At the suggestion of a friend, I recently plowed through Andy Stanley’s controversial book Irresistible. This is one of those books that divides people into camps of “love it” or “hate it.” It’s sort of the Ford versus Chevy debate where someone absurdly proclaims they would rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy.
I have run across people who love Andy’s book, and people who hate it, even some who are downright angry over it. That is fitting, because today’s blog post is about anger.
Toward the end of the book, Andy says, “The proper new covenant response to sin is not jealousy. It’s not anger. It’s not even righteous anger. The proper response to sin is a broken heart.” This statement falls amid a larger conversation about judgmentalism and how that is rooted in jealousy masking itself as righteous indignation.
I understand Andy’s point, though I am not sold on his conclusion. He comes off as saying there is never a context wherein it is appropriate to express righteous indignation, much less anger. I cannot square that conclusion with scripture. In Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul instructs us to “Be angry and do not sin,” clearly indicating that anger by itself is not sinful.
What is amazing about Ephesians 4:26 is that the verb “Be” is imperative mood. The reference is to Psalm 4:4 which says exactly the same thing, and which was translated from Hebrew to Greek in the Septuagint as an imperative.
As bizarre as it seems, this is a command. Do this! Be angry!
Anger is not merely okay, it is commanded and righteous. The apostle James did not say not to become angry, but rather, “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:20).
God becomes angry. He became angry at Horeb and almost destroyed his people (Deuteronomy 9:8). He became so angry at Aaron that he almost took him out (Deuteronomy 9:20). Multiple times in scripture we read of “the anger of the Lord.”
So, it is not anger in and of itself which is the problem. It is what we do with, and in the midst of our anger. Jesus cautions us that anger is the first move toward murder (Matthew 5:21-26).
There are those who seem to revel in anger, pursuing it, seeking it out. Just last evening, a man on social media was pushing my buttons rapidly and strategically. He accused me of misquoting scripture (which I didn’t), of believing the devil’s lies, of promoting “cheap grace,” of closing my eyes to the truth, of denying confession, repentance, and knowledge of God.
In this man’s eyes (and accusations), I am promoting the doctrines of Satan. He was diligently trying to get under my skin. He failed.
I could have become angry with this man, and would have been able to “justify” that anger, but we do not want to become angry easily or quickly.
Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9
The second part of the statement from Paul is, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26b). Resist the urge to see this as a “sunset deadline.” That’s not what Paul is saying.
Once you have transcended the initial burn of your anger, go to whomever or whatever has angered you and get it worked out as soon as possible. Don’t stew in your anger, carrying it with you throughout the day, feeding and nourishing it. Deal with it, and be done!
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger – Proverbs 15:1, NASB
A nourished anger grows into a hatred, and subsequently gives the devil a foothold on our lives.
…and do not give the devil an opportunity. – Ephesians 4:26
The term “opportunity” is derived from “topos.” It is a place, an allotted space. It is as though we parceled out acreage within ourselves specifically for Satan, a place of his own to come hang out. Don’t do that. Don’t give Satan a foothold or opportunity.
Topos is the same word and concept we see in Romans 12:19, where we are told to “leave room” for the wrath of God, not seeking our own revenge. Rather than give place to the devil, Paul tells us we are “sealed” for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit of God.
Anyone can become angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—this is not easy.
Next week, we will look at a specific incident that awakened anger in the Lord Jesus. Until then…