Part 1

There are three kinds of anger mentioned in the Bible and confirmed by observation and experience.  The first two words we will consider are found in Ephesians 4:13:

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage [thumos] and anger [orge], brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” Ephesians 4:13 

The first word is “thumos,” which means “a turbulent commotion, an explosion of temper or rage.”  This is the pit bull kind of anger, brothers; it is the rage that DESTROYS, the rage that ABUSES.

A second word is “orge,” which means “a long-lasting attitude that continues to seek revenge”; it could also be defined as ‘RESENTMENT.’  This kind of anger reminds us of the cobra, which carries out its schemes with cunning, methodical, devious, emotionless planning.  This kind of anger can abuse, deceive, and blame without a twinge of conscience.  What distinguishes it from “thumos” (the pit bull anger) is that “orge” is usually not out of control.  In fact, the person with this kind of anger takes pride in his ability to remain calm and collected as his schemes are carried out.  He is the kind of person who will clean his gun in the presence of his wife, just to remind her of what could happen were she to defy him.

The third Greek word for anger is [aganaktesis],  which means “indignation”; it is the kind of indignation that usually brings about APPROPRIATE behavior.  Of course, there is not a neat division between these kind of anger in real life.  Some abusers might act like a pit bull one day, a cobra the next, and be appropriately indignant the day after that.  In any case, the person who is filled with rage might be charming or intimidating or cunning … and maybe all three at once.

Interestingly, in the Old Testament Hebrew, the word (Vine’s) most often translated “anger” is [aph], which means “nostrils.”  This is a word picture of someone whose nostrils are flared or snorting with ANGER.  We sometimes speak of someone who is “hot under the collar” – that is, someone whose blood vessels are inflamed because of ANGER.

However, anger is not always sin:

“In your anger do not sin:  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26.  We should be angry with injustice, with evil, and with the stubbornness of the human heart.  Of Jesus we read, “He looked around at them [IN ANGER] and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said . . .” Mark 3:5.

Anger is often the basis of MOTIVATION; those who are angry at the right things can move mountains to see their vision accomplished.  Wilberforce was angry at slavery, Luther was angry with the indulgence traffic, and Martin Luther King was angry about racisim.  Each of these people sparked a reformation; they changed the moral and spiritual landscape of their times because they became angry with abuses.  Yes, it is possible to be “good and angry.”

BUT . . . anger also distorts perception.  Two men have an argument, and in a fit of rage, one kills the other.  Imagine waking up every day in prison for the next thirty years, flooded with shame and regret over such actions. Anger can make us do in a moment what cannot be recovered in a lifetime.

Most anger is MASKED.  It is skillfully hidden beneath the surface of one’s psyche . . . in other words, in the heart.  Ask the parents of the Columbine gunmen if they suspected that their children were angry and violent and they will tell you that No, they did not think their sons were capable of such crimes.

Like a lot of people, in my old life I was usually calm and collected on the outside.  But, as I discovered later, I was a burning cauldron of deep rage within.

Angry people can be abusers, having deep hidden resentments … thus they are angry almost all the time.  Because this resentment is unconscious, it is often DENIED.  Yet it will have its way, and very frequently bursts forth in a frenzied binge of sexual acting out, again and again.

Brothers, we will never deal with the roots of rage unless we know the meaning of  FORGIVENESS; we will never deal with these roots until we know the meaning of ACCEPTANCE; we will never deal with these roots until we understand the lie of REJECTION.

And we will never be free from anger until we know the true wonder of Jesus!

Part 2

Dear Free in Christ Brothers,

In the book of Jonah, we have the historical account of God’s effort to draw a city away from sin and to Himself.  I know you recall that God commissioned Jonah to Nineveh and call them to repentance.  Jonah first refused, but God painfully persuaded him to fulfill his assignment and Jonah did.  The result is that Nineveh repented and the city was spared God’s awesome wrath.  However, when in Jonah:4 , he realized that God was not going to destroy Nineveh, “he became angry” (4:1), and he asked that God take his life (4:3).  God responded to his ANGER, not with condemnation or rebuke, but with a pointed question:  “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (4:4).

The first purpose for emotions like anger is to help us recognize what we REALLY believe and how we think. Emotions are the windows of our minds and souls. (Note: there is a difference between “feelings” and genuine emotions.)  Jonah’s anger alerted him to the fact that he did not truly appreciate God’s love and mercy (4:2).  Then God went on to correct his faulty thinking by using a plant and a worm as an object lesson (4:6-11).

