"Be killing sin or it will be killing you." John Owen
Sin is something to be eliminated and the 7 Deadly Sins is a list of what I think are 7 Root Sins. Over the past couple weeks and the next few weeks I want to look at these root sins and spray spiritual Roundup on them. So far I've examined Pride and Envy; this post is aimed at Anger.
The dictionary defines anger as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. When we're angry, and all of us have been angry, we're shouting "This isn't right!" Anger, though a deadly sin, is not in and of itself bad. What we're angry about and what we do about our anger is where sin can be found.
"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." Matthew 5:21
"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11
Anger is a deadly sin and is a root of all kinds of sin. That being said, Jesus got angry and so did/does God the Father, but they never sin. Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26 say, "In your anger do not sin." So, it must be possible to be angry and not be sinning. In fact, it must then be possible for anger to cause sin and to cause goodness since all that God does is good.
So, what is behind anger that could make it both a source of sin and good?
Tim Keller says that "anger is actually a form of love." Jonathan Parnell in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins says that the opposite of anger is not love but indifference. We don't get angry about things we don't care about.
So, how do we harness anger rather than be ruled by it? How do we not sin in our anger? I can think of four ways.
1) Ask, "Why am I angry" or "Why am I so angry?"
God asked Jonah this. It's a great way to analyze our anger and therefore our loves. Often I am angry because something insults my pride and other times I'm mad about something worth getting mad about. Some other times I'm angry about something worth getting upset about but my anger is so disproportionate to it. When I think about why I'm so angry there are times that I get rightfully embarrassed about it.
2) Slow Down.
Anger can take away our ability to think clearly. Breath, slow down and take your time before you do something you'll regret big time. Visceral reactions will, more often than not, lead to mistakes.
"A patient man has great understanding,
but a quick-tempered man displays folly." Proverbs 14:29
3) Align your loves with God's.
The best way to be angry and not sin is to align our loves with the loves of God. If anger is a reaction to something we love being threatened, then loving what God loves helps us to be angry about the right things and not about silly things. Do you love mercy, justice, righteousness, truth, etc? Do you love what God loves and hate what God hates?
4) Ask, "What am I going to do about it?
Are you controlled by the anger or are you harnessing the anger to achieve good? Should you just give it to God because He is in control and vengeance is His or is this a passion that you must seek justice about? Imagine if you tried to do something about everything that made you upset; you'd be exhausted. But imagine if Mother Theresa got angry about poverty but then responded by doing nothing about it. Imagine if William Wilberforce was ticked off about the African slave trade but decided to not peacefully pursue its end. What makes us angry and what we do about that anger goes a long way in defining us as people.
Anger is a powerful thing. It can destroy us and inspire us. It is the root of much sin and of much justice. I implore you in your anger to not sin, be careful with anger because it can burn you and when in doubt chill out.
"Be killing sin or it will be killing you" today.