Be ye angry, and sin not. Ephesians 4:26
Anger is a God-given emotion. It is designed to motivate a person to change actions, attitudes, and adverbs (words) toward the irritant: e.g., a negative person, circumstance, or object. God’s anger is always holy. However, anger is manifested by people across a broad spectrum of expression: from simple displeasure to—sadly—even sinful wrath (James 1:20).
Many people think that all human anger is sinful. Yet God’s Word says that anger is not necessarily sinful. “Be ye angry, and sin not” implies that one can be angry and yet not sin. One can be good and mad.
Anger can be expressed as benignly as a displeasure with a dripping faucet that motivates one to repair the leak, or as violently as a soldier’s rage in battle that motivates him to fight the enemy.
Anger can be sinful if the anger is expressed in sinful words, thoughts, or deeds. A person who, in a fit of angry frustration, takes a hammer to the leaking faucet, the whole kitchen, and anyone who gets in the way, or a soldier who kills an unarmed prisoner of war or a civilian has committed a sin—and even more than that—a crime!
Unrighteous anger, the “bad mad,” has a negative effect in the life of the angry person, the target of his anger, and even the innocent bystander. What are the attributes of unrighteous anger?
- It manifests one’s carnality. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19–21).
- It makes one act like a fool. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Eccles. 7:9).
- It mars one’s relationship with the Lord. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:30, 31).
- It makes obstacles to answered prayer. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8).
- It multiplies onerous sins: gossip, self-righteous judging, maligning, revenge, complaining, bitterness, and many others. “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression” (Prov. 29:22).
- It mangles our homes, churches, and nations. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman” (Prov. 21:19).
However, there is a flip side—the right side—to anger. Anger can be righteous! In the Old Testament, the Lord was angry with the children of Israel because of idolatry (Num. 25:3). He was also angered by their transgressions. Amos 1:11 states, “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever.” The Lord Jesus was angry with Pharisees—self-righteous religionists— because of the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5). Paul, Peter, and John express anger toward false teachers and evildoers (1 Cor. 4:21; Acts 5:1–11; 3 John 10).
In fact, “Be angry!” is an imperative—a command. The command to “be angry” is to always be obeyed in a righteous way: “sin not!” It is alarming that more Christians do not get righteously indignant about sin, sinners, and sinning brethren. It is amazing that many Christians have an unrighteous attitude of tolerance—even accommodation— toward carnality and compromise! That neutrality should make a Fundamentalist—or any Bible believing Christian— mad! Is there not a cause? Yet a preacher is considered “unloving” if he expresses anger like Paul, Peter, John, and the Lord Jesus did toward sin and sinners (cf. John 2:13–17)!
Are you angry? You should be! You should get good and mad at what makes God angry. And allow that anger to motivate you to do God’s will.
- Stand on God’s Word—no matter what happens and no matter who gets upset with you.
- Seek His will and His grace in prayer—be certain that you are in the right.
- Speak out against sin—all that it takes for evil to abound is for good people to say or do nothing!
- Separate from unrepentant sinners—neutrality is taken as approval.
- Stand with those who take a good stand—two are better than one!
- Show kindness toward those who repent—lest the Devil get the advantage.
- Show Christlikeness to all—do not give occasion for others to get good and mad at you.
At the time of original publication, Terry Hagedorn was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Reedsville, West Virginia.
(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)