Robert L. Brush

Anger, in its natural form, is a God-given emotion. However one does not have to read the Bible very long before we see that anger in many cases is sinful. The same section that allows us to be angry without sin also warns "let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice" (Ephesians 4:26, 31). In fact wrath is listed as a work of the flesh which will keep us from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20-21).

One might conclude all anger is sinful. John Wesley seemed to imply this with his comment on Matthew 5:22, "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause," where he asked, "how can there be a cause?" (Sermon #22). Yet in his sermon on "Christian Perfection" he conceded "for all anger is not evil."

The "stock" theory of the holiness churches has been if you get angry and show it you need to be saved; if you feel anger and do not exhibit it you need to be sanctified. After sanctification you do not feel anger, let alone become angry. However, in studying human behavior we have come to understand anger takes different forms. There is inverted anger which causes pouting, resentment, bitterness, a breaking of fellowship, avoiding other people and a hundred other symptoms.

Let's talk about anger a little. If anger is the same thing as the carnal mind, then Jesus as well as God the Father would have sin in them for God in angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11). In fact the total number of references to God's wrath exceeds 580. Without the propitiation of Christ we are still "sinners in the hands of an angry God."

The New Testament records that "Jesus looked round about on them with anger" (Mark 3:5). When Jesus cleansed the temple He was not in what we would call a good mood. Paul seemed to reveal some anger when he said, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall" (Acts 23:3). The contention between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp they broke fellowship. There was something between them akin to anger; at least a sharp contention.

As you can see this definition of anger as being sin, maybe the root of all sin, will certainly not bear scriptural scrutiny. We conclude then there must be good anger and evil anger. How then can we tell the difference? What happens then when a sinner is born again, having his heart purified by faith through the baptism of the Holy Spirit? When he becomes a new creation he is a temple of the Holy Spirit and Christ is formed in him. What effect does all this have on his emotions?

Our emotions are God given and given for our good and protection. It is only when they are perverted by sin that they are sinful. But at the same time they must be guarded and controlled by the Holy Spirit and self discipline or they will lead to sin - yes, even in the entirely sanctified! Paul said he kept his body under - that is under the control of the Spirit. This no doubt included the emotions and the survival instincts which could lead to sin.

Take for example the attraction to the opposite sex. I do not know of anyone who thinks regeneration or sanctification neutralizes this emotion. We all agree however that this must come under the control of the Holy Spirit. The desire to own property is right and good, but can lead to covetousness. The desire to belong is natural and good, but perverted it can cause some to compromise convictions to become accepted. Hatred of evil can lead one to hate evil persons as well. The truth is salvation does not destroy our emotions, only our sinful emotions which are only a perversion of God-give instincts.

How then can you tell the difference between good anger or evil anger? At what point does righteous anger become sinful? That may be a "hair" very difficult to split. However we know when a person loses his temper and is out of control of the Spirit and common sense that he is sinning and could not be born of God at that time since he that is born of God does not commit sin (1 John 3:9).

However feeling angry when your children deliberately challenge you or talk back and disobey is normal and natural and some show of displeasure and discipline is not only natural, but right. The amount of anger should agree with the transgression.

To be angry when the car breaks down and kick it and "cuss" is, of course, sin and no one who is regeneration will do that. But to become frustrated and anxious when everything goes wrong is a natural thing. However, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to take over in these situations - be warned, sin lies at the door.

Some think the command to not let the sun go down on our wrath means that we should not go to bed angry, but to be reconciled before you retire for the night. Maybe it doe,s but how many of God's people live up to that?

Husbands and wives may have little spats and become angry with each other - even if you call it something else - and retire for the night still angry and reconciliation is not made for two or three days, if ever. Is this not one of the "sins" Christians must confess? Remember we are to be slow to become angry and quick to listen (James 1:19). When angry be prayful, for sin is close by! "Be ye angry and sin not' (Ephesians 4:26)