Anger is a dangerous and grievous sin. Whenever provoked, it is natural for us to respond in anger. Due to our depraved nature, our anger often stems from a selfish cause. Hence, we tend to react in a negative and sinful way.
In our article last week, we looked into the dangers of uncontrolled anger. An angry person “dealeth foolishly” (Prov 14: 17); “exalteth folly” (Prov 14: 29); “stirreth up strife” and “aboundeth in transgression” (Prov 29: 22). Ultimately, such a person “troubleth his own flesh” (Prov 11: 17) and embitters his life. Moreover, a failure to exercise self-control mars our Christian witness.
How do we manage this sinful passion? What steps can we take to keep our anger in check?
1. Know ourselves
It is important to know our weaknesses. Perhaps someone close to us has highlighted our quick temper or easily-agitated nature to us. Let us be open to checking our own lives. Ask ourselves: Do I have a quick temper? Is it my habit to respond in anger? Do I harbour a bitter, unforgiving spirit? Am I proud? A proud person is often an angry person. One who is proud is contentious: “only by pride cometh contention” (Prov 13: 10). These negative traits will cause us to act rashly and to respond in anger.
Let us also look in the mirror of God’s Word to see our true selves. Observe our own reactions when provoked. Watch our heart. When stirred by others, let us respond in a spirit of meekness – with kind, gentle and conciliatory words – that “minister grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4: 29).
Commentator Charles Bridges aptly remarked: “If others begin, let us forbear from continuing the strife. Soft and healing words gain a double victory – over ourselves and our brother” (Commentary on Proverbs).
2. Be ready to forgive
Learn to overlook the faults and weaknesses of those around us: “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov 19: 11). One proverb says it well: “Do not make a mountain out of a mole hill.”
No one is perfect. We have, on many occasions, offended others. Very often, we see the mote that is in our brother’s eye, and fail to consider the beam that is in our own eye (Matt 7: 3). The next time we encounter some provoking situation, think about God’s grace upon us. He has forgiven us much (Matt 18: 35). In return, let us learn how to love and forgive others.
3. “Be ye angry, and sin not”
The apostle Paul exhorts us: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph 4: 26). It is easy for us to obey the first part of the verse: “Be ye angry”, but it is hard to “sin not”. Matthew Henry rightly comments: “In order to be angry and not sin, we must be angry at nothing but sin, and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own.”
Anger is sinful when it is accompanied with a desire to hit back. Anger is also sinful when we allow it to simmer in our heart, or when we harbour an unforgiving spirit.
It is not easy to stay calm especially when we have been treated unjustly or taken advantage of. It is natural to react in anger. But as Christians, we have God’s Word to guide our responses so that they are honouring unto the Lord.
Instead of reacting negatively, let us first speak to the Lord, seeking His grace and wisdom to manage the difficult situation and to maintain a quiet spirit. When we seek the Lord’s guidance and help, He will give us His peace. The surging passions within us will gradually abate and we will be able to react calmly with a heart of submission to God.
Brethren, let us take heed to the dangers of anger. Unchecked anger can hurt us physically and emotionally. It can make us bitter and miserable. It is detrimental to our soul. We cannot eat or sleep well if we continue to dwell on the offences against us. When we are angry, we will find it hard to pray. Our spiritual life is affected and we will soon lose our appetite for the things of God.
When faced with a difficult situation, let us seek the Lord’s help and wisdom to respond in a God-honouring way. Keep our anger in check, and sin not against God and man. Ensure that our heart is always right and pure before the Lord.