Emotion has been given to us by God so that we can bring our convictions and thoughts back in line with His truth.  When we DENY OR SUPPRESS OUR EMOTIONS we short-circuit that God-ordained process.  That is why God acknowledges our emotions such as anger.  BUT – with his acknowledgment, God also commands us not to sin (Ephesians 4:26).

One reason for this command is obvious.  Sin offends God and is wrong.  But why the command to not sin in the context of acknowledging one’s anger?  The reason, once again, is directly related to God’s divine purpose for emotions.  Emotions not only help us to know what we TRULY believe and think, but they also MOTIVATE us to do what is RIGHT.

I used to have a problem with James 1:20, as I thought it denied this. James says, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” But I have come to see this verse differently.

The word ANGER here refers to a “strong and persistent feeling of indignation,” that is, bitterness or resentment, as opposed to another word in the New Testament which refers to an outburst or a fleeting experience of anger.  It is true that deep-seated, entrenched anger (like I used to have) does not achieve the righteousness of God.  But short-term anger, like other emotions, can motivate us to do that which does honor God.

We all know Christians who now actively oppose abortion, but who didn’t always think that way.  Why the change?  One reason might be that they saw photos of unborn children that had been aborted and it made them ANGRY. Because of that anger they are now trying to do what they can to save these children.  This is where the command in Ephesians 4:26 enters in.

It is RIGHT to be angry about the killing of children, and this anger should motivate us to action.  But our actions must be God-honoring, not sinful. We can’t allow our anger over abortion to be expressed in sinful ways, like killing doctors who perform abortions.  God wants us to acknowledge our feelings and properly express and act on them.  But we must not sin.

Some Christian counselors (and some pastors) still implicitly approve of sinful expressions of emotion.  The excuse that “at least he’s learning to express his emotions” is absolutely unacceptable.  There is an important balance involved in dealing with one’s emotions.  GOD COMMANDS US TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEM, but He also commands us to act upon them in a way that honors Him and furthers His purposes.

While in counseling, I was told how a Christian should handle him emotions:

(1)  Fully experience your emotions; feel them.

(2)  Use your emotions; HONESTLY evaluate what they reveal about your beliefs and purposes.

(3)  Be free to express every emotion, but LIMIT EXPRESSION BY THE PURPOSES OF LOVE.

Finally, what has all this got to do with getting free of pornography and other sinful sexual behavior?  If you have read this far, you might accept my thesis that anger is an extremely dangerous emotion if not confronted, understood, and accepted.  Unresolved anger is one of the primary emotions that “causes” us to act out.

I am not talking about getting mad because the dog peed on the rug.  I AM talking about deep-rooted, active anger that exists in the subconscious because it is too terrible to face.  When I was in counseling, my therapist told me my “anger quotient” was right off the top of the chart.  I couldn’t believe it.  Mild-mannered, meek, little me? An angry man?

WHY do you do what you do?  We all know that it isn’t because we’re “not getting enough” at home.  We all know that it isn’t because we “need to get off.”  We all know that stress and tensions and self-pity are lies.  THEN WHY DO WE DO WHAT WE DO?

Is it possible that the “medication” of porn and its related activities are symptomatic of a deep-rooted anger in us that we are too afraid to honestly confront?  If you even suspect that this post is touching a raw nerve, I implore you to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the source of your anger.  God will give you the courage and grace to face it honestly and kill it.

Part 3

Dear FREE IN CHRIST Brothers,

A Christian should use their emotions to consider what the anger may reveal about his beliefs and purposes.  We DO need to examine our “feelings.”  But what in particular should we be looking for?

We should perhaps analyze ANGER.  Anger is basically the emotion of frustration [and often hurt].  When we are angry, it is because someone or something has kept us from accomplishing a PERSONAL GOAL or having something we DEEPLY DESIRE.

Sometimes when we are angry it is because we have desires and goals that are CLEARLY WRONG and they are being blocked.  When this is the case we need to ask God to teach us to be willing to be more like Him.  But what about when our desires and goals ARE biblical or not inherently wrong?  What about those times when what we desire is what we NEED and those desires and goals are still frustrated?

There are a lot of angry people around, but they don’t APPEAR to be angry.  They appear to be healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted, and even cheerful.  But underneath is a volcano of anger just waiting to explode — and it does — all over those who love us and others, and on frequent occasions.  These volcanic eruptions occur for a variety of reasons, one of the major ones being our LEGITIMATE HUMAN NEED FOR SIGNIFICANCE.

