I once went for an interview to work with the schools department of Scripture Union. Most of the questions were straightforward but the one the big chief asked really threw me. “What makes you angry?” I was completely unprepared for that. Later I decided that my answer should have been, “Pointless questions taken from ‘Teach Yourself How to Interview’ books,” but then perhaps that wouldn’t have got me the job either.
In fact it was really a very perceptive question to test Christian character. What makes us angry? Lots of people get very angry, and sometimes violence and destruction follows, just because their football team has not win. People can get angry for the wrong kind of reasons, and express that anger in the wrong kind of ways.
There are occasions when anger is perfectly right and appropriate. God is angry with human sin and wickedness and disobedience. Jesus got angry at the way the Temple had become an opportunity for greed and exploitation instead of a house of prayer. It is important that Christians do get angry at sin and evil, angry enough to proclaim the gospel of forgiveness and speak boldly and prophetically against injustice. But sometimes we lash out in anger when we are frustrated or threatened or hurt, and such emotional explosions are not justified but sinful.
Sometimes, whether our anger is appropriate or not, we can express it wrongly in bitterness, or grudges or even revenge. ‘Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.’ (Romans 12:19) We do not need to get angry and “stand up for ourselves.” God will bring justice as we trust in Him.
James warns, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20). So next time you get hopping mad stop, pray, and ask what Jesus would do in your situation. “In your anger do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)