Defining Anger

Teaching Notes

(Not intended to be grammatically correct)

Introduction

  • Anger is one of those issues from which no one is isolated.
  • Everyone in this room has been angry at something at some point.
  • This morning we’re going to attempt to define anger, and while Scripture doesn’t give us a spelled-out definition, it presents us with plenty of examples of angry people.
  • I believe Scripture graphically describes anger, in all of its forms, and gives us solutions to removing it from our lives.

What is Anger?

  • [QUESTION] Ask the Class
  • Here’s the clinical, biblical counseling class, answer to the question (from Robert Jones…some parts of this lesson will come directly from notes I’ve taken in his class): Our anger is our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.
    • [QUESTION] Why would we say active response?
      • Because it’s an action—it’s something we do, not something we have.
      • We’ll deal with this more in a bit, but anger is not a substance that boils or simmers and finally explodes.
      • It is an active, emotional response to something.
    • Our anger is whole-personed.
      • We can divide a human into two basic parts: material and immaterial.
      • Secular psychology wants to make anger merely a material thing—a chemical reaction to circumstances, but we’re going to see that anger always finds its roots in the immaterial.
      • There’s a spiritual element.
      • It encompasses our whole package of beliefs, feelings, actions, and desires.
    • Our anger is a response against something.
      • Anger always reacts against a provocation.
      • Ephesians 6.4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.”
    • Our anger involves a negative moral judgment that we make.
      • Anger typically flows forth from our innate sense for justice.
      • We become angry when we perceive an injustice.
      • How many of have seen kids begin a temper tantrum with “That’s not fair.”
      • Anger is an objection to a wrong committed.
    • The negative moral judgment comes against a perceived evil.
      • With perceived being the key word here.
      • We get angry when we perceive some action or person to be evil or unjust.
  • As we think through the subject of anger, I want us to think about in three separate categories: divine anger, human righteous anger, and human sinful anger.
    • The Bible contains several hundred references to God’s anger.
      • There are far more references to God’s anger than there is human anger.
      • Fun fact: it’s the same with his love.
      • So according to Scripture God is the most loving and most angry being in existence.
      • Our definition for anger doesn’t change—even when we’re talking about God.
      • Job 4.9 says, “By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.”
      • The Psalmist writes, “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.
      • [QUESTION] At what, or whom, does God get angry?
        • Sinners and their sin.
        • That’s his perceived evil, but there’s no “perceived” about it—it’s 100% justified.
        • God’s anger flows from his justice. It’s still anger against a perceived evil, but unlike us, he always perceives evil with complete accuracy.
      • Deuteronomy 32.41 says, “If I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me.”
      • Again, in Psalm 2.4-5 says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury…”
      • And Paul writes in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
      • [MAIN POINT] God’s anger shows his accurate perception of evil, his hatred for it, and set purpose to either punish it, or offer atonement for it.
    • Next we have righteous human anger.
      • Righteous human anger imitates God’s anger.
      • It’s when we respond in judgment to accurately perceived evil.
      • Do you see that?
      • We’ll talk about accurately perceiving evil a little bit later.
    • And finally, we have the most common form of human anger: sinful human anger.
      • Just a quick survey of human anger in the Scripture would suggest that nearly all human anger is sinful anger.
      • I think that if any of us were to give an honest assessment of our anger, we would agree it’s rarely righteous.
      • Cain assumed God was unjust and became angry.
      • Esau was angry with Jacob’s deceit.
      • Rachel became angry and jealous at Leah for her ability to have children.
      • Potiphar’s raged in anger at Joseph with an inaccurate perception of evil.
      • Or what about Moses? He broke the tablets on the ground and he’s been known to strike a rock in anger.
      • King Xerxes wasn’t happy (to say the least) when Vashti ignored his summons to attend the feast.
      • Proverbs 19.3 says, “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.”
      • In the NT Herod lead a brutal infanticide because of a threat to his kingship.
      • The Pharisees were constantly angry with Jesus for disrupting their tradition.
      • The disciples were angry at James and John for calling dibs on the spots beside Jesus in heaven. It might be the first recorded time in history where someone called shotgun.
      • All of this sinful human anger points back to our definition of anger.

So is your anger really righteous?

