We all get angry – at little things and big things. But did you know that anger in itself isn’t inherently good or bad? It actually has both positive and negative qualities and the potential for great use and great misuse. And contrary to popular belief, many times, being angry and expressing it are godly responses. This is because anger is actually a signal that something is uncomfortable, wrong, or undesirable and something needs to change.
In fact, anger was designed by God to be a weapon, a tool, and a resource to help us respond in a powerful way to evil in the world.
I remember getting really angry when I was at a laundromat years ago. While I was waiting for my clothes to dry, I witnessed a young mother getting annoyed at something her toddler daughter did. Suddenly, she picked her daughter up by one arm, banged her against a dryer, slammed her into a chair and screamed in her face. As you can probably imagine, I was furious! I told the woman that her behavior was disgraceful and unacceptable, and I was determined to do something about it.
Not long afterward, I found myself on an action committee – the Child Welfare Board. Eventually our church and several others joined to provide resources and temporary shelter for distressed families. It turned into one of the most effective programs in our community.
This is just one example of how anger has a constructive, positive side. Unfortunately, most of us have been exposed only to the negative side of anger, so we don’t know how to recognize and channel healthy, appropriate anger for good. We think we should be angry less, but in fact, many of us need to be angry more – for the right reasons and in the right way. God wants us to be good and mad.
In Ephesians 4:26-27, we’re told that not only is our anger allowed, but also we’re supposed to get angry. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.”
This command to “be angry” comes with three conditions:
- Do not sin. We are warned that it’s easy to allow our anger to lead to sin.
- Do not let the sun go down on your anger. In other words, we need to resolve our anger quickly, not letting it smolder and stew.
- Do not make room for the devil. God knows that if our anger is improperly motivated, and if it lingers, it gives the “enemy” the opportunity to reside in our hearts. Then this anger turns into bitterness and resentment.
So how do we be good and mad? Most of us would agree that our biggest challenge then is not to get angry, but it’s expressing our anger in appropriate ways. To do this we need to follow Jesus’ example as well as God’s anger recommendations and requirements.
James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes about what appropriate anger looks like. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Appropriate anger is generated from right reasons. It is not anger born from selfishness, pride, or insecurities. We express it appropriately when we communicate or redirect it in non-threatening, nondestructive ways.
In my case, my anger at the laundromat was appropriate and it produced good results. Many children are safer and happier because I got mad. It actually would have been wrong not to get angry at such blatant injustice. Remember, God gave us this gift of anger to transform our lives to make us like Christ. It can be used for evil or for good.
For more information about this topic, check out the series entitled Overcoming Emotions that Destroy. This series will help identify how people handle their anger and give you practical biblical tools to express your anger appropriately as well as deal with those who express their anger toward us.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip