Everybody gets angry. Everybody. It’s a normal human emotion. But Scripture teaches that what we do with anger is often sinful. In Eph 4:26, Paul exhorts his readers to be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. This indicates that anger itself is not sinful. It’s possible to be angry and not sin. But one way that it can become sinful is to not deal with it in a timely manner. Later, in the same passage Paul notes some of the other sinful ways that prolonged anger can manifest itself: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice (Eph 4:31).
There may be some of us who would deny that we have an anger problem, but that denial may be rooted in ignorance about all the sinful ways we can display anger. Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice may be words that we easily gloss over during a casual reading of this verse, but if we take the time to consider what each of those words signify, we may find that we do indeed have a problem.
Bitterness could be thought of as anger that has settled into the heart. It is anger that has passed the expiration date Paul gives in Eph 4:26. Anger that may have been legitimate at one time can turn into bitterness if we cling to it. It goes from being anger to a smoldering resentment that keeps us in perpetual animosity toward the original object of our anger. Is there someone in your life with whom you have been angry in the past, perhaps a person who sinned against you, and now you have a sour disposition toward that person? Could be from a recent dispute; could be from decades back. Either way, if you have bitterness, you have a problem.
Wrath is explosive anger. Some people are exploders. Sometimes they are described as having “a short fuse.” They blow up. They throw things, slam doors, yell and threaten, and may even become physically abusive. These are the people that most of us have in mind when we think about what it means to have an anger problem. And certainly they do. If you have wrath, you have a problem.
The word for anger in Eph 4:31 refers to more of a slow burn. Externally, some people are the opposite of exploders. Rather, than blowing up when they get angry, they internalize it and just simmer. When asked if they are angry, frequently they will deny it. They tend to just walk away from conflict, at times thinking that they are the bigger person for doing so. However, like the other manifestations of anger, slow burners are not dealing with anger biblically. If you tend to simmer, you have a problem.
Clamor is similar to wrath, but refers specifically to the audible outburst of anger. Clamor is the shouting that expresses explosive rage. If you tend to express your anger in this way, you have a problem.
Slander is the defamation of someone that results from an embittered heart. Some people deal with their anger by expressing it to everyone but the person with whom they are angry. They give their side of the story in an attempt to either gain sympathy or damage that person’s reputation in the mind of the listener. When you get angry, do you go to the object of your anger, or to others who are uninvolved? If you slander, you have a problem.
Malice is the general term for ill will that fuels all sinful manifestations of anger. If you have any of the above issues, you have a malice. If you have malice, you have a problem.
The good news is that for those who are in Christ, there is hope and help. We don’t have to live as if we are still enslaved to sin (Rom 6). The problem is that while most believers would admit to struggling with one or more of these sinful manifestations of anger, they don’t know how to deal with the issue biblically.
Our annual bible conference on May 17-18 will focus on the topic of how to deal with anger and bitterness. Our guest speaker will be Lou Priolo, the director of the Center for Biblical Counseling at Eastwood Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Priolo is a nationally recognized author and teacher on biblical counseling issues. He has written numerous books, including The Heart of Anger, The Complete Husband, and Teach Them Diligently. He only does a few speaking engagements each year – we are truly blessed to have him. The conference will be Friday 6:30p-8:30p and Saturday 8:30a-12:30p. Childcare will be provided for members and regular attenders.
The session schedule is:
1) Gentleness: The Antidote to Anger (6:30-7:20)
2) Bitterness: The Root that Pollutes (part one) (7:35-8:30)
3) Bitterness: The Root that Pollutes (part two) (8:30-9:20)
4) How to Improve Your IQ (Impatience Quotient) (9:35-10:25)
5) How to Avoid Making Rash Judgments (11:40-12:30)
Everbody gets angry. Not everybody knows how to deal with it in a God-honoring way. Please make every effort to join us at the conference so that we can all be equipped to apply God’s Word to our own anger and to help others. If you can’t be at every session, that is fine. You will benefit from whatever part you are able to attend.
Also, if you have friends or neighbors who are unbelievers, this is a great opportunity to expose them to the gospel. Reach out and invite them. Hope to see you all there!
Posted by Greg Birdwell