Summary: Anger is a misunderstood emotion. In Ephesians 4 God gives us the straight scoop on anger and how to deal with it in healthy ways.
Growing up one of my favorite TV shows was the, "The Incredible Hulk." The main character was a scientist named Dr. David Banner. Most of the time he was a nice guy. But when he become angry he would repeat those famous words, “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I am angry.” And if the person ignored his warning right before your eyes he would transform into Lou Ferrigno, this big green monster.
The whole series was built around Dr. Banners search for a cure. Dr. Banner didn’t like what anger did to him and he did all he could to prevent it from happening.
The message many got from the series is that anger is always bad, anger can turn a normal person into a monster. Anger can turn you into someone you don’t want to be. As a result the best way of dealing with anger is to never express it, because anger can be so volital the best way to manage anger is to repress it. And that is how many deal with anger today.
However in Ephesians 4, God gives us a different way of looking at anger. Instead of dismissing anger as evil, Paul tells us that anger can be a good and healthy emotion. Anger itself is not wrong, it is the reasons and motivations for our anger that cause us to loose control.
Let me share with you six ways to look at anger. The first three are positive descriptions of anger and the last three describe what happens when anger takes control.
1. Anger is a normal emotion. (26)
26 "In your anger do not sin": (NIV)
26 Be angry BUT do not sin; (RSV)
26 Be ye angry, AND sin not: (KJV)
The point is it is possible to be angry and not sin. Anger in and of itself is not bad, God created anger for a good purpose – with good intentions.
You might remember the story of Jesus entering the temple. When Jesus saw what the religious leaders had done to corrupt the temple, Jesus became angry. His anger was not directed at hurting people but at the wrong things they had done in God’s name. Jesus was angry because the people had violated God and His anger was an expression of God’s anger. Jesus demonstrates that it is possible to be angry and not sin. There is such a thing as good anger or Godly anger.
The question we need to ask is: What did Jesus do that allowed Him to express His anger in healthy ways?
The answer is found in His focus. Jesus never allowed His emotions or pain to take His focus off of God and onto himself. Jesus was able to keep God as His first priority even when He was angry.
Our problem is we seldom become angry for the right reasons or motives. Human anger tends to be self-motivated rather than God-motivated. We become angry when someone does something that hurts us or hurts someone we love. Human anger is generally an offensive weapon we use to defend our pride.
As a result, Anger is like a fire. If the fire is controlled, it can be helpful and productive but if the fire gets out of control it can be harmful and deadly. Anger is the same way! Though anger is a natural emotion, we must be careful how we use it because it can have devastating effects.
Aristotle said it this way, “Anybody can become angry… But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not within everybody’s power….”
In other words anger is a normal emotion, but we must be very careful how we express it.
2. Anger is a WARNING light built in by God. (26)
26 "In your anger…do not sin":
We can get into trouble when we ignore the signs of anger. When we ignore the warning lights that lead to anger we can find ourselves in a place we never intended to be.
When I was a new driver I developed a bad habit. Instead of filling up when the gas light came on, I would ignore the warning and see how far I could get. Now, most of the time I would fill-up right before the car stopped running; but what do you do when you run out of gas on the way to your wedding? Even though I had been reminded many times, I ignored the warning and I ignored the signs that indicated trouble is near. As a result I walked the last mile to the church in my tuxedo.
Now maybe you are better than I am when it comes to responding to warning lights, but how well do you respond to anger? How well do you anticipate the things that cause anger? How well do you keep your anger from getting out of control?