BE ANGRY BUT DO NOT SIN

Be Angry But Do Not Sin! If you have been around sound biblical teaching then you have most likely heard Be Angry But Do Not Sin before. However, what exactly does that look like in real life? How do you Be Angry But Do Not Sin? When you think about all the times you or someone else have been angry, consider the responses that followed that resulted from your anger. It may truly seem impossible to be angry but not sin. But do not despair, there is hope for the anger you harbor within your heart; you can be angry but not sin by finding abundant joy in Christ even during times of anger.

 

According to Dictionary.com, anger is “a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.Based on this definition of anger, we see that anger is brought on by a wrong or a perceived wrong to a person. Although we typically think of anger or being angry as a bad thing, we will examine Scripture where we see God expressing His anger as well as where it tells man how to be angry, such as Ephesians 4:26 below.
“Be ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” – Ephesians 4:26

THE CHRISTIAN DISPLAY OF ANGER

In Ephesians 4:26, we see the author of the Book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul, say “Be ANGRY,…”, but as you continue to look at that whole verse there are some conditions that are required for Christians when they are angry. Let’s take a little time to examine these further. These conditions are, “Be ANGRY,…”:

  1. “…AND yet DO NOT SIN;…” – To fully understand this part of the verse you must understand what sin is. “The underlying idea of sin is that of law and of lawgiver. The lawgiver is God. Hence sin is everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God’s moral creatures that is contrary to the expressed will of God.” This general definition of sin comes from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. So basically, sin is not only or necessarily just the act that one does, as in being angry, but the motive(s) behind it. Thus, Be ANGRY, BUT DO NOT SIN (do not bring displeasure to God). In examining whether you are being sinful as a result of being angry, you can take a look at the following biblical examples (not an exhaustive list) to guide you:
    1. Justifiable examples for being angry seen in the bible:
      1. Moses’ Anger –It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf [an idol created by the children of Israel] and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” – Exodus 32:19
      2. Jonathan’s Anger –Then Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did not eat food on the second day of the new moon, for he was grieved over David because his father had dishonored him.” – I Samuel 20:34
      3. Jesus Christ’s Anger –After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” – Mark 3:5
    2. Unjustifiable examples for being angry in the bible: 
      1. Cain’s Anger –…but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.  So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry?  And why has your countenance fallen?” – Genesis 4: 5-6
      2. Saul’s Anger –Then Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!  Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?” – I Samuel 20:30
      3. Nebuchadnezzar’s Anger –Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king.” – Daniel 3:13
  2. “…do not let the sun go down on your anger,…” – This part of the verse reminds me of the advice usually given to married couples, “do not go to bed angry”. Why do you think married couples are given this advice to not go to bed angry? The reason is because as anger festers inside us it may lead to sins like discontentment and even violence. Both of which would not be pleasing to God.
  3. “…do not give the devil an opportunity.” – When I first read this, I thought, do not give the devil an opportunity to what? Well I had to think about who the devil is and what he is known for.  We know the devil to be the fallen angel that is very deceptive according to Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” As believers, if we know the devil to be a LIAR, why would we give him any type of opportunity? Instead, when we are angry, even if justifiable, we should always turn to God in prayer, seeking His wisdom and praising and thanking Him for who He is and for what He has already done!

In Ephesians 4:31 Christians are directed to put away all bitterness and anger, for these strong emotions tend to lead to sin when allowed to fester within. In the Old Testament in Proverbs 14:17, we are advised to be slow to anger so that we may not act foolishly and cause hatred upon ourselves. So there is much caution throughout Scripture to keep anger in check, or you’re likely to sin against God in the midst of an emotional storm.

THE WRATH OF GOD

We also see that it is alright to be angry as long as you do not sin because God expressed righteous anger in responding to the sins of man. The following Scriptures are characteristics of God’s anger, as well as, examples of God expressing His anger (again not an exhaustive list):

Characteristics of God’s Anger:

  1. He is Slow to Anger – “They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And you did not forsake them.” – Nehemiah 9:17
  2. His Anger is Brief – “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5
  3. His Anger is Restrained – “But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger and did not arouse His wrath.” – Psalm 78:38

Examples of God Expressing His Righteous Anger:

  1. Numbers 32:10-15
  2. Psalm 78: 21-22
  3. Joshua 7:1, 11-12
  4. Judges 2:11-14

HOPE FOR YOUR ANGER

 
At this point, we should be clear that justifiable anger is expected and is a normal reaction to wrong. We should also understand that as Christians there are specified ways in the Bible in which our anger should reflect.

 

So you see, the motive(s) behind your anger is significant when we consider Ephesians 4:26. We also see, based on Scripture, that we should not stay in a state of constant anger. It is best to be slow to anger and quick to get rid of it, which are also biblical concepts. As Christians, these biblical principles apply regardless of whether you are dealing with anger associated with the death of a loved one or the anger over the injustice in society, or both. Ultimately, the way to achieve being angry and not sinning lies in Jesus Christ. He has already paid the price for the sins of those that have their trust, hope, and faith in Him. For those that have their trust, hope, and faith in Christ, His Holy Spirit dwells within them, giving them full access to the fruit of the spirit “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” even during times of being angry.

 

*Sources
Strong, James. “Anger.” Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010. Print.
Unger, Merrill. “Anger.” Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody, 1988. Print.
Bible quotes are from The MacArthur Study Bible, the New American Standard Bible version, 2006. Print.

 

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