  • Let’s begin with a humbling observation: most human anger is sinful.
    • The Bible confirms this with little to no mention of righteous human anger anywhere.
    • In fact, in my limited time to search I couldn’t find a single example (outside of Jesus of course) where a mere mortal human acted in righteous anger.
  • So you can see how it is very easy for us to be self-deceived into thinking our anger is righteous when in fact it isn’t.
  • How do we guard ourselves against this?
  • Let’s look at three characteristics of truly righteous anger (again from Robert Jones).
    • Righteous anger reacts against actual sin.
      • Righteous anger arises from an accurate perception of true evil, as defined in Scripture—a confirmed violation against God’s commands.
      • This has nothing to do with your preferences being violated. It must be sin objectively defined in God’s Word.
      • So if your child lies to you or your spouse disrespects you in public you’re off the hook, right? Righteous anger confirmed…
      • Well not so fast…there’s two more characteristics.
    • Righteous anger focuses on God and His Kingdom, rights, and concerns, not on me and my kingdom, rights, and concerns.
      • Righteous anger never has self-centered motives—at all.
      • Righteous anger focuses on how people offend God and his name, not me and my name.
      • In other words, accurately viewing something as offensive is not enough. We must view it primarily as offending God.
      • So if we follow the example of when we get angry at our spouse when they disrespect us in public, we have to ask, why are we really mad?
        • Is it because we grieve for our spouse because they sinned against God by not accurately living Ephesians 5?
        • Or is because our own pride has been wounded?
        • Sure, they’ve legitimately sinned, but what’s our focus?
    • Righteous anger is accompanied by other godly qualities and expresses itself in godly ways.
      • Righteous anger remains self-controlled. It keeps its head, exhibits the fruit of the Spirt, and doesn’t fly off the handle.
      • Kindness, gentleness, self-control, tenderhearted, humility, and love.
      • Sinful anger hinders our witness and ability to shepherd and disciple where righteous anger leads to godly expressions of worship.
  • As you evaluate your own anger, and try to put these into practice, here are some great questions to ask:
    • Are you angry because of what the person did to you, or what he or she did to your Savior?
    • Whom do you regard as the one most offended—you or Jesus?
    • In the midst of your heated emotion, are you consumed with yourself or with your God?
    • Does your indignation arise because God’s name is dishonored, or because your pride has been hurt?
    • In your anger, do you look more like the fruit of the Spirit, or the opposite?

Now to look at the most common human anger, sinful anger.

  • I’m dividing sinful anger up into two parts: revealing and concealing.
  • What I mean by this is the two major ways people express their anger.
    • Some people lash out in an explosion while others turn cold as ice and withdraw—often hoping to the hurt the person with whom they are angry.
    • Lashing out anger is typically meant to control and punish where concealed anger is meant to hurt and divide.
  • First let’s look at the type of anger that is expressed as an explosion: revealing anger.
    • The biblical examples from above would include events like Potiphar’s handling of Joseph or Herod’s infanticide tantrum.
    • Proverbs 29.22 says, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”
    • Vented anger wreaks havoc on the people and situations it touches.
    • It’s produces by sinful passions and in turn produces more sin. Consider the fallout that typically comes from this type of anger.
      • [QUESTION] What are some ways this type of anger leads to more sin?
      • Unkind speech, abuse, tearing down another, divorce, hatred, gossip, it’s contagious, etc.
    • It’s important that we do not view this type of anger as some innate chemical reaction that occurs within the body.
    • It’s not a pot of boiling of water waiting to bubble over the edge.
    • There’s always a purpose to the anger—a “why”. Our anger can be pointed at something—and quite easily.
    • So when we lash out at others in anger, it’s not because we finally reached our boiling point.
    • This tends to only focus on the action and doesn’t address the intentionality behind the anger—it’s driving origin and purpose.
    • Another danger here is that when we talk in terms of “steaming” or “venting” we could see anger as something healthy—like something we need to release or purge from time to time.
    • It’s because we wanted something that we didn’t receive (James 3…more here next week).
  • And the same goes for the second form of anger, which we’ll call concealing anger.
    • People who exercise this type of anger have skillfully learned to hide their anger from others.
    • They are typically cool and controlled on the outside, but they are stewing and steaming underneath.
    • Those who are exceptionally skilled in this type of anger can hide it for long periods of time. They actively look for ways to avoid those people and situations that could unnerve them.
    • Many times anger-concealers will resort to various types of escapes such as food, sleep, soap-operas, and emotional affairs—especially when the anger is directed at a spouse.
    • This kind of anger does not seek biblical restoration.
      • It doesn’t confront a brother and show him his fault (Matt 18.15) nor does it seek repentance from the offender.
      • There is no gentle restoration that takes place (Gal 6.1).
      • This person doesn’t ever bring their concerns to the person who has offended them.
      • But while they may not hand out public rebukes, they definitely punish the person internally.
      • This person confronts people in their own mind, finds them guilty, and then carries out their own form of excommunication as punishment for the crimes.
      • This is exactly how revenge and grudges develop—conflict that is internalized rather than solved.
    • But the definition and reason are the same as the explosive anger. No matter the type of anger, we respond in anger most often because we want something that we are not getting.

As we wind down…

  • Let’s do a quick summary.
    • I want to look at things you need to remember as we move through the subject of anger.
    • The definition is key (should be on the board) because it identifies the true motive behind anger.
    • I would understand the qualifications for righteous human anger because more times than not, someone’s excuse is going to be, “Well I had good reason to be angry.” We need to be able to show them that is not the case.
    • And then be able to work through the two main categories of anger because the help provided—especially in the practical application—may be a bit different for each.
    • If you guys make a point to remember these key concepts, you’ll be ready for the biblical solution in a couple of weeks.
  • Due to the member’s meeting next week, in two weeks we’re going to look more in depth at why we get angry and the biblical solutions the Scriptures offer.

Related Posts