Paul told us to ‘Fight’ in 1 Tim. 6:12, but how do we ‘fight’ without being angry? Is there such a thing as being a Christian and having a righteous anger? We don’t find many good examples of balancing strong beliefs and also not externally behaving in a way that is offensive to others and God. As we fight the good fight of faith, our anger must be like a trained athlete in the ring, who knows the difference between serving God while confronting sinners versus serving God and running over sinners with our anger. Are we good examples with our temper, words, and actions? Anger is something difficult to deal with. I am speaking from experience. If you would have known me as a teenager, I was the tennis player throwing my racket and complaining. However, since becoming a Christian, I have learned to think about anger Biblically. There is good anger that pleases God and there is bad anger that displeases god.
Good Anger in the Bible
Good Anger is the God-given emotions of displeasure. God has made us in His image and shared the emotion of anger; we see God’s anger and displeasure towards Egypt (Ps. 78:49). Jesus was also displeased and angry when he saw His temple being turned into a house of business, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME” (John 2:17; Psalm 69:9). It even says in Ephesians 4:26-27 “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” We learn that anger in and of itself is not a sin. It is when our anger gives into the temptation of the devil (Eph. 4:27), that we are responsible for turning our anger into sin (James 1:14-15).
The Different Emotions of Anger in The Bible
We often use the word emotion to convey how we are feeling internally about something. Ephesians 4:26-27 uses two distinct Greek words: orgizo and parorgismos. Paul uses orgizo (“be angry”), which means to be very angry or enraged. However, Paul also uses paragismos (“do not let the sun go down on your anger”), which means to be provoked to anger. Paul is telling us that we are capable of being very angry without anger being unresolved in our hearts before we go to bed. This is a clear indication that anger builds when it is not dealt with in a godly manner.
The word orgizo is also used in another very famous passage with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21-22, when he attributes the guilt of murder to being ‘angry with his brother’. Jesus is saying that anger brings just as much guilt as murder because it reveals what’s in your heart about a relationship.
The Greek word pikria communicates the emotion of bitterness, like a bitter root that produces bitter fruit. Pikria implies the heart issue that is behind the outward manifestation of anger, which we find in Acts 8:23 in relation to the emotions accompanying sin, “gall of bitterness and in bondage of iniquity.” Pikria is also used in Ephesians 4:31 along with orge (a close relative of the word orgizo), “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” James 1:19-20 also uses orge to tells us how our faith should work against anger, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Also the Greek word Thymos implies passion, wrath, anger, and rage. Thymos is used in Luke 4:24 when the people of the synagogue were in rage over Christ’s public ministry where he proclaimed to fulfill the Scriptures. Thymos is always used in contrast to obeying Christ (as God) and communicates the passionate spiteful wrath of people towards God and His people.
When we behave in an angry way that is not godly, we are hurting ourselves and committing sin. You may have heard it said, ‘anger is like taking a poison pill and hoping someone else dies from it.’ So how do we fight sinful anger to become more like Christ?
Fighting Sinful Anger
First, Know that Anger Starts on the Inside. Fighting sinful anger means channeling the emotions through the heart. The Bible uses a concept called the inner and outer man when talking about living for Christ with the Holy Spirit. The inner and outer man is a term often used to describe how we channel our emotions as Christians, knowing that we work synergistically with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 3:16 tells us “to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” The Holy Spirit channels our anger as we deal with our emotions. The manifestations of anger in the inner and outer man vary in degree depending on how much we let the Holy Spirit work in us (Phil. 1:6). The inner man can be bitter towards someone (pikria). The inner man can want to seek revenge with a fiery rage that boils over (thymos). Whatever the cause of the emotional anger, it starts inward. As Christians, we must be aware that anger can produce outwardly if not dealt with. The outer man can have a fight over a disagreement. The outer man can say something against someone because they want them to be hurt in their reputation. The outer man can have outward manifestations of rage (Prov. 6:34), distorting facts (Prov. 14:29), stirring up strife (Prov. 15:18), and quick temperedness (Prov. 12:16). So how do we fight the inner emotions from outwardly manifesting?
Second, Stop Putting Yourself First. Realize that anger stems from a love of self and failing to trust God. Anger shows a personal superiority when you defame a person (Mt. 21-22). Anger can be the desire and passion for your own needs more than others and God (Js. 4:1-3; 3 Jn. 1:9). It is the ultimate form of idolatry (Mt. 22:37). Anger is also a failure to trust God’s providential and sovereign care. Anger shows that we are not patient enough with God or willing to accept and trust His plans in our life (Col. 3:2, 8, 15).
Third, Have a Strategy. There are many Biblical strategies to deal with anger. Memorizing Scripture is one of the best ways to deal with anger. If we know James 1:19-20 we will be quick to listen and slow to anger and work towards the righteousness of God. Memorizing Scripture reminds us that we can calm a dispute (Prov. 15:8), seek glory instead of anger (Prov. 19:11), and be wise instead of losing our temper (Prov. 29:11). Another strategy is to put off our anger and put on Godly behavior. If we know that God forgave us we can put on forgiveness and kindness and put away wrath, anger, clamor, and slander (Eph. 4:31-32). We can put on good acts towards one another and not put off evil acts (Mt. 5:38-48). Practically trusting God is a great strategy as well. We must trust that God is the judge of all things and we can’t take things into our own matters (1 Pet. 2:23).
Fighting anger is no small task. We all know how much inner anger we have that others don’t always see or notice. Learn from your mistakes and put others first. Plan ahead and strategize for the next time you face emotions of anger. The goal is to fight anger and work towards the righteousness of God (James 1:20) as a loving part of our fighting the good fight of faith.
David J. Lupinetti is the Associate Pastor at Bloomfield Hills Baptist Church in Michigan. He has a passion for Expository Preaching, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, and Evangelism.