I hope you all had a wonderful New Years and are ready to tackle all of the blessings and challenges God has in store for the months ahead.
This week will mark the beginning of a new series I have been working on focused on certain emotions that have a reputation for being sinful.
Emotions are a big part of human life and often lead to struggles and problems for those of us called humans.
It is probably for that very reason that these particular emotions have developed a stigma of evil.
This series exists to take a look at that stigma and maybe bring to light some other ways to look at them.
This week we will be taking a look at anger.
Is Anger a Sin?
Like all people, I often experience anger. This anger can be directed at other people, at certain circumstances, or even at myself.
And like the rest of the world, I struggle to control this mercurial emotion, trying against all odds to tame it. My attempts are often failures, yet I keep trying, because anger is a sin, after all.
It may surprise you to learn that I no longer think that anger, on its own, is a sin.
True it can lead us into sin, such as violence or cruelty, but the emotion itself is just that, an emotion.
Take a look at the following verse and see what I mean.
Psalms 4: 5 (4)
“You can be angry but do not sin! Think about this as you lie in your bed, and calm down. Offer sacrifices rightly, and put your trust in Adonai.” (Italics and bold lettering added for emphasis.)
(This translation comes from The Complete Jewish Study Bible, which I am currently reading, however other translations say much the same. NKJV says, “Be angry and do not sin.” The NIV says, “In your anger, do not sin.”)
This verse heavily implies that anger, and the sin that can comes from anger, are two different things. It implies that it is perfectly reasonable to have one while resisting the other.
This thought is repeated in Ephesians. (Which is really no surprise seeing as how Saul/Paul, the author of the book, grew up studying and attempting to live out God’s commands.)
“In your anger, do not sin.”
(Italics and bold lettering are added here for emphasis.)
Here again we see that Paul believes that anger itself is not a sin.
THE PERFECT EXAMPLE
Still not convinced. Well let’s take a look a Jesus himself.
He (Jesus) looked at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
Here we see Jesus himself getting angry with the leaders of the synagogue. These leaders were more interested in getting Jesus into trouble for healing on the Sabbath than they were in being happy for the man who was hurt getting healed. This angered Jesus.
I believe Jesus was perfect. He had to be in order to act as the perfect sacrifice for us. He never sinned. Which means that the above verses prove that anger, in and of itself is merely an emotion and not a sin.
Why does the Bible warn against anger?
So, if it isn't a sin, why does the Bible warn against it?
I believe it is because of how powerful anger is and how easily it can lead us into sin.
When humans feel anger we see red. We become unable to make careful and objective decisions. We commit violence against others, and we don't consider our actions.
These are definitely not things Christians should be practicing.
What about righteous anger though? The kind of anger that might lead to positive change.
Surely it should be okay to get angry at injustice, unnecessary violence, and the evil in the world.
The problem with this kind of anger is that we as humans are often incapable of making just judgements while angry. This is why citizens aren't allowed to take the law into their own hands. So, yes getting angry at evil is important, but we need to be sure we aren't acting on that anger alone. Otherwise we might fall into a trap laid by the devil.
Now, originally I thought that righteous anger might have a role to play in Christian life. After all, Jesus got angry at the people who turned the temple into a market place and then he trashed their stalls, right? That means He acted violently in anger, but since it was for a good cause it was not a sin.
However, after reading the verses more carefully, I realized that the verses never say anything about Jesus being angry when he turned over those stalls.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.
Jesus did the right thing when he drove out the sellers, but He did not do it in anger. I checked the same story in the books of Mark, Luke, and John as well, and nowhere does it say Jesus acted here in anger. (It does mention in John that the prophecies about Jesus said He'd have zeal for God's temple. But I don't believe zeal, which means passion, and anger are the same thing.) So, if Jesus Himself stayed away from righteous anger, I guess we should too.
Instead, let's work to develop patience and understanding in stressful times, while also working to recognize our emotions are just that, emotions, and that they do not define us, nor do they control us.
What do you think? Do you view anger as a sin? Is it something to be avoided at all cost or are we meant to use? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
And I hope you'll be able to join me next week when we'll talk about whether or not fear is a sin.