This post last updated on November 12th, 2021
Wrath, rage, anger. They’re pretty much the same but with different degrees of severity. Anger is a normal human feeling that’s sometimes justified, and sometimes it’s not. The hard part is dealing with this emotion.
This is one part of the 7 Deadly Sins series. Here’s where you’ll find all 7 in one place to read now or bookmark for later!
The Danger of Rage
Erupting into uncontrolled fits of rage is an unhealthy response to anger.
What makes anger so difficult is despite being natural, it tends to lead the rest of our emotions. Think about that. How about a recipe of anger, selfishness, pride and envy?
The Book of Proverbs says it’s a wise person who controls his emotions and a fool who lets them rant.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit,Proverbs 29:11
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Rage is a particularly volatile level of anger. I guess that’s why we have terms like road rage.
When anger reaches the level of rage, it usually means someone is going to get hurt. Or a relationship is going to suffer some irreparable damage.
People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.Will Rogers
In July 2016, a woman was arrested in California for abusing her elderly mother. The woman allegedly punched and kicked her mother and chucked an ashtray and a porcelain coffee cup at her face. The elderly woman suffered a fractured neck and nose.
Does that make you angry?
Inevitably, someone is going to point out in any discussion on anger righteous anger.
The idea of righteous anger is valid. When you see some form of injustice like the abused elderly woman, you probably experience righteous anger.
Unless your response is to retaliate, but that’s another issue.
You get the point:
But if that woman was your grandma or your mother and you’re anything like me, you’d have a very difficult time not crossing the line into wrathful anger.
Jesus and Anger
Jesus didn’t leave us any room for compromise on anger. No matter how hard I try to excuse an attitude, his words in Matthew 5 are condemning.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.Matthew 5:21-22
This is where some people talk about Jesus being passive or imply that Jesus was a gentle lamb all the time. The reality is, Jesus knew anger. He had to in order to rescue us. Flipping tables over and making a bull whip out of ropes and using it does not show a passive, permissive Jesus. It’s an angry, emotional Jesus.
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.John 2:15
The difference is that he responded to his anger in love. It was love for the holiness of God that caused him to toss people out of the temple. And it was because of his love for those people that he corrected them.
I don’t always do that. My anger can be impatient, judgmental, and sometimes even full of despair.
Anger and Grief
There was another time Jesus was angry. In Mark chapter 3 we have some people in the synagogue trying to profile Jesus and entice him to break a Mosaic law.
There was a man who was there with a “withered hand.” Jesus knew what these tricksters were up to, so he asked them about their law. It was right to save a life on the Sabbath, but they couldn’t minister to a person any further than that until sundown.
In other words, stop the bleeding, but don’t use a bandage.
Then Jesus looked around the room and probably locked eyes with some of those people.
And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…Mark 3:5
Jesus looked at them with anger and grief. He wasn’t vengeful. His heart was wounded because of the lack of love and compassion he saw in the people.
Wrath and Patience
You may have wondered at some point, “How many times will I stick my hand in this relational fire and get burned before saying to heck with that person?”
That’s where Peter may have been when he was trying to determine the acceptable limit on forgiving someone who does him wrong. I get that.
Of course sometimes it’s necessary to go your separate ways from certain people, but it’s not okay to hold an unforgiving grudge against them.
Jesus illustrates that in Matthew 18:21-35.
He told Peter the story of a servant who owed his rich master millions in unpaid debt. The rich guy wanted to close the books on his accounts and when the servant couldn’t pony up the millions, the master made a move to begin confiscating everything. This guy was going to sell the servant, the servant’s wife, their children, plus everything they owned to pay the debt.
What do you think the servant did? He begged for mercy. Just like I would. The rich master showed compassion and set the man and his family free. He also forgave everything they owed.
An illustration of undeserved grace.
The Rest of the Story
The newly freed servant found a guy that owed him hundreds. So he forgave his fellow servant as he was forgiven, right? Not quite.
He grabbed the man who owed him a few hundred by the throat and began choking him! When that guy begged for mercy, the selfish servant refused and had him thrown in jail.
Word got back to the rich master and his response was righteous anger. The selfish servant was reprimanded for his own lack of grace and handed over to the torturers.
Jesus said that’s what God will do to believers who don’t forgive others.
Jesus told this story because we need to know about wrath and patience. Sometimes wrath is deserved. That first servant, after racking up insurmountable debt deserved the wrath of his master. When his master instead offered mercy, his responsibility was to do the same.
The Recipe Against Anger
- Disclaimer: If your anger gets you in trouble or causes harm to yourself or anyone else, get counseling right away. Contact me if you need help finding it.
- I have to say it. Overcoming the sin of anger means you need to implement the “p- word.” Patience. Understanding other people and situations requires it.
- Think before you act and think twice before you speak. Put the needs of others ahead of your own.
- Check out these 25 Bible verses about anger.
- Do a word study on love. 1 John 4:18-21 is a great place to start.
- Read (and re-read) the story about our selfish servant and his rich master. You’ll find it in Matthew 18:21-34.
I’ve always wondered where the line between anger and righteous anger is. Sometimes I think people (we…me?) claim righteous anger when really it is just anger. The again Jesus making a whip sounds like the sort of thing you would normally think of as plain old anger, yet it clearly wasn’t. I guess we need to really know our hearts and whether we are acting out of fear, or worldly thoughts, or we have our eyes set on God’s ways.
I often think my anger is righteous, but I suspect that it usually isn’t. It’s possible that I, and maybe others frequently mistake righteous anger and anger that’s justified.
What I mean is, there are times when I’m justifiably angry at something or someone, but not righteously so because my flesh goes beyond justice to retaliation. Kind of like instead of “judge, jury, and executioner” sometimes I’ll jump straight from judge to executioner in extreme cases.
I suppose that it’s all ultimately in the heart’s motivation, and over the years I’ve learned to not react to everything. Yet, I still fail at that too sometimes!