Summary: Erroneous views on anger management versus God’s prescription
May 18, 2003
Our country seems to be having a serious problem with anger. More and more people are losing it and manifesting their rage against family members, friends, work associates, or with people they don’t even know. Consider the following…
- One anger management firm stated that “one out of every five Americans has an anger management problem.”
- According to FBI statistics, there were 23,305 homicides in 1994 and the most common reason was arguments occurring in the home (28%). Gang related killings accounted for only 7.6%.
- Anger related violence is the reason stated for 22% of divorces of middle-class marriages.
- Studies show that 79% of violent children witnessed some form of violence between their parents.
- From 1995 to 2001 there were 1655 incidents of “air rage,” directing anger toward airline employees - according to FAA records.
- "Road rage" seems to be increasing exponentially. In Denver, Colorado a 51 year-old man used a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol to kill a 32 year-old bicyclist who cut him off on the road (The Denver Post, 21 June 2000). When we lived in Portland, Oregon, a young Bible college student stopped his car at a red light, went over to the car next to him to confront another man for swearing at his little son, and was shot and killed while his wife and son looked on.
We see evidences of rage everyday in the news. Outbursts of anger and rage are serious problems. But, they are even more serious in the church. If lying is the most prevalent sin in the church today, then unresolved anger may be the most devastating. It alienates people, promotes church division, and is the greatest obstacle to the sanctification process of the body. It is no wonder Paul starts with these two sins as he begins to elaborate on sanctification in verses 25-27. I have pastored six churches since 1976 (in Washington, Oregon, Iowa and Alabama). In every one of these churches unresolved anger was the most serious problem. In my previous pastorate in Iowa I inherited a serious anger problem from the previous pastor. Under his ministry a number of church people had become angry at the church leadership and left the church. The pastor subsequently left, then I was called. I soon realized an undercurrent of unresolved anger still existed. In fact, there were still people in the church who were angry at the elder board. Some were angry because they didn’t feel the elders were doing their job. Others were angry because of what the elders were doing. Others were angry at the people or pastor who had left. And, on and on it goes. This is an all too familiar scene in churches today. Something happens in the church, people get angry, the biblical pattern for resolution is ignored, and the anger only festers to resurface later bringing further damage to the body. Paul says this is giving place to the devil and calls it sin.
The problem is, many of us are angry, but fail to see it as such. We are clever at rationalizing it away. You know, we might say we have forgiven people, but then manage to bring it back up as fuel for fire at our leisure. That is not forgiveness. Anger and unforgiveness are still there. Or, if we do recognize we are angry, then we tend to downplay it, as though that is no big deal.
But, it is a big deal. Unresolved anger is sin and must be put off. Yet, there is a place for the right kind of anger. It is righteous anger. That must be put on. Paul’s words in verses 26-27 instruct us along these lines.
A. Erroneous views of anger management: venting and clamming up, 4:26-27.
Paul says, "Be angry and sin not." This is a command to be characterized by a certain kind of anger, and yet to do it without sinning. We err if we think anger is always wrong or sinful. Righteous anger is needful. It is necessary if the body of Christ is to effectively minister to itself in love in the sanctification process. If we neglect it, then we seriously fail to do that which is vital to the spiritual growth of the church. Furthermore, this opens the door for the devil to have his way in the church. Let’s look first of all at erroneous views of anger management.
1. Venting our anger.
A lady once came to Billy Sunday, perhaps the most famous evangelist and preacher of the early 1900s, and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. "There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper," she said. "I blow up, and then it’s all over."
"So does a shotgun," Sunday replied, "and look at the damage it leaves behind!"