Why sinful anger is so damaging to your faith and witness to others


As Christians, we should all learn to manage our emotions in light of the grace and mercy God has given to us. We must all learn to discipline ourselves, effectively taking the reins whenever our feelings run wild.

One of the most difficult emotions to manage – anger – is dangerous to our Christian faith and testimony. Let's talk about how that happens and how we can make it work for us, not against us.

A very strong feeling

Anger is commonly mistaken as a "wrong" emotion, something sinful. The truth is that anger is not wrong in itself – it merely depends on why anger is aroused and whether it is controlled. Consider Ephesians 4:26, which tells us,

"Be angry but do not sin."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anger as "a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism" towards or against something. The truth is that we can be angry at something, and that something is what makes our anger right or wrong.

God, for example, is holy and righteous and cannot tolerate sin, and thus is angry at sin. Does being angry at sin make Him a sinner? Of course not; His anger is towards sin itself.

When we are angry for the wrong reasons, however, there's nothing we can do to justify the anger we feel. We might be angry at a person because he is rich and doesn't need to work (perhaps out of envy?). We might feel angry at the people who don't agree with our wrong decisions (maybe we can't tolerate correction?). We might be tempted to get angry at people who don't like us for no reason (isn't that being divisive and judgmental?).

You see, my friend, anger isn't wrong in itself; it has to be for the right reasons. Now that we've established that, let's move on to what makes it dangerous to our faith and testimony: how we express it.

Human [Un]righteousness

Now that we've established that anger can be right based on the right reasons, some of us might be tempted to consider our anger as good, even righteous and pleasing to God. Oops, that's a very dangerous kind of logic.

James 1:20 warns us that "the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God." We cannot simply assume that because we are Christians, we always get angry for the right reasons. That couldn't be true. The heart is deceptive above all, and we cannot trust it (see Jeremiah 17:9).

For example, a Christian leader gets angry at church volunteers for not doing exactly as he said. While the volunteers could be held to account for not doing exactly as asked, the leader could already be abusing his authority and is using "Christian submission to authority" as a disguise.

Another example is when Christians display a "holier-than-thou" attitude of condemning a non-Christian's beliefs and actions. While it's true that no one can be saved by believing in anyone other than Christ Jesus, it's also true that those who believe in Christ should display Christ-like behavior and speech to non-believers so that they would know Christ and put their faith in Him, just like we do. We were sinners before being saved, and we must remember that always.

Making good use of anger

That said, we must all know how to express our anger: by pointing it to the real enemy, Satan.

"For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

We must all learn to see the real enemy and be angry at him and what he does. We must hate sin and what it does to our lives. Christ paid the price for us to be freed from it, and we must do our best to stay free from it.

Like God, we must hate sin, but do our best to rescue those afflicted by it. Jude 22-23 tells us,

"And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives." (NLT)

We must realize that we ourselves are mere recipients of God's grace. We are not above it.