I am sure you remember the Burger King slogan “Have It Your Way!” As individuals and a society, we loved that slogan. We all “want it our way,” don’t we? I am sure we have all thought at one point or another, if I had it my way, things would be different –meaning better, improved, without issue. But would it really? All of us have a little piece of us that thinks our way of thinking is supreme. And it is obvious that we do, because when things do not go our way, we get angry.
Anger can make us do some shocking things. Anger promises a release from the tension we are holding inside, but what it usually delivers is more hurt, isolation, and for many feelings of guilt. The truth is that the root of anger is usually wrapped up in pride.
The Bible warns us against unrighteous anger.
Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. Ecclesiastes 7:9 NLT
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry. Ephesians 4:26 NLT
The Bible warns us against this behavior because it is not Christ-like or representative of God’s nature. Psalms 103:8 tells us this about the Lord Himself:
The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. (NLT)
This is the response we are to also have.
When I think of unrighteous anger in the Bible, I think of Saul’s feelings toward David. This is a classic story of someone who allowed pride and jealousy to creep in and cause anger to lodge within his heart, provoking him to attack another without cause. Their issues arose after David killed that famous Philistine giant, Goliath and Saul noticed how the people begin to favor David immediately. Having married into the family, David was near Saul a great deal of the time. In fact, Saul felt the need to keep David close by having him come and play the harp for him when his soul was troubled. But Saul’s issue with pride started long before David entered the picture. David’s entrance into the story just gave Saul a physical target to aim for.
And Saul was jealous and did not trust David from that day on. The next day a bad spirit sent from God came upon Saul with power. He acted like a crazy man in his house, while David was playing the harp. Saul had a spear in his hand, and he threw the spear, thinking, “I will nail David to the wall.” But David jumped out of his way twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had left Saul. 1 Samuel 18:9-12 NLT
Saul’s previous issues with pride had cost him God’s anointing. We see it above in verse 12: “the Lord …had left Saul.” Saul’s anger toward David would turn into an intense hatred and their relationship was forever broken. What could have been the greatest partnership in Israel became the most dysfunctional because Saul let anger control him.
In reading Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, he expresses Jesus’ mission as this:
“His message focused on the urgency of a radical change in the inner attitude of the people. He recognized fully that out of the heart are the issues of life and that no external force, however great and overwhelming, can at long last destroy a people if it does not first win the victory of the spirit against them. …Again and again he came back to the inner life of the individual. With increasing insight and startling accuracy he placed his finger on the ‘inward center’ as the crucial arena where the issues would determine the destiny of his people.” (Thurman 1996, 11).
Today, what is at your “inward center?” Are you allowing the emotion of anger to reside there and therefore color your world in a way that is not God-honoring?
Critical to this line of thinking is Paul’s teaching on what our lives should reflect now that we are in Christ:
You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. …for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. …Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:7-15 NLT
The Bible commands us to “get rid of anger” and to be clothed in love. Tough stuff I know.
Today, pause and do a self-check. Is anger lurking within your soul? Does it easily bubble to the top as soon as something does not go your way, or someone offends you? Listen, I realize 2020 as been a year of triggers. Everything from Covid-19 to race relations to politics has been one big trigger, but so are the little things in life when we do not keep the proper perspective.
Aristotle once said:
“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
But Jesus said:
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26 NLT
Today, give Jesus control and not your anger!
Father God, we ask that you come into our hearts, into those places where we are secretly, or maybe not so secretly, harboring anger. We ask the Spirit to flood our souls with Your overwhelming love and drive out every aspect of anger that is in us. Teach us to accept Your peace as we should and to reflect the love You have so freely given us. May we forgive those who have angered us, but may we also seek forgiveness from those we have angered. We thank you for being ever faithful in this and everything! Amen.
Founder, Transforming Love Ministries
Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference
For more of Elaine’s story, you can find Love Echoed Back: I Cried Out; He Answered on amazon.com.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Thurman, Howard. 1996. Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston: Beacon Press.