If we do not feel significant,  we are probably deeply angry people without knowing it.  Deeply angry people are prone to becoming sex addicts because – among other things – sexual immorality is something they can control and thus feel “significant.”

It is not WRONG to have our legitimate human needs met.  But when the “needs” are not legitimate [this means the “need” is a craving not from God], then our beliefs need to be reassessed.  Philippians 4:19 states that “my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

This is a promise from God to generously meet all the needs that a Christian has.  I believe that this promise includes our EMOTIONAL needs (significance) as well as our physical ones.  But notice that God does not promise to meet our needs in the way we may desire or in accordance with our personal goals regarding the timing.  Most of us accept that God’s timing is always perfect.

The good nature of God’s timing may not seem that it is actually good at any given moment, but He alone knows what is best for us and He acts on our behalf at exactly the right time.  This is one reason why the book of James says, “Let everyone be . . . slow to anger” (James 1:19).  Christians need to believe that God is in control of all things and that He will meet our needs in His perfect time.

Yes, there are a lot of angry Christians – and many of them are ANGRY WITH GOD, although they may be reluctant to admit it.  Christian anger with God is a much bigger and wide-spread problem than we might want to admit.  Do you see it in ME in my posts?

But if we believe that God is in control of all things (Ephesians 1:11), then whatever happens to us is ultimately HIS will.  So if we are angry, we are angry with God whether we admit it or not.

Occasional or temporary anger may not be directed at God, but when we CONTINUE to be angry it indicates that we are not happy with the way God is running the universe, especially our part of it.  Until we are willing to admit this, we cannot truly begin the healing process.

When we have ADMITTED our anger with God, the process has begun but it is far from over. The angry Christian MUST believe that God has promised to meet his needs and to do what is ultimately best for him (Romans 8:28).  Obviously, this involves trust.  But how does a person trust someone that he feels has failed him so terribly?

The answer, brothers, is one that I, at least, am learning rather slowly it seems:  EACH OF US MUST GET TO KNOW GOD A LOT BETTER!  This isn’t going to happen overnight.  It will require time and much effort.  We have to become REACQUAINTED, as it were, with God through the study of Scripture and seeing God in the lives of our brothers.

Once the focus is off ourselves and on God and others, it is absolutely amazing to see how anger suddenly leaves us.

One side note:  Anger can have it's roots in unresolved hurts from the past.  Sometimes we need to get past the anger and offer forgiveness to the person who hurt us (or even offer forgiveness to ourselves).

Part 4

There has been some discussion lately about ANGER.  We might not struggle with anger to the same extent as the guy next door who takes a gun to his lawn mower because it won’t work, but anger is a problem for almost all of us at one time or another.  And for some of us it can be the primary cause why we choose to act out.  There are several reasons why believers in Jesus Christ continue to struggle with anger even after getting extensive counseling to deal with it. (Been there, done that.)

A major reason has to do with the fact that many tend to view anger, and emotions in general, in a NEGATIVE manner.  These believers would probably not explicitly say that emotions are “bad,” but they are, nevertheless, suspicious of emotions, concerned about being overly emotional, and very reluctant to share their feelings with anyone.  Our churches are filled with people like this — people who deep down feel that feelings are not quite right and that they should not be acknowledged or expressed.  But the Bible does not teach or endorse this position.

According to Genesis 1:27, both men and women are created in the image of God.  Part of having that image means that we are emotional beings.  God becomes angry in situations (Numbers 14:11-12) and therefore, so do we.  If God has emotions and expresses them, then having emotions and expressing them cannot be intrinsically wrong.  In fact, God wants us to acknowledge our emotions and to express them PROPERLY, rather than to deny or suppress them.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin … .”  This verse contains two parts.  The first is to “be angry,” and the second is to “not sin” when angry.  Our first responsibility is to ACKNOWLEDGE the anger when we are angry.  Face it, we have no control over a primary emotion when it is triggered.  One cannot simply decide to become angry or not to become angry. But a person can SUPPRESS or DENY an emotion, refusing to acknowledge how he is feeling.  And suppression and/or denial of feelings can lead us into serious emotional problems.

God validates our anger as a legitimate emotion.  We therefore do not need to suppress or deny it.  Bring it into His sunshine so it can be destroyed in His Light.

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” Ephesians 4:26.