Killing Sin: Anger

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.” – Psalm 37:7-8

Anger can be a volatile emotion in many people, especially after an offense. It can explode quickly like a firecracker, or a short-fused bomb. The blast radius can have deadly focus or it can be tragically broad. Once it’s unleashed, the damage can be great and the path to healing and restoration even greater. Unleashed, sinful anger can often thrive in pride. It can also quickly lead the angry person down the path of regret. For these reasons and many others, sinful anger needs to be promptly and thoroughly dealt with and put to death in both heart and life.

Scripture helpfully teaches us that anger itself isn’t sinful (Eph. 4:26). It’s where we allow it to go and what we do with it that can be. God commanding us to be angry at times in Eph. 4 is understandable when we consider biblical ethics. As we are called to be imitators of Christ, it’s right for us to be angry at things that anger God. Things like the exploitation of the helpless, hypocrisy, and the presence and rise of evil and wickedness are examples of such things. However, we must also manage our anger well. The fruit of the Spirit need to be well-used and evident in our walk, continuing to be pleasing to the Lord.

Solomon teaches us in Ecc. 7:9 in whom sinful anger rests – “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools [emphasis added].” Don’t be a fool who doesn’t deal with anger. He instructs us on the wisdom of self control in Prov. 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back [emphasis added]. We know that one who is slow to anger has great understanding (Prov. 14:29). Further, Jesus teaches us that murder begins with sinful anger in the heart (Matt. 5:22).

As anger is the emotion most prone to sinful use, this is why David calls us to cease from anger and forsake wrath in Psalm 37. This is why Paul also tells us to put anger away in Eph. 4:31. How do we cease from it and put it away? How do we kill sinful anger within? Here are some practical things to consider:

  • Be committed to slay, not feed: Similar to the sin of pride, killing sinful anger within first requires recognition of its presence and path of pain, along with realization and acceptance of the damage that has been caused. For as we often will be quick to deny that we are proud, the sinfully angry will be quick to deny that they have crossed the line in their anger. “I’m fine.” “I’m calm.” “You’re over-reacting. I don’t or didn’t do THAT.” These are common responses and deflections that keep the dragon alive and well-fed. When God convicts and humbles us to no longer demand our will be done, but submit to His, we realize we can’t walk rightly with Him and others with the dragon thriving in us. As God opens our eyes to see that the dragon can’t be trained, but must be slayed, it’s here that the challenging walk of restoration and reconciliation in many ways begins. The slaying of sinful anger, especially when you have nursed it for some time, is far from easy. But it’s the right, godly, and wise thing to do for the glory of Christ and the benefit of those who have relationships with you.
  • Be watchful of presence and rise: As is true with all sin in the heart, the more you let anger linger and fester unchecked, the more desensitized and blind you can become to it’s presence at all, not to mention the early warning signs of its rising. It’s often true that though you may be desensitized, others around you aren’t. Your friends, your spouse, your kids, etc. can see and hear the early signs better than you can. So, as much as clarity in sober self-examination needs to be a prayer focus for you, so does a willingness and humility to listen and receive feedback from those who love and care for you. 
  • Be watchful for triggers: Over time as we gain experience with struggles and successes with anger, the Lord shows us things, even reoccurring things, that trigger and tempt us to fall into sinful anger quickly. We should seek to know our triggers well. We should then learn how to resolve or remove them, cope with them, or better deal with them when they come (Heb. 12:1).
  • Be mindful of warning signs: The rise of anger can not only be detected emotionally shortly before the dragon-fire spews or the volcano erupts. It can also be detected physically. When you get angry and the internal temperature is going up, look for things like rising blood pressure, racing heartbeat, rapid breathing, clenching of your hands into fists, clenching your jaw, pacing the room, perspiration and sweating, agitation, racing thoughts, tunnel vision. Pay attention to any of these and others! It may also be helpful to have others you trust do the same.
  • Be prepared to slow down and stop: Let any of these cues or warning signs, let the feedback from others cause you to slow down, stop, think, and pray (Jas. 1:19-20). Pray that the Spirit would calm you and help you see and think clearly about what is front of you, resisting temptations and fleeing from sin. Read the Word and feed your soul with its truth and comfort. Confess and repent of any and all sinful anger the Spirit brings to your awareness. Turning off your heating oven, snuffing out your lit fuse needs divine intervention. Be committed to take early action by going to the Lord for grace and help, as well as those who He has in your life for support.
  • Be ready to keep walking: As the grace and peace of Christ is at work in you, whether you are getting back up after a fall, working through reconciliation, or after a successful defense against temptation, be ready to resume a humble and courageous stride in your walk with Jesus. He will be with you on your path and work in you to love and serve Him and His people well. 

  • Be agreeable to seeking help when needed: If sinful anger keeps getting the better of you, and you struggle with walking well and taking advantage of the preventative care and support available to you, don’t be resigned to throwing in the towel and let the beast run wild. Seek help and counsel from trusted family, friends, and your church officers.     

Though there is much more that can be said about sinful anger and the killing of it, I pray that this is helpful food for thought and walk this week. Be angry, and do not sin. Be watchful and deal thoroughly with sinful anger within.