to that anger, dwelling on it and possibly seeking revenge?
I believe a good parallel to our anger can be found in the Bible when it speaks of lust. In (James 1:14-15), it says, "but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished bringeth forth (gives birth to) death."
I believe if we put the word "anger" in place of "lust" in these verses, we can see how the natural "emotion" of anger can turn sinful.
For example, when a man sees a woman in a bikini, his natural reaction is usually an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. He cannot control that "emotional reaction" any more than he could control that same emotion occurring when he is scared. I do not believe lust has been conceived at this point. Jesus said in (Mt 5:28), "but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
I believe that Jesus is talking about our thought life. When a man begins to "give birth" to, or "conceives" thoughts of fantasizing about what he might do with that woman in the bikini, lust has begun at that point, and he has sinned by committing adultery.
The same idea can be used with anger. When a person does something to us that brings the natural reaction of anger, how do we respond when "enticed?" Do we immediately forgive and turn from our anger, thinking on things that are "pure, lovely, worthy of praise, right, and honorable" (Phil 4:8), or do we turn that "emotion" to anger by "giving birth" to it?
I see unrighteous anger as being totally linked to unforgiveness. I speak in my study forgiving others about the importance of forgiving quickly and immediately. We do this because if we don't, unforgiveness turns into bitterness, which the Bible says is a "root" that grows (Heb 12:15) and it gives Satan a stronghold in our lives (2 Cor 2:10-11). We want to stop anger BEFORE it has any chance to take root and turn to bitterness. Think about this, if we fail to forgive immediately when someone has angered us, isn't this unforgiveness? If we hold on to that "emotion," it WILL turn to sin.
This is what the Bible seems to be telling us in (Eph 4:26) when it says, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." I see this as saying that anger is something that we need to remove QUICKLY from our lives or else it becomes sin. (I do not think this means that we can LITERALLY stay mad all day if someone angers us early in the day, as long as we get over it by bedtime.)
(Eph 4:27) continues that our anger can give "place (a foothold) to the devil." It is also interesting to note that verse 31 links both bitterness and anger as forms of "malice" that we need to "put away" from our lives (Also see: Col 3:8).
Anger (wrath) is a work of the flesh (Gal 5:20). The flesh is in opposition to the Spirit (Gal 5:17), and they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:8). We must die to ourselves and what our "flesh" wants (Gal 5:24)(Col 3:5)(Eph 4:22). (Dying being the opposite of "giving birth.")
It is said that depression is anger turned inward. I can testify to this myself. The night I gave my life to Christ, the one change that happened IMMEDIATELY was peace. I had spent my whole life prior to that being angry, and as a result, depressed. I was miserable... Jesus tells us in the Bible that He gives us peace (Jn 13:27)(Jn 16:33). It is called peace "which passeth all understanding" (Phil 4:7). While my life has had it's ups and downs since that night, the inner peace that replaced that anger has never left me. Let Jesus replace your anger with peace!
I would like to end with a few other Bible verses that speak about anger, beginning with Proverbs.
(Prov 29:8) "wise men turn away anger"
(Prov 14:17)(Prov 15:18)(Prov 16:32) tell us to be slow to anger.
(Prov 19:11) The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; And it is his glory to pass over a transgression. (In other words: FORGIVE!)
(Eccl 7:9) Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
(James 1:19-20) ... let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.