As a woman, and as a Mom, one descriptor I never thought I would have for myself is angry. But anger is a sin that I battle, and sometimes let rule over me. And if I am to be really transparent, this battle occurs on a daily basis.
I wanted to write about how we have a culture of anger and how that produces angry people. But if I am to be wise in my understanding, I should look to scripture. And scripture says that it’s not what goes into a man, but what comes out of the man which defiles him (Mark 7:15). We don’t need any help being angry, because in our sin nature, we already are. We have an anger problem stemming from the heart. The very first sin we see, after Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden, is the murder of Abel. It’s no surprise that Scripture tells us if we have anger in our heart toward our brother that we are guilty of murder (1Jn. 3:15).
Now, I can make a lot of legitimate excuses why I get angry: I’m tired, I have needy children, I deal with diagnosed anxiety, etc. However, if I am to really examine the reason why I am angry, it is not anything outside of my being – as we have seen scripture say already – it is because of sin. And that sin is pride. In my pride, I want things to be a certain way. I have a constant desire to control other people and situations. I want people to think a certain way of me. I want to feel a certain way about myself. All of these are rooted in pride and express themselves in anger. Sometimes it’s bubbling under the surface anger, which looks like being snippy or short with my children and husband. Other times it’s flying off the handle, can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t speak without yelling kind of anger. All of it sinful. None of it glorifying to God.
We know that anger is a secondary emotion (thank you brief, but valuable, masters level counseling courses) that is not only played out in us, but God as well. God shows His wrath as a secondary characteristic to His holiness. This to say, that God is not characterized by His wrath, but by His holiness, and a holy God must take action against sin and evil. This action against sin and evil is His righteous, and just, wrath.
How I could ever justify my anger as being righteous (in how I daily display it) is laughable. Showing anger toward my children, husband, or whomever has the pleasure of crossing my path, is not displaying righteous anger. What it is displaying is how little I consider the holiness of God. How little I consider the penalty that Jesus willingly paid for my sinful anger.
Do you know how much I really deserve to be angry? Zero. Why? Because nothing that is done to me, or that inconveniences me, or that makes me anxious, is against an innocent me. It is right to be angry about injustice. It is right to be angry about evil in the world. It is not right to be angry about an offense toward myself. I am not an innocent party. I am guilty before God. Even in my grumbling, I grumble against God – not man.
However, do you know who was innocent? Jesus. Jesus was completely innocent and yet declared guilty. He took on my guilt before a holy God and He imputed his righteousness to me. He didn’t revile back when he was reviled by sinners who sought to murder Him (1Peter 2:23). Father God was pleased to crush Jesus as a perfect sacrifice for sin – because He became sin for us (Is 53:10).
You see, the person who should have been angry – and rightfully so – was Jesus. He should’ve been angry toward the people who betrayed Him, the disciples who abandoned Him, the people who wrongfully accused Him and tortured Him. He was the only innocent person who ever walked the Earth. And yet, the only anger we see from Him, is anger at sin against God and its effects on people. Not against the wrong done to Him while on Earth. Can you see the difference? I hope so.
We have no right to be angry. We aren’t innocent. We are deserving of God’s righteous wrath toward us for our sin against Him. Not only that, if you are a believer, you are acquitted from your guilt before God. How can we, who have been forgiven of so much, not dispel our anger for relatively minor offenses? And if you see this reality, but still struggle with the sin of anger, we can know that we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, and also secured our sanctification by the Spirit’s work in us (Phil. 1:6).
Through His work, we can have the fruit of the Spirit bearing in our lives – which is so very contrary to anger: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). In Him we get to be transformed into Christ’s likeness. And we already saw how glorious He was in response to the wrong done to Him.
We, angry folk, have hope. I pray for you and for me, that we would admit our guilt before God – that we have been wrongfully angry. That we try to protect our pride by being angry toward others. That we would be so thankful for the penalty that was due us, for the innumerous sins against God (including anger) that we have committed, but is now washed away by the blood of Christ. That we would thank God for holding His wrath and letting it build up, only to spare us and pour it out on His innocent Son. I pray that we would trust the Spirit’s work in sanctification and respond in a new fervor for killing our sinful anger. I pray all this for you and I, in Jesus’ great and wonderful name.
Blessings in Christ,