Anger: Choosing Good over Evil
A day ago, I became angry with my wife.
When I finally understood how my stony silence and overall insolence had hurt her, I also started to understand how anger offends God, in addition to harming His people by either damaging existing relationships between them, or preventing new relationships between strangers.
Something that I definitely did not like about what had happened was that I had decided beforehand to be mean-spirited to her.
Believe me… the evil one is very busy.
Premeditation is a very good thing when it is applied to endeavors like planning your daily workload, but it is for sure a very bad thing when it comes to anger or any other type of misbehavior. I spent a lot of that particular night reflecting on what I had done, and the manner in which I had done it, and the reflection was not a pretty one. Holy Scripture condemns premeditated evil (italic emphasis mine):
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord. (Zechariah 8:16-17)
Looking in Holy Scripture, it is evident that God is unhappy with those who are angry without a just cause:
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
God gets right to the point… He asks “Why…?”, and completely demolishes any answers that you could hope to give for your misbehavior by stating that if only you had done what was right, you would not have had to be angry in the first place. What was right would have been for me to take the time to understand what my wife was trying to accomplish… and see that it was a good thing to do. However, that is not what I did: what I did was to allow sin (rebellion against God and His commandments)… already crouching at the door, poised and ready to pounce… to take control of the situation.
In other words… I chose evil.
Holy Scripture understands this type of rebellious choice so well that the book of Jude, authored long after the incident between Cain and his brother Abel that led to Abel’s murder by Cain, refers to a rebellious choice by Cain’s name (italic emphasis mine):
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11)
Jude goes on to say this:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (Jude 14-16)
Holy Scripture characterizes anger very well:
An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. (Proverbs 29:22)
Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? (Ecclesiastes 5:6)
For many (if not all) of us, the mouth for sure leads us into sin! There is more than ample proof of this in the book of James (italic emphases mine):
Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:4-10)
In the book of Jonah, God takes Jonah to task:
Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:5-11)
Jonah was angry about a single vine that had provided shelter for his head. But God dismissed Jonah’s anger as insignificant because He was trying to get Jonah to testify to one hundred and twenty thousand people in the city of Niniveh who were set to be justly and rightly destroyed by God’s just wrath… He wanted to save them! There is an example here for us as Christian believers: God, as Almighty God the Father, has a right to be angry because he is infinitely perfect in His attributions and in His decisions and judgments. Except in the very most unusual of situations where righteous anger is warranted, we as God’s created beings do not have the right to be angry: we need to turn to God in situations that have the potential for anger and dissension, and ask Him for His providential help.
Jesus Christ declared just how deadly anger can be:
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. 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 5:22)
The book of Ephesians gives superior advice:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
So also does the book of James:
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
God has given us a free will. This is very good in that using that free will, we can choose good over evil. The evil one and his demons are very strong, indeed… but they are not stronger than God! God does not, and will not, leave His children defenseless. The book of James gives witness to this:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
How do we resist the devil? In this way:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Holy Scripture is alive with the concept of choosing God, being chosen by Him, and not choosing ‘the way of Cain’:
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. (Psalm 119:30-32)
May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. (Psalm 119:173)
Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. (Proverbs 3:31-32)
He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. (Isaiah 7:15)
I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. (Isaiah 41:9)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:24-27)
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:4-6)
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
How beautiful that verse is… we are a royal priesthood!!
So anger does not (except for rare, justified exceptions) have any place in the life of a Christian believer. We do have the tools to accomplish the turning away of anger, and indeed all the occasions of sin: the full armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-18, and this (italic emphasis mine):
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Pray to God in every circumstance, be in His Word constantly, know that there is always a choice of good over evil, and never go anywhere without the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) in your heart, in your mind, and ready on your tongue… it is the weapon that never fails.