Summary: Anger is a powerful sin that destroys relationships and adversely affects our relationshipo with God. God invites us not only to control our anger, but to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Many of the seven deadly sins appear to be harmless at first glance. Pride can be downgraded to simply having an “attitude.” Envy is such a common “sin,” that can’t be all that bad, besides it is what fuels our economy. Gluttony may have the outcome of obesity, but that’s the individual’s problem, and is nothing that a little willpower and a good diet can’t solve. Even lust can be explained away as an active imagination that poses no problem as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.
Anger is a different type of sin, though. Each and every one of us has experienced the damaging effects of anger. We have endured words spoken in anger and we have suffered from actions inspired by anger. We know how destructive anger can be. Listing anger as one of the seven deadly sins is no surprise to us.
NOTHING OF WHICH TO BE PROUD
We know that anger can be destructive, but in many instances people express pride in their anger. “I’m usually an easy going person,” they might say, “But watch out when I get angry. I’m a force to be reckoned with!” In the office we might hear, “Don’t get the boss angry, or all hell will break loose.” The Scriptures do not share our condescending attitude toward anger. Anger is viewed not only as sin, but also as ridiculous.
Proverbs tells us that only a fool gives vent to his anger. A wise man uses self-control. What a change would take place in our families, schools, and business if anger were not viewed as manly, authoritarian, or powerful, but as the mark of a loser and the epitome of foolishness.
As Christians and as people who identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ, we should seriously consider the claim that James makes in his letter. He simply states that anger, “Does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Those of us who fly off the handle easily, are tempted to stress our point by the volume of our voice, and allow anger to control us rather than controlling our anger need to ponder the effect that it is having on our relationship with God as well as on our relationships with other people.
Anger is nothing to be proud of. Anger is counterproductive to Christian faith. Anger is a sin—one of the seven deadly sins.
Modern psychology has discovered many things about anger that help us deal with it in our lives. Perhaps one of the greatest discoveries is that anger is not a primary emotion, like fear, lust, or envy. Anger is usually sparked by another emotion.
When we are fearful, we are often tempted to express our fear in anger. Instead of displaying our weakness and our vulnerability, we try an offensive maneuver that often becomes anger.
Anger is an expression of our sinfulness. When the big “I” doesn’t get its way; when we are not allowed to be little gods and bend others to our will, we get angry. Anger is often the adult equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum, and often just as ineffective.
Anger is also a way of controlling others. If we can’t get them to do what we want by gentle persuasion, then we will blow up in anger and force them to do what we want because they fear our anger.
Flowing from our selfishness and self-centeredness we can easily see why anger is a demonstration of our sinfulness, and because of its destructive power why it is one of the seven deadly sins.
KINDNESS—THE OPPOSITE OF ANGER
Kindness is the virtue that stands in opposition to anger. While anger seeks to control others and to harm them, the goal of kindness is to serve and to demonstrate love and respect.
Kindness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. In other words, kindness is not something that we can conjure up in our lives. It is part of the abundant life that is ours because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is already a part of our lives—in our Christian DNA—but it needs to be nurtured and grown by the Holy Spirits movement in our lives.
Kindness is more than obeying the letter of the law and making sure that we treat others in a manner befitting them. Kindness is a creative expression of love that is guided by the Holy Spirit and comes from being both sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives and focused on the needs of others.
In a world that is marked so much by anger, kindness stands out as a shining light and powerful witness to the love of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.