“Do not fear” is the most frequent command in Scripture. But if fear is the most common emotional struggle Scripture discusses, anger is the most dangerous. Why? Behind anger is tremendous emotional energy. In my own life and in ministry, I have witnessed and experienced the ferocity of anger’s destructiveness. It has the potential to unleash a torrent of collateral damage. So below is a list of “anger observations” I’ve collected over the years. It’s hodge-podgy, but hopefully you’ll find it helpful.
1) Anger and love go together
All human emotions are inextricably linked with love. When one is angry they are in essence saying, “Something I love is being treated unjustly.” Whether or not that anger (and handling of it!) is righteous depends on what we, in that moment, love.
2) Righteous anger and righteous love go together
The best way to cultivate righteous anger is to thoroughly know what God loves and then truly love what God loves. This is always an uphill climb because we don’t naturally love what God loves. That has to be formed in us. A good question to ask is: “What upsets God?” Or in the moment, “Does this thing that is upsetting me, upset God?"
3) Righteous anger manifests itself righteously
We might be able to answer the above question with a “yes”, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. This is actually where it gets tricky. We might be able to say “my anger is righteous”, but many times we don’t handle or exercise our righteous anger righteously. At this point, there’s a follow-up question we need to ask: "Is my world or the world of those I care about getting better as a result of my anger? Or is my anger hurting me and others?”
4) Anger and impatience are connected
I have always found James 1:19 to be a weird, but profound verse. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Why does James link listening, speaking, and anger together? Anger wants results fast and often times the quickest way to get results is to speak first and often. Beware of the person who is quick to speak.
5) Sinful anger’s root is pride
If we’re being honest, most of our anger is sinful. It’s fed by a motto most of us unnoticeably live by: “My kingdom come.” In James 4, we’re told anger arises from personal desires. And when you read the word “desire” hear also the word “love.” When my desires, my wants, my loves aren’t being attended to, it bubbles over. Therefore, righteous anger flourishes only in a greenhouse of humility.
One of the most recited verses by Christians is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
As a kid I remember reciting that verse to myself before taking tests, shooting a free throw, and competing in a game of “chubby bunny.” If this verse is true, then there’s nothing I can’t do. Just look up at the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… no, it’s Brian Dainsberg! Cue the John Williams' Superman theme song.
Then I was introduced to a new concept. It can be a boring concept; a concept that doesn’t make much money. That concept? Context. Yep, that’s it: context. Without it you can get any Bible passage to say pretty much whatever you want. With it, well, it may not say what you want it to say, but it says what God wants it to say. That should probably be enough.
So I looked at Philippians 4:13 in its context and discovered something: I’m never going to be faster than a speeding bullet, nor more powerful than a locomotive. End the John Williams' Superman theme song. That verse is not saying what I thought it said.
Instead, in its context, the verse is saying I can learn to be content in any financial circumstance through Christ who gives me strength. The verse is about Jesus strengthening us to be financially and materially content no matter how much we have or don’t have.
Boy, did I miss the boat on that! Yikes!
It all boils down to one simple, uninteresting concept: context. Who knew?