When we think of angry people, we think of people who get drunk and verbally or physically abuse others. True. But this is only one form of anger. Anger is a multi-headed monster that shows many disgusting facial expressions. Someone who is passive-aggressive, for example, is an angry person. Instead of having the boldness to take the situation head-on, they go behind your back to diminish your life in some way. Anger is not limited to actions only, but internal desires and those who are passive-aggressive reveal their true heart.
Recently, I preached a sermon on anger (Matthew 5:21-26). As a result, I’ve been thinking more about this emotion. I want to share some of my imperfect reflections. This list is not exhaustive, but are just some things that came to mind. You can find them below.
In no particular order:
1. There’s a difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger.
Is anger always a sin? No. The Bible never says, “Thou shall not get angry.” In fact, the Apostle Paul says, “Be angry, and do not sin. . . ” (Eph. 4:26). So anger can be bad, but it is not always bad. That means we must differentiate between righteous anger and unrighteous anger.
Righteous anger is when you get angry toward sin, injustice, and oppression in the world. Take, for example, something like high school bullying or sex trafficking. The thought of these two makes me angry. I don’t think my anger here is sinful because my anger is aligned with the heart of God who himself hates sin, injustice, and oppression.
Unrighteous anger is all other forms of anger. The context of Matthew 5:21-24 is personal anger toward your brother or sister in Christ. Getting angry at petty offenses and slight snubs are not valid forms of anger. We must seek to steward our emotions and channel our anger toward injustice in the world. The heart of the Christian is to pray, “Lord, help me to love what you love, and hate what you hate.”
2. There’s a difference between murder and authorized killings.
Murder is always bad. Killings are often bad, but sometimes justifiable. Killings that are sometimes justifiable may include: an act done in self-defense, just war, capital punishment, etc. (NIV Zondervan Study Bible, pg. 1938). From an Old Testament perspective, some killings were justifiable because God’s law was continually disregarded. Examples in the Old Testament abound. After many situations in which grace was extended, God eventually had enough and decided to get rid of either individuals or whole communities at a time.
Every human is an image-bearer of God. So if you (or anyone) violates another image-bearer, there are consequences. If done on an extreme level there are extreme consequences which sometimes includes death. God has given us governing authorities and they do not hold the sword in vain (Romans 13:1-5). This should cause a holy fear in us, helping us to treat all persons with dignity and respect.
3. Violation of the 6th Commandment includes more than just murder.
The sixth commandment is, “You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).” When Jesus added to the severity of this commandment in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:21-22), he was showing that just because you have not physically committed murder does not mean you have not violated the sixth commandment. If you get angry with your brother or sister in your heart, you’re guilty. Jesus, therefore, is not merely concerned with the external act of murder (although he is), but also your inward disposition toward others.