This is the final post in the series Chip Removal for Christians to read the previous post, click here.
There is something beautiful about fire. Undulating lights of amber and red colors color the dark wood while dancing orange flames leap merrily about, destroying the very substance glowing beneath it. It’s a beautiful sight when contained within the safe confines of fire place or fire pit.
Another fascinating aspect of fire is how quickly it can flare up and go out. How many raging bonfires have you witnessed that burned high and glorious for a few minutes only to drop down to embers and scattered flames? They are highly destructive and uncontrollable. It may momentarily heat the watcher, but it won’t sustain them through a night. By the time they can get near enough to warm themselves safely, they have to throw more wood on the fire, and even then, there may not be enough coals to keep it going.
Our anger is often like a raging bonfire. It flares high and hot then diminishes to a pile of ash and embers, succeeding only in destruction. Yet anger is not without purpose and can be useful if carefully managed.
The Bible does not tell us that we should never be angry. It actually refers to anger this way:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
~ Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV
“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
~ Proverbs 15:18 ESV
“A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”
~ Proverbs 29:22 ESV
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”
~ Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV
“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”
~ Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
~ Psalm 103:8-14 ESV
I don’t normally like to pull multiple passages to make a point, but I want you to see that this idea of being “slow to anger” is a recurring theme throughout the scriptures. The last scripture shows us that God Himself is slow to anger. The word “slow” implies that He does get angry, but it is a justified, powerful anger. When God pours out His wrath, it will be (and has always been) precise, calculated and perfect.
When someone—particularly someone close to us—says or does something careless or hurtful, our immediate reaction is either sadness or anger. (If it begins with sadness it will often end with anger.) We expect that the people we love will not let us down, say hurtful things or cast us aside. When they do, it causes greater pain than when a casual acquaintance or stranger does the same. This is why disputes between Christians cause so much strife. We are supposed to be like Christ, but so often we let each other down in that regard.
How do we control our anger? When is it “OK” to be angry?
4 steps to controlling anger:
You may be saying to yourself, “Elihu, you’ve oversimplified this!” Perhaps. But consider:
When your spouse leaves their socks on the floor for the thousandth time since you’ve been married or you step on your child’s sharp Lego after your told them to clean up, or your spouse overspends yet again, what is your initial reaction?
Anger. Verbalized anger.
“how many times do I have to tell [insert name] to do [insert action]?!”
“I’ve told you a thousand times, PUT YOUR SOCKS IN THE HAMPER!”
“GET IN HERE AND PICK UP THESE TOYS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”
“How dare you overdraft us AGAIN?!”
Before you lash out, follow the steps:
#1: Zip your lips (in other words don’t speak!) and breathe deeply.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
That was easy, wasn’t it?
#2: While breathing deeply, Pray.
“Lord, help me control my anger & frustration.”
A short prayer. An immediate plea for immediate help.
Is it worth being angry about? What can you do about it? Was this a personal attack or just carelessness?
Often times, it is the latter. Consider how you can correct the problem without a fiery reaction. You don’t want to be that bonfire that flares up and destroys your relationship over dirty socks, sharp toys or a few lousy bucks. We are called to be better than that. Humble. Strong under pressure. Loving others in spite of their foibles.
#4: Expel your anger.
If you haven’t already lowered your blood pressure with steps 1-3, find a healthy outlet. There isn’t always the time for immediate release, but if there is, go somewhere you can’t be heard or can’t hurt anyone and start expelling your anger physically. Rip some weeds out of the ground, throw some rocks at your block wall, go for a brisk walk, lift weights, shred some paper with your bare hands or something similar. Sometimes the physical exertion helps release the chemical-physical sensations of anger and helps you see clearly once more.
Learn to control your anger or it will control you.
When is anger justified?
The American Revolution did not begin with the Boston Tea Party or even the first battle. It was a fire that began with a small flame lit over newspaper that was wedged beneath kindling beneath sticks of wood and ever so slowly fuel was added that made the fire grow into a hot burning force to be reckoned with. It was a slow anger that finally grew into a fierce fire. Every injustice, every slight from the British isles aided in the strength of that fire.
It is righteous anger.
For me, this includes:
- When I see cowardly men hide behind women and children because they are afraid to face the soldiers that they have tried to kill, I get angry.
- When I watch children mowed down in the safety of their schools by evil people, I get angry.
- When politicians use tragedy as an excuse to steal the freedoms that so many have fought and died for, I get angry.
- When Christians are told they can’t even bring a Bible to school, but Muslims are given breaks for “prayer time…” Yes… I burn up.
- When people who claim to be Christians refuse to really read and understand what God is teaching through his word—you guessed it, I’m livid.
- When I hear people defame God, ridicule Jesus Christ and belittle Christians, I get fiery.
- When Christians wax apathetic and stop listening to the God they claim to love, the anger burns white hot.
There are times when we should be angry. That anger needs to be controlled and channeled and prayed over before we take action, lest we cause the wrong kind of destruction. Does that mean we should look like Anger from the film Inside Out—red and surly with a little flame on the top of our heads? No. But We have to decide what to do with that anger and how the frustration with injustice can be used to serve God and others. Often the way we act doesn’t (and often shouldn’t) even look like anger.
When we see our brethren apathetic and lazy, we need to become a positive motivator. We need to burn brightly not with fiery anger, but with the light of Christ so that others will be drawn to the heat and start becoming a light too.
When the overwhelming majority speaks against God, we need to be the vocal minority speaking for God. Noah preached the entire time he built the ark. Just because he was the visible minority, didn’t mean he needed to hide his light under a bushel.
When the helpless—the truly helpless—are being threatened, we need to do what we can to help them. (And no, I’m not referring to illegal immigrants or Syrian refugees… In case you are wondering.)
Be like God—slow to anger and abounding in love.
We will cause so much less strife in the church if we learn to control our anger and approach each other with love.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?”
~Micah 6:8 NKJV
Justice will never be served if we are never angry about evil, none of us would be saved and forgiveness never extended if we did not give mercy. And we will destroy one another in our anger if we lack humility.
Be slow to anger. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.
This concludes the series on Chip Removal for Christians. If you have missed the previous posts, I have put a list below with the links to the posts within the series:
Introduction: Do you Honestly Think You’re That Important?
Chip removal for Christians:
- Assume goodwill: “Is My Brother My Enemy?”
- Perfect the art of listening.
- Do to others what you would have them do to you.
- Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves
- Think before you speak: “3 practical remedies for foot-in-mouth disorder.”
- Be slow to anger. (This post)