By Caleb Bobrycki
Believers: Not Depraved, but Passionate
One of the things I have loved about working is seeing so many different personalities and characters. One common trait that I have constantly come in contact with is anger, which has also brought out much contention in myself, and has shