Anger

Preaching and Worship Resources about Anger

Culpable anger is (1) vengeful or destructive passion, often barely controlled, that flames up against a person or thing; or (2) smoldering irritability.

In Scripture

Examples: Balaam vs. his donkey (Num. 22:27) Balak vs. Balaam (Num. 24:10) Saul vs. Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:30) Jonathan vs. Saul (1 Sam. 20:34) Jesus’ townspeople vs. Jesus (Luke 4:28)

Warnings: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath . . . ” (Ps. 37:8) “. . . one who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29) “Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife . . . ” (Prov. 15:18) “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming . . .” (Prov. 27:4) “If you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment” (Matt. 5:22). James and John want to call down “fire from heaven” on people who won’t listen to Jesus, but Jesus rebukes them (Luke 9:54-55). “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

Vice lists 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:20, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8

Points to Ponder

Not indignation Culpable anger is wholly distinct from righteous indignation, which is anger at injustice, cruelty, or other forms of wrongdoing. This is the anger of God, which numerous biblical writers say God can possess, but is slow to possess. This is also the form of anger that a righteous person lets go of in the process of forgiving someone who has hurt him or her.

Not isolated vexation, i.e. momentary annoyance

Not frustration, which is a common occurrence in ordinary life (a zipper gets stuck, an on-ramp closes). Being occasionally frustrated or blocked is an expectable happenstance. Anger is an inappropriate reaction to it.

Un-pretty company In the New Testament’s vice lists, anger shows up next door to bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and malice (Eph. 4:31). In both Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, anger is part of the “old self” that must “die” or be “put off.” The “new self” that replaces it will then be full of kindness and compassion, which are components of the recovered image of God in regenerated human beings.

Controllable? As the ancient Greeks already knew, people are born with different “humors” or temperaments. Some are born sunny-side up. Some are born hot-tempered and irritable. C. S. Lewis observed that this difference in raw material makes a moral difference. People who are born “hot” may struggle with their temper their whole life. So on a day in which they succeed in being merely civil, they make news in heaven. Whatever a person’s temperament, biblical writers assume that anger is, at least in part, controllable. Otherwise, the requirement to forgive those who harm us would be unfulfillable.

Angry culture Self-control is a challenge to Christians in any culture in which anger is freely stoked and indulged. Angry sports, angry politics, angry talk shows, vengeful movies, music with an attitude—all these things make anger look normal. It is common. But in a Christian worldview it is never normal. In fact, it is a deadly sin because of all the strife, sorrow, and pain it inevitably kindles. Human beings have by now silted history full with the debris of all their antagonisms. This is a prime reason for the biblical hope of shalom.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.