A few days ago in our biblical counseling training, we covered the topic of anger. This is a weighty subject, and one that can be particularly tricky for us because anger in itself isn’t a sin. God, in His perfect holiness, gets angry. In fact, He would not be holy if He never got angry, because sin and evil justly provoke anger.
In our experience as sinful humans, it can be difficult to sort out what anger is okay for us to have and what isn’t. Jon Bloom of Desiring God shares some helpful distinctions:
Righteous anger bears redemptive fruit. In righteous anger, we join God in anger over evil. It is an anger we feel with God, not at God. This kind of anger moves us toward acts of faith and love and true justice. Righteous anger feels grief (Mark 3:5), and because it is actually an expression of love, a deep displeasure over the way evil defames God and destroys people, it is not arrogant or rude or stubborn or resentful (1 Corinthians 13:4–5). It does not, in reality or fantasy, want revenge (Romans 12:19–20). And since we join God in this love-induced displeasure, it moves toward prayer.
But sinful anger does not bear redemptive fruit. Rather, it leaves us with a grey, burned-over barrenness of exasperated frustration. It produces a sour feeling in the pit of our gut. Sinful anger alienates us from God. It does not move us toward acts of faith and love and true justice, but rather toward acts of selfishness like sullen withdrawal, irritability, rudeness, obstinacy, and bitterness. Sinful anger is characterized by the self-oriented grief of self-pity, not godly grief over evil. And it produces the cancer of cynicism that eats away at faith, eroding our desire to pray.
We all know that sinful anger needs to be killed, but this kind is hard to kill because its objection is so emotionally compelling: “But I have a right to be angry!” That’s how it feels; how we want it to feel. It speaks self-flattering words to us that feed our pride and, like sexual sin, there is a selfish pleasure in indulging it and the sinful part of us doesn’t want to stop.
These quotes are taken from an article titled, “How to Kill Sinful Anger.” Bloom continues by discussing some helpful ways we can fight against sinful anger in our own lives. The full article can be accessed here.