Anger: According to the Bible

Elymas Struck Blind by Paul

Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness! Will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord (Acts 13:8-12, NASB).

I have examined three articles on “Anger” from various Bible dictionaries: Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915 edition). The reason why I have done this is because sometimes I express what I believe to be righteous anger against sin, and am misunderstood as sinning in this. There are some Christian teachers out there who teach, by quoting various Bible verses, that all forms of anger are a sin, or that only God is allowed to express anger, because only He is without sin. Philo (d. 50 A.D.) seems to have been the first to blend Old Testament teaching on anger with Greek Stoicism, maintaining that a perfect being cannot express any anger. Without quoting a profuse amount of Bible verses to you, I refer you to click on the Bible dictionaries for references. But below, I will summarize the teaching of the Bible on anger, as clearly as I can…

(1) God’s Anger is always righteous–and is a patient, but fierce response to sin.

(2) Man’s Anger comes in two categories–unrighteous anger and righteous anger.

(a) Unrighteous Anger is without reason, excessive, or drawn out; it is the usual way that humans express anger; it is thoughtless, impatient, and unrestrained; it causes conflicts, gets people into trouble, and should be avoided. Jesus warns that hateful expressions of anger, through insults, put men in danger of God’s judgment (Matthew 5:22); it is a selfish, vindictive, self-justifying anger, driven by personal revenge. John Wesley said, “Whether this be a natural disease or not, it is certain, anger is. The ancient philosopher defines it, ‘a sense of injury received, with a desire of revenge.’ Now, was there ever any one born of a woman, who did not labor under this? Indeed, like other diseases of the mind, it is far more violent in some than in others. But it is furor brevis, as the poet speaks: it is a real, though short madness, wherever it is” (“On the Education of Children,” 1.9).

(b) Righteous Anger is rare, and often misunderstood, because it is only experienced by godly Christians…it is an emotion of displeasure on account of something evil that presents itself to our view…it is not sinful. So long as it is couched in careful thought, patience, and restraint–and is only directed at sin–it may be called righteous. It becomes necessary when speaking out truthfully against sin, but the anger should be quickly expressed, quickly ended, and short-lived. Godly people may react to expressions of sin in the same way that God does–in a desire to see repentance–but not a desire of personal vengeance, revenge, or a childish “getting back” at someone. Jesus gives us the best example of how to express righteous anger (Matthew 23:1-36; Mark 3:5; 11:15-17; John 2:13-17). Wesley again, “What you feel is certainly a degree of anger, but not of sinful anger: there ought to be in us (as there was in our Lord) not barely a perception in the understanding that this or that is evil; but also an emotion of mind, a sensation or passion suitable thereto. This anger at sin, accompanied with love and compassion to the sinner, is so far from being itself a sin, that it is rather a duty” (“Letters to a Member of the Society,” CCXLII).

7/29/19 – UPDATE

Anger and yelling are not always a sin. Search the Bible. You will find no prohibition against either of these, provided, 1. They are not from a murderous intent or put downs: this is called “emotional abuse,” and such are in danger of Hell (Matt. 5:22). 2. They are not coming from revenge (Rom. 12:19-21). 3. They are coming because of someone disobeying God’s will (Exod. 11:8; Mark 3:5; cp. Matt. 23). This is righteous indignation; and can be expressed by Christians. Ephesians 4:26: “Be angry, and do not sin.” Anyone who believes Christians are never allowed to get angry–that is, yell–are not being Biblical or realistic. They are into a kind of Stoicism; and are not being true to themselves; and not being honest about their thoughts and feelings. I believe problem solving can be resolved without anger and yelling, but sometimes I think its necessary to corner an issue when a problem is stubbornly being held in place by someone. This mainly applies to leaders. But this should not be seen as an excuse from a general attitude of self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). There is no license for Christians to be angry and yell about EVERYTHING. But anyone who says that Christians are not allowed to be angry and yell about ANYTHING is just not being honest or realistic.

Further Reading

Baxter, Richard. Anger Management. 58 pgs.

Wesley, John. The Works of John Wesley.

—. “On the Education of Children,” 1.9.

—. “Sermon on the Mount,” Discourse II, 1.5-12.

—. “The Wilderness State,” 2.7.

—. “On Zeal,” 3.3

—. “Letters to a Member of the Society,” CCXLII, May 31, 1771.

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