Read This: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20).
Think: When is the last time you got mad? For many of us, it probably wasn’t very long ago. Life is full of disappointments and there are a lot of angry people in the world because of it. Some things are worth being angry about—betrayal, injustice, oppression. But most things that set us off have more to do with the sin in our own hearts rather than other people’s mistakes.
How often do we foolishly think that if we just give someone we’re upset with a piece of our minds he or she will learn their lesson and we’ll all feel better? It doesn’t work out that way though. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” When we let our anger control our words and actions we quickly become the offender instead of the offended. Sure that person might think twice before making the same mistake, but they’ll be motivated by an unhealthy fear. Unbridled anger drives a wedge in relationships and pushes people away from us.
In the book of Jonah we see how even “righteous” anger and quickly turn unrighteous when we don’t trust God with the situation. Most of us know the story about the big fish swallowing up Jonah when he refused to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. After being spat up on the shore, he goes, does what God asked him, and the people of Nineveh turn back to God. Good news, right? Not for Jonah; he was furious about it and wanted to see their sin punished. “God relented concerning the judgment he had threatened them with and he did not destroy them. This displeased Jonah terribly and he became very angry” (3:10-4:1). The reason he didn’t want to go in the first place was that he knew God would show them compassion, which he didn’t think they deserved.
We’re all going to feel angry sometimes. But we can’t allow even justified anger to take root and become an excuse to withhold forgiveness. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry person stirs up dissention and a wrathful person is abounding in transgression.” As spouses, parents, and friends, our anger will not bring about God’s goodness. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4).
Ask: When is the last time you were really angry? How did you handle your anger? What does it look like to be angry and not sin?
Pray: Ask God to give you a heart like his, “merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love—often relenting from calamitous punishment” (Joel 2:13).