Summary: With God’s help, we can control our anger and not let it control us.
Is anger something everyone has?
Is anger something that can be controlled? Or does it control us?
Is it wrong to be angry?
What does anger do to our spirits, relationships, bodies, minds?
Anger is something everyone has. Sometimes we like to pretend as Christian that we’re always happy, we’re always smiling. We put on our Sunday face and pretend we never have problems. But that’s not reality, is it? Jesus expressed anger in his life. When he is face to face with the Pharisees and Scribes and is appalled at their self-righteousness and lack of compassion, he says, "You brood of vipers!" "You hypocrites!" I don’t think that he was happy when he said these things! He became angry with the moneychangers outside the temple. He was angry because they were cheating people on the sacrifices they were buying. He turned over the tables and drove them out with a whip. He was angry because of their injustice.
Ephesians 4:26 acknowledges that Christians get angry, "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger."
There is a level at which anger or the expression of anger can be controlled. The way it is expressed is the key. We know that there is a level in which anger cannot be controlled. We feel it boiling internally, whether we want to feel it or not. For some of us, anger may be totally out of control in our lives. Last week, we talked about addictions. Some people are addicted to rage, rageaholics. Rage is out of control in their lives. It controls them. For those who struggle with that kind of rage, it is important to ask God for help. "God, I’m out of control with my anger. Please help me."
It’s important for us to express our anger and not deny it. We may pretend we are not anger, but it may come out in different ways. It may come in unexpected outbursts, even physical ailments like high blood pressure. We can ask God to help us express it in ways that are not harmful to ourselves or others.
Let’s look at what the scriptures say about anger. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Just because other people around us are angry, we don’t have to get angry. We are not controlled by other people; we are controlled by the Spirit of Christ! Have you noticed how some people get mad when we’re not angry when they are? We don’t have to be controlled by them. We’re controlled by the Spirit of Christ!
In Galatians 5, it talks about the works of the flesh. The flesh is anything that is antithetical to God or opposes God. In that list is included anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions--all elements of anger.
James 1:19-20 states, "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness." Part of the way we can reduce the negativity of anger is to listen, listen to one another. Hear what the other person has to say. Be slow to speak, slow to anger.
Then, the Colossians text deals with anger. The first list of sins in verse 5 addresses primarily heathen sins. We’ve talked about how some of the Christians came from heathen backgrounds. Some came from Jewish backgrounds with its laws and ethics, but some came from a very different understanding of morality, especially in relation to sexuality. It is said that these sins are to be put to death.
Then the language in the second lesson is not quite as harsh, but it still addresses the sin of the Christian community. It says to put away these things in verse 8. Put away anger and hateful speech.
Put away wrath. Wrath is a continuous, smoldering condition.
Rage is the initial expression of anger. Have you ever had road rage? Someone breaks every traffic law imaginable and almost kills you in the process and you get angry! It’s good to say, "Just let them go ahead. It doesn’t matter that they got that parking space, in the whole scheme of things!"
Malice is any attitude or action that intends harm to another. Then malice can express itself through slander, abuse of others, shameful, foul or obscene language, gossip.
The word that is used for anger in this verse is a long-lasting, slow-burning anger. It nurses wrath. It is oriented toward revenge or punishment. It is harboring things that may have happened yesterday, a year ago, 10 years ago. The scriptures tell us that we need to let go of it, not hold on it, not be overcome by it. It is harmful to our spirits.
We must deal with our anger that we have toward others, ourselves and even God. We may even get angry at ourselves for getting angry. God is available to offer forgiveness and compassion. We may get angry at God sometimes. "God, do something about my situation! I want things to be different! I want a change!" God knows how we feel anyway. We are in conversation with God.