Before I start on my third major trigger for getting angry, I want to pause and clarify something that was brought up by a dear mentor of mine. Anger, on its own, is in fact, a natural emotion. I will feel it all my life. To some, this is encouraging news–it’s normal to feel anger! Unfortunately, it’s not encouraging to me. It just makes me think, Great. I’m going to have to deal with anger my entire life. What I really mean when I think that is I will have to deal with the sin with which I struggle while angry until God changes my heart, and sometimes that feels like a long way away.
The good news is that feeling anger in and of itself is not sin. Jesus Himself, the perfect spotless Lamb, seemed pretty angry when He cleared the money changers out of the temple with a scourge of cords, pouring out their money and overturning their tables in John 2:13-17. He didn’t exactly sound happy when he chastised the Pharisees in Matthew 23, calling them fools, hypocrites, a brood of vipers, and other uncomplimentary names. If you’ve never heard of the wrath of God, read the History books in the Old Testament or the Psalms or the Prophets or Romans or Revelation. Obviously, anger does not have to be sinful, but the Bible does teach, “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Although a person doesn’t have to sin when angry, I’ve found that it is hard not to sin when angry.
I believe this is why God wants us to be slow to anger. After all, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
/ But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29). Another proverb makes my point: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, / But the slow to anger calms a dispute” (Prov. 15:18). God has made it clear that He doesn’t want us to be ruled by anger, that it is part of our flesh, something we are to crucify: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). If we can be characterized as angry people, we might need to think long and hard about whether we are truly Christians, ruled by Christ.
The main reason, I think, we need to be slow to anger is that God Himself is slow to anger, and we should strive to be like Him any way we can. God Himself labeled Himself, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). Besides, another proverb says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, / And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32). Don’t you want to be able to rule your own spirit and be better than the mighty?
Being slow to anger does not mean letting your kids get away with whatever they want. After all, the very next verse from the one I quoted about God being slow to anger says that the Lord “keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex. 34:7). We just need to discipline our kids with love, which means with patience, kindness, and self-control.
I’d like to say my anger is a righteous anger, but I’m not sure I can say I’ve ever had an untainted righteous anger against my kids. Usually, it’s more about what I’ve mentioned already: my selfishness when my expectations go unmet or I’ve been inconvenienced, and about what I’ll talk about next time: my pride in wanting control.
What about you? Can you give an example of when you were truly righteously angry? If so, was that the norm for you?