A number of years ago I was eerily reminded of the destructive power of anger. I was trying to sell a rental property that I had inherited. After several unsuccessful attempts, the contracts were finally signed … and everything seemed to be falling into place. Until the realtor called me with shocking news.
Apparently, the husband and wife were getting along well enough earlier in the day to agree to purchase a home together. But later that same day, the husband lost control of his temper, flew into a fit of rage, and bludgeoned his wife to death.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Anger, like fire, eventually dies out; only after leaving a path of destruction.” And that’s why I say—without reservation—that anger is truly life’s most dangerous emotion.
A New Way of Living
In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul tells you how to deal with anger in your life. He says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Being a “heavenly minded” Christian doesn’t mean walking around with our head in the clouds, thinking about Heaven. Instead, it means to conform your attitudes, affections, and actions to those of Jesus Christ. Simply put: to be heavenly minded means to love what Jesus loved; to think like Jesus thought; to behave like Jesus behaved in every situation.
In Colossians 3:8–9, Paul tells you exactly what you need to do to be like Jesus. He says, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” He is saying if we have truly died to our old way of living and been raised to a new way of living with Jesus Christ, we are going to leave behind old behaviors that were a part of our old, dying self. If you’re a genuine Christian, you’re going to lay aside anger, wrath, and malice. It’s the greatest proof that you have been truly raised up with Jesus Christ to a new way of living.
If you’re a genuine Christian, you’re going to lay aside anger, wrath, and malice. It’s the greatest proof that you have been truly raised up with Jesus Christ to a new way of living.
Anger. Wrath. Malice.
Let’s look at the specific sins we are to lay aside: anger, wrath, and malice.
1. The word anger is the Greek word orge. It’s a word that refers to a smoldering, persistent feeling of ill-will toward another person. Anger always demands an expression. And anger expresses itself in one of two ways: wrath or malice.
2. The word wrath, thymos, means rage. Wrath is anger expressed outwardly.
3. Malice is anger that goes underground; it engages in passive-aggressive behavior. It is anger turned inward.
What does the Bible say about anger, wrath, and malice? Psalm 37:8, “Cease from anger and forsake wrath.” Proverbs 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” James 1:19–20, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Six Ways to Handle Anger
Here is a great definition of anger: anger is a natural response to perceived injustice. It’s a natural response because, quite frankly, the reason you and I get angry is because we are created in the image of a God who gets angry. God reacts negatively to injustice, to sin. There are times when Jesus got angry. In Matthew 21:12, He drove the money changers out of the temple. In Matthew 23:13, He rebuked the Pharisees as hypocrites. But the difference between our anger and Christ’s is this: Jesus became angry when other people were mistreated or God’s reputation was dishonored. Jesus never became angry over his own mistreatment. That’s what righteous indignation is all about. But most of our anger, if we’re honest, isn’t righteous; it’s selfish. We’re angry when other people wrong us; when other people fail to live up to the expectations we have of them; when we feel our “rights” have been violated. So how do we handle anger? Here are six very practical, biblical steps that will help you control this destructive emotion.
#1: Learn to ignore petty disagreements.
#2: Resolve disagreements with others immediately. The goal of controlling anger is to keep it from erupting into wrath or turning into malice.
#3: Ask forgiveness from those you offend with your anger.
#4: Refuse to associate with angry people.
#5: Learn to differentiate between rights and responsibilities.
#6: Learn to transfer your rights to God.
1 Peter 2:23 says, “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” When Jesus hung on the cross, He could’ve called on 10,000 angels to come and annihilate his enemies. Instead, he turned the situation over to his Father … for God to deal with in his way and according to His timetable. And that’s Paul’s whole point in Colossians 3. The same power of the Holy Spirit that worked in Jesus’ life, giving Him the opportunity to respond not naturally, but supernaturally—that same power is at work in you and in me. We can lay aside anger, malice, and wrath. Just like Jesus.