I am reading a book on anger. Or more accurately a compilation of essays on anger in book form. You know, I grew up reading and loving cartoons and the way cartoons typically depicted someone who was angry was either by using the word, “grrr” in the bubble over their head or by showing them red faced with steam pouring out from the top of their head and ears. In cartoon world you always knew exactly who was angry and why. In real life we don’t always know that information. Anger manifests itself in many ways, like resentment, rage, silence, murder to name a few, and all are tragic. Part of the problem is we truly do not know how to express anger in constructive ways. In fact what we typically do, especially as Christians, is quote Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Matthew 5:22 (NIV) Or we quote the second half of Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) which says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” We do not listen to or seem to acknowledge the first half of Ephesians 4:26 (KJV) where the Apostle Paul writes, “Be ye angry, and sin not…” Um…what?
It would seem there is anger…and there is anger. Jesus and Paul are not contradicting one another, even thought that is exactly how it appears. Jesus and Paul are just looking at the issue of anger from two different directions. Jesus knows that when we harbor anger, if we do nothing to abate the anger we are feeling toward someone…it could lead to murder. A definite sin and one that made the top ten list. You know the list better as the Ten Commandments.
Paul also knows Jesus’ teaching. And agrees with Jesus… Paul is telling us to be angry at what has happened, the hurt you are feeling, the injustices you see. Paul is letting us know that feeling angry is ok…as long as we do it in a way that does not lead us to sin.
One of the key issues in understanding our own anger is to know that anger is not a primary emotion. It is always secondary. It is the primary emotion that leads us into anger. It could be embarrassment, fear, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and many others. When we feel anger, the first thing we should do is try to understand what we felt before we got angry. Once we know the trigger emotion that led to our anger, we can effectively deal with our anger and use it to make necessary changes in our lives.
I believe, it is also helpful to acknowledge that there is an awful lot in our world today that can lead us into anger. So…how about instead of getting angry, why don’t we find ways our anger can lead us to make changes in our world?
As Paul taught, be angry…just don’t let it lead you into sin.