Can We Be Angry And Not Sin?
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” —Mark Twain
True. Anger is never good for us. Yet some may object and say, “Righteous anger is good. Jesus was angry in Mark 3:5. So if Jesus gets angry, we can too. Paul said to be angry and not sin.”
I do not deny that Jesus was said to be angry. He was angry about something definite – Mark 3:5 see the context. God expresses anger at times, too, at particular things. But I am not God or Jesus. They can be angry and not sin, but I don’t think we can because Paul tells us to put away ALL anger. “Put away ALL anger,” Paul says to the believer. So how could Paul say, “Be angry and not sin,” as many translations read, and then tell us to put away all anger?
It has been suggested by C.H. Welch, A.E. Knoch, and a few others, that Ephesians 4:26 can be translated thus:
“Can you be angry and not sin?”
I agree with that translation as both the context and personal experience testifies to its truth. I’ve never gotten angry and then thanked God for my anger. Anger kills. Anger divides. Cain killed Abel because he was angry, and anger has destroyed millions since. It is no coincidence that Paul says in the very next verse, “Neither give place to the devil.” The adversary knows that he only needs to make us angry to divide and conquer us.
So “can you be angry and not sin?” I don’t think so. Paul says in the same context to “Let all…anger…be put away from you.” All anger, Paul says, put away from you. “Can you be angry and not sin?…Let all.. anger…be put away from you… put off all…anger…” Ephesians 4:26, 31, Colossians 3:8
What’s the alternative to anger? “But become ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, dealing graciously with one another, even as God in Christ deals graciously with you.”
You may object again by claiming, “Christ got angry in Mark 3:5. If He can do it, so can I. He flipped over tables, so can I.” I answer by merely repeating what Paul told US to do. Jesus was angry at something particular – context is essential. Our Lord did many things we can’t do: He read people’s minds, stopped storms, raised the dead, and feed over 5,000 people with just a few sardines and crackers. I am not God or Jesus. So when it comes to anger, they can be angry and not sin, but I don’t think we can be angry without sinning because Paul tells US to put away ALL anger.
Another objection goes like this, “It is impossible not to get angry.” I would reply, “Is it impossible to walk in love? to love our neighbors as ourselves? to consider the affairs of others more important than our own? to rejoice in the Lord always?” Paul is not saying we will bat one thousand in the not being angry stat, or the loving our neighbor stat, or in the rejoicing stat, but he is encouraging us to be an all-star in these matters.
Every step we take, everywhere we go, and everything we do should be characterized by love, said Paul. Is that impossible? Paul told husbands to love their wives. Is that impossible? There are times we ignorantly, rashly, and negligently fail to meet these lofty standards, but that doesn’t negate the standards. God deals graciously with us when we fail, but then He encourages us to get back up, dust off, and keep on keeping on by running the race set before us pressing toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.
The manner of life Paul lays out before the believer under grace in Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians is so revolutionary, so beautiful, that if carried out in full, would produce a drastic reorganization of our lives. Human religion and human pride do not want to be reorganized, and this is why these standards will never be generally accepted, or they will be reinterpreted to match human experience unaffected by grace.
To prepare us for these life-changing exhortations, Paul, in Ephesians 3:17, prays that God would be granting us, in harmony with the outflowing wealth of His esteem, that we would be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man, that Christ may be at home in our hearts through the faith. If you invited me over and said, “Make yourself at home,” what if I took you literally and started moving the furniture around? Paul is praying that we give our Lord that kind of welcoming party in our lives. Paul isn’t praying for our strengthening with divine power just so Christ can be welcomed by us once in a while during holiday seasons, but he is praying that we give Him such a welcome that he is allowed to move the furniture around to His liking. At first, we may feel uncomfortable, but we will soon realize that He is a much better interior decorator of our lives than we are. Apply this to “put away all anger.” Anger, though a Goliath-sized monster, is no match for God’s power at work in us.
Here are a few thoughts from others on the topic of anger:
—Oscar Baker on Anger
Even the world recognizes the futility of anger and it is a saying that you can judge the size of a man by the size of what will make him angry. Anger is…poisonous and harmful to the body…So it is foolish to indulge in fits of anger. Also anger is the outcome of thinking too much of self. The man who has a high opinion of self, who has a lot of pride, is likely to get angry easily.
Reason and anger seldom live together. Cain was angry with his brother. Murder was the result. He can never be excused upon the grounds that it was righteous anger.
Can anybody else but’ God be righteous and angry at the same time? Can we be angry with none of self in the situation? Righteous anger is but an excuse for the flesh. Nearly always anger brings a feeling of frustration, for seldom can anger be freely vented. And if it is, there is remorse which is just as bad for one as frustration. So we do well to ask if one can be angry and not sin. Any way you look at it, it is pretty hard to justify anger under any situation.
You may think you have to stand up for your rights. But as a Christian under grace, what rights do you have that must be defended in the flesh? The warfare we have is not with flesh and blood in this world, but with spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenlies. Carnal attitudes and carnal weapons have no place in our warfare.
Let us take time to stop and think it thru. What have we to gain by being angry? Will it help our testimony? Will it honor the Father and the Son?
—Stuart Allen on Anger
The Apostle now passes from deceit to anger, and we ask the question; can a believer indulge in righteous anger? That there is such a thing, the Scriptures testify, for the wrath of God is a solemn fact that the book of Revelation stresses (6:16,17; 11:18; 14:8,10,19; 15:1,7; 16:1,19; 18:3; 19:15). God is righteous and there is no question but that His anger is just. But can we who are sinners indulge in it without sinning ourselves? In view of verse thirty-one, “let ALL bitterness, and wrath, and anger … be put away from you”, it is surely better to avoid anger under any condition, and read verse twenty-six as a question “Are ye angry and do ye not sin?” In any case, anger should never be prolonged, for this is dangerous; “let not the sun go down upon your wrath”. Paul insists on this, and many quarrels and differences between believers could have been avoided had this wise injunction been carried into effect.
Those who nurse their grievances do not realize that they are “giving place to the devil” (verse 27). They are giving him room to operate in their lives, which he will not be slow to use with deadly effect.
—Quotes about anger:
“To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.” Alexander Pope
“Mike Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear because he was losing to Holyfield. He bit him to make him mad, and a mad fighter ain’t so good. Even a boxer knows that anger won’t even win you a boxing match.” Dan Sheridan
“Every time you get angry, you poison your own system.”
“Anger is one letter short of danger.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“Anger is often more hurtful than the injury that caused it.”
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain
“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” Benjamin Franklin
“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you are.” Cherie Carter-Scott
“Anger resolves nothing it only puts up your blood pressure.”
“To be angry is to let others’ mistakes punish yourself.”