Beliefnet
Excerpted with permission from "The Other Side of Love: Handling Anger in a Godly Way."

Is anger a sin?

As simple as this may sound, some Christians have difficulty with anger.All their lifetime they have been taught that anger is sin. Thus, to admit thatthey are angry is to admit that they are sinning. But this is not abiblical perspective on anger...the experience of anger is not sinful. Itis a part of our humanity and reflects the anger experienced by God Himself. Paul stated it clearly when he said, "In your anger do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26). The challenge is not "Don't get angry," but the challenge is not to sin when we are angry.

How Jesus handled anger

On one occasion, Jesus began to teach His disciples that He was going tosuffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests, and thatHe would be killed, and after three days He would rise again. TheScriptures record the reaction of one disciple: "Peter took him aside andbegan to rebuke him" (Mark 8:32). Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? Because inhis mind, what Jesus was saying was wrong. This is not the way youestablish a kingdom. And certainly my master is not going to be killed.Perhaps Peter thought Jesus was depressed, but he certainly didn't agreewith what Jesus was saying, so he privately rebuked Him.

In response, "Jesus turned and looked at his disciples." Then "he rebukedPeter. 'Get behind me, Satan!' he said. 'You do not have in mind the thingsof God, but the things of men'" (Mark 8:33). Jesus knew that Petermisunderstood reality; that in fact he was speaking the words of Satan. Inbrief, Peter was wrong, and Jesus clearly confronted him with his wrong. Onanother occasion, Jesus rebuked James and John for their hostile attitudetoward the unbelieving Samaritans. They suggested, "'Lord, do you want usto call fire down from heaven to destroy them?' But Jesus turned andrebuked them, and they went to another village" (Luke 9:54-56). Clearly,their attitude was wrong, and Jesus brought the matter to their attention.

Rebuke is not verbal abuse. Rebuke is laying a matter before a brother whomyou perceive to have wronged you. Such a rebuke needs to be done kindly andfirmly, recognizing that there is always a possibility that we havemisunderstood the brother's words or actions as Peter misunderstood thewords of Jesus regarding the Savior's approaching death. I often suggestthat people write their rebuke before trying to speak it. It may gosomething like this: "I've got something that has been bothering me. Infact, I guess I would have to say I'm feeling angry. Perhaps I ammisunderstanding the situation, but when you have an opportunity, I'd liketo talk with you about it."

Such a statement reveals where you are, openly reveals your anger, andrequests an opportunity to process it with the person involved. You haveacknowledged up front that your perception may be imperfect, but at anyrate, you want to get the issue resolved. Few people will not respond withan opportunity to talk about it if you approach them in such a manner. Ifgiven the opportunity, lay before them your perception of what youheard or saw or think to be true and ask if you are understanding thesituation correctly. This gives the person an opportunity to share with youinformation that you may not be aware of or to explain his motives in whathe did or said or to clearly admit to you that what he did was wrong and toask your forgiveness.

In this context of open communication, each trying to understand the other,the issue will be resolved. Either by this explanation or his confession ofwrong, the framework is laid for reconciliation. If the person admits towrongdoing and expresses a repentant attitude, the clear teaching of Jesusis that we are to forgive the individual.

'Do not let the sun set on your anger'

Implosive anger is fully as destructive as explosive anger. That is why theScriptures always condemn internalizing anger. The apostle Paul admonished, "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Clearly, Paul instructed that we are to process anger quickly, not allowing it to linger inside beyond sunset. I suppose that if we get angry after dark, he would give us till midnight, but the principle is that anger is not to be held inside; in fact, to do so is to give the devil a foothold. That is, we are cooperating with Satan and setting ourselves up to sin even further. The apostle further challenged us to rid ourselves of anger. (See Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8.) This is not an indication that anger itself is a sin; it is an indication that to allow anger to live inside is sinful. Solomon warned that "anger resides in the lap of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:9). The key word is resides; the fool lets the anger abide in him. The implication is that those who are wise will see that anger is quickly removed. Anger was designed to be a visitor, never a resident, in the human heart.

All of us experience anger. But holding anger inside by denying, withdrawing, and brooding is not the Christian response to anger. In fact, to do so is to violate the clear teachings of Scripture. Bitterness is the result of stored anger, and bitterness is always condemned as sinful in Scripture. (For example, see Acts 8:23; Romans 3:14; Hebrews 12:15.)


Author Gary Chapman directs marriage seminars throughout the country and hosts the nationally syndicated radio broadcast, 'A Growing Marriage.'

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