We all get angry. We get angry when someone wronged us, when we were unfairly treated, or someone blamed us, or we were ignored, misunderstood, or felt insignificant.
We get angry when someone cuts in front of us in traffic, when our spouse forgets to call and is very late, or when the clothes we wanted to wear were still in the hamper.
We get angry when God doesn’t come through and our expectations aren’t fulfilled.
Then, many of us feel ashamed for feeling angry. We might even feel as if we’ve done something wrong.
But anger is normal and is neither good nor bad. It is a charged, morally neutral, emotional response of protective preservation. It is a God-given, emotionally charged response designed to protect someone or something.
The Bible actually commands us to be angry.
The Apostle Paul says, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
First of all, this is an imperative – a command. And the word order goes something like this. “Be angry.” In other words, get angry (command), don’t sin (command), and don’t let the sun go down on your anger (command).
It’s true, anger can lead to sin and can be destructive in our lives. If unchecked, it can have amazingly negative consequences and pitfalls.
But anger can also be a very positive and healthy emotional response. Anger can actually motivate us to correct attitudes, behaviors, or injustices that we perceive to be wrong.
Many years ago, when Theresa and I were starting out, I was a pastor of a small church in Texas. We couldn’t afford a washer and a dryer at the time, so I remember that we would have to go to the laundromat to do our laundry.
One day, I was waiting for my clothes to dry when I noticed a woman come in the laundromat with an 18-month-old. She looked unkempt, a bit rough, and in a bad mood. When her toddler went around to look at something, she just went ballistic. She grabbed the kid’s hand, and literally slammed it into the dryer. He started screaming.
That day I came so close to hitting this lady in the mouth! I went up to her and said, “Ma’am, if you touch that child again, so help me, God, I will knock your lights out.” It probably wasn’t the right thing to do, but it sure seemed like it at the time!
That night, I couldn’t get any sleep. I just I couldn’t get over what I had witnessed. It made me so angry. I wondered where that little boy was and if he was okay. And I just had this overwhelming urge to do something.
So the next day I did some research and ended up at the child welfare department. I discovered that child abuse and neglect in the town I was living in was a really big problem. And they didn’t have enough foster parents.
When I asked, “What’s anybody doing about it?” I got the response, “Well, we have a committee.”
So I attended one of the committee meetings to find out the extent of the problem, and I left as the chairman. Then, one by one, I purposefully found some committed Christians to fill the board.
We ended up partnering with all the churches in that little community and took turns every Sunday talking about which families needed help, how many kids, and which size clothes were needed. Then we raised some money and built a home right next to the child welfare building so the kids would have a safe place to live.
All this happened because one guy got mad.
Anger is not a bad thing. I actually believe that many of us are not nearly angry enough, especially at the things that we ought to be angry about!
So what makes you angry? When was the last time you got so ticked off about injustice or something wrong that you said, “I’m going to do something about it!”?
To learn more about God’s purpose for our anger and to get some helpful tools to help share anger in a healthy way, check out Chip’s series Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.
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