The Destructive Force of Anger

Matthew 5:22 (ESV)
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."

The dangerous and destructive effect of human anger is likewise stressed throughout Scripture (Proverbs 20:2; 22:3; 29:22; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; James 1:20). Anger typically entails a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally in the form of murder (Matthew 5:21 and James 4:1–2). Calling someone a fool is closely related to anger, in that it represents a destructive attack on one’s character and identity. Thus Jesus warns that the person who violates another person in this grievous way is liable to the hell of fire.

I believe there are very few things sapping the strength of the church more than the unreconciled state of believers (particularly those who are angry at one another). When such uncontrolled anger becomes easily excused in Christian circles, it becomes a dangerous agent of destruction in various forms and degrees. Our focus shifts from eternal glory to the temporal world.

Uncontrolled anger is itself a symptom to warn us of several things: (1) It is a reactionary response, or a defense. I have not allowed my rights to be surrendered to Christ (remember, we are but slaves to the One who saved us from eternal damnation); (2) Such outbursts indicate and individual is allowing the circumstances to control him or her; (3) I am allowing things to upset me that will simply pass away with time; and (4) I have failed to recognized that I am powerless to change apart from Christ’s strength and direction from His Word (John 15:5; Matthew 6:33; Romans 7:24-25; Romans 10:17).

Anger in itself should not be regarded as sin. It is a God-given emotional capacity that should be used in proper context. Christ demonstrated this for us and if we retain our focus on the problem instead of the person, we can also rightly channel our anger.

However, anger can become sinful is when it is used for selfish interests or when the outcome strays from God’s standard in the matter. Anger should never be allowed to linger (Ephesians 4:26-27), as doing so creates failures in both discipline and communication. And anger should never be used to attack a person, but rather should remain focused solely on the problem (Ephesians 4:29-32).

There are some unbiblical ways that many are taught to deal with anger: We can vent (blow up, yell, scream, etc..); we can hit a pillow or any other inanimate object; or share our feelings in a support group (“I hate my boss, etc…”).

Why are these unbiblical?

Because we are failing to talk to the person who is part of the problem or the solution (Matthew 18:15). Also, instead of solving the problem, it makes a habit out of anger. The more I vent, the angrier I become, and my guilt is increased before God.

But what about those who keep it inside? This also is unbiblical because we are teaching that it is okay to bottle things up inside. We fail to deal with the problem by ignoring it. Eventually all of this clamming up will lead to an outburst of anger, which puts us in the same group as above.

Simply put, anger can and must be controlled (Ephesians 4: 31-32; 1 Corinthians 10:13). We have to be not only aware of it, but admit that we are powerless in ourselves to handle the anger (once again, we must become weak, so He can become strong in us). Confess your anger to God and attack the problem with the focus being on your identity in Christ and His power. Develop through the work of the Holy Spirit within you the ability to return good for evil (Romans 12:17-21; see Genesis 50 – the story of Joseph).

Learn to see God in the problem and refuse to ever upstage Him anymore. Remember, failure to do so helped cost Moses the ability to cross over to the Promised Land.

Finally, I recommend a study of the 4th chapter of James. God’s Word surely is sufficient for every human condition!