Anger is a God-given emotion; it is part of being made in His image. It is a rising up of the human heart’s sense of right and wrong. Robert Jones defines anger well in his excellent, biblically faithful book Uprooting Anger: “Our anger is our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.” Notice five parts of this definition.
- Our anger is an active response.
- Our anger is a whole-personed active response.
- Our anger is a response against something.
- Our anger, in essence, involves a negative moral judgment that we make.
- Our anger involves a judgment against perceived evil.
But does the fact that anger is a God-given emotion mean that we are righteous in displaying it? Well, sometimes, but rarely. Rarely, because even when the rising emotion is generated by a righteous response to sin we quickly, and most often, cross the line into a variety of sinful responses. And, not wanting to admit the sinful response, we seek to justify our response as “righteous anger” when almost always it is very far from righteous.
What Is the Cause of Sinful Anger?
Based upon James 4:1-3, where the brother of Jesus answers his own question, “What is the source of quarrels among you?,” we conclude that sinful anger is basically, at its root, a product of our self-exalting desire to rule over one another. This self-exaltation is driven by selfish motives, which most of the time we are blinded to ourselves.
When Are Our Desires Sinful?
Here are 6 characteristics of the sinful desires that give rise to our anger. Desires are sinful...
- When what we desire is inherently sinful;
- When we desire something more than pleasing God;
- When our desire is selfish, self-serving;
- When our desire is harmful to others;
- When we are willing to sin to get it; and
- When we are willing to delay obedience to God’s command in order to keep it.
Thus, anger easily becomes a tool of manipulation to get others to serve our selfish desires.
What Are the Two Most Common Ways People Sinfully Misdirect Anger?
- Blowing Up (Ventilation, or what Jones calls “Sinful Revealing”): Energies are released toward others or toward things. Proverbs 29:11 identifies this as the habit of the fool. Many other Scriptures warn against the destructive power of out-of-control anger. Robert Jones calls this “Sinful Revealing.”
- Clamming Up (Internalization, or what Jones calls “Sinful Concealing.”): Energies are released toward self, primarily, but also to others in a different manner than blowing up. Leviticus 19:16-18 warns against “hating your brother in the heart.” It is dishonesty as well as a lack of biblical love toward others. Clamming up often results in the ultimate murder, the silent treatment. The silent treatment “says” to another person, “Bang, you are dead. I hate you. And to prove it, I will act as though you don’t exist.” This is far more than "classic junior-high" behavior; it is wickedness.
How Do We Deal with Sinful Anger?
- Repent of sinful, self-exalting desires that wage war within you (James 4:9; Psalm 51:6).
- Confess sinful anger to God (Psalm 51:4).
- Confess sinful anger patterns to others you have sinned against (James 5:16).
- Receive God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others (1 John 1:9-2:1, 12).
- Replace sinful anger with self-control, love, and problem-solving (Ephesians 4:26-27).
- Pray for God’s continued help in overcoming your anger (Mark 14:38; Matthew 6:13).
As we deal with our anger honestly and biblically, the Holy Spirit will empower us in self-control and fill us with His others-focused love (Galatians 5:22-23).