Recently, anger seems an overwhelming part of our cultural, political, and personal rhetoric. Should we be concerned, or is anger an appropriate response to perceived injustices?
The Anger of the Lord
I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless…Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:11,13)
The most common appearance of anger in the Bible is God’s rage against sin. Sin offends his perfect righteousness; its power rebels against his Lordship; its presence corrupts his creation. Sin demands his justice and judgment.
[tweet_box design=”default”]Sin demands justice and judgment, but God provides escape from his anger through the gospel.[/tweet_box]
Anger is meant to reveal an injustice, a wrong that needs righting. The Lord’s anger is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Anger is an appropriate response to suppressed truth, immoral living, and rejection of God’s will. It signals something broken that needs fixing.
The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. (Psalm 103:8-11)
While his justice must be satisfied, God consistently provides escape from his anger over sin—Noah’s family enters the ark; the sacrificial system is set up; Jonah warns the Ninevites of impending doom. People humble themselves before him, and God softens his anger or turns it aside.
But these temporary reprieves of God’s anger simply delay the inevitable confrontation between God and the sin of humans. So God, in his love, sent Jesus to satisfy the demands of his justice. Jesus took God’s full anger for sin on himself, so that wrath will not fall on those who trust in Jesus.
The Anger of Man
The complication is that our personal sin can incite our anger even more easily than the sin committed against us.
The Bible’s first mention of anger is an excellent example. Cain and Abel offer sacrifices to the Lord. Abel’s sacrifice is found pleasing; Cain’s is not.
So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:5-7)
Cain’s sin-perverted sense of justice has been affronted. God encourages Cain to act rightly, not to trust his anger. However, he ignores God, embraces anger, and kills Abel.
Continuing this trend are more examples of humans acting in anger:
Levi and Simeon angrily wipe out a city.
Saul, in a rage, tries to kill David.
Jonah angrily pouts when God spares Nineveh.
Even Moses, who several times seems righteously angry on behalf of God’s holiness, disobeys God while frustrated by the people of Israel.
Our struggle with sin warps our anger to the point that it can’t be trusted.
…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)
What Are We to Do with Our Anger?
Develop a long fuse.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 14:29)
While God is just and right in his anger, he is also slow to anger. He is constantly holding back on his anger to allow for repentance. He is often delaying judgment of the guilty to spare the innocent in their midst.
The Lord has been patient with us in our sin; we are to extend the same kindness to those who sin against us. In fact, “it is [our] glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).