ANGER AND THE CHRISTIAN
by David Sisler
I received a letter from a woman who said, "I'm a Christian who needs help controlling her anger. So many times I just explode with anger. I immediately regret it, but you can't take back a spoken word, can you? It usually begins with simple irritation. That leads to indignation or resentment. Before I know it my temper has run wild and I'm in the middle of full-blown wrath. I know that a lot of my depression is caused by guilt over anger directed at another person or at myself."
That letter expresses some thoughts about anger that are important.
When you explode with anger you cannot take back your words.
A runaway temper can cause depression, especially when you create a circle of resentment - you become angry, loose your temper, feel guilty, get angry because you lost your temper, add new guilt, become even angrier at yourself - it's vicious circle!
One of the saddest reflections of her letter is the hint she is less of a Christian because she becomes angry.
What does the Bible say?
Anger is not necessarily sin. The Bible says God is always angry with sin. "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11).
One Sabbath day Jesus healed a man whose hand was shriveled and useless. The attitude of the religious leaders toward Jesus made Him angry and deeply distressed. Mark writes, "Jesus was angry as He looked at the people. But He felt sad because they were stubborn."
The writer of Proverbs had a lot to say about the man or woman who will not control anger.
"A person who quickly loses his temper does foolish things" (14:17).
"A person who does not quickly get angry shows that he has understanding. But a person who quickly loses his temper shows his foolishness" (14:29).
One more proverb. It paints a vivid word picture. "A person who does not control himself is like a city whose walls have broken down" (25:28).
You can see that city in your mind. It was once a thriving community. Busy people came through the gates each day to enact commerce. The citizens resided in comfort. All who lived behind the safety of its walls were prosperous.
Then something happened. Whether it was from neglect, or complacency, or simple carelessness, the walls were breached. The city was overthrown. Its citizens perished. Now the haunting wind of regret is the only sound you can hear. When the walls were broken down the city was doomed.
Paul told the Ephesian Christians, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are angry." If you stay angry, it turns into bitterness, even hatred and that, Paul says, will "give the devil a foothold." That is when anger becomes sin.
When the Corinthian Christians were misusing spiritual gifts, Paul gave them a word that applies to controlling your temper as well. "The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet." It is up to you when to speak and when to remain silent. No one can force you to respond angrily if you will only keep your lips tightly closed.
"Put off the old man," Paul said. "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." If you want to control your temper, you must make a conscious effort to change your behavior. It is the Holy Spirit who does the actual renewing, but He waits for you to show willingness.
"Patience is better than strength," Solomon wrote. "Controlling your temper is better than capturing a city." The next time you are tempted to allow your anger to get out of control, remember the city with the broken down walls. That is your life, if you don't control your temper. And you are the only one who can control it.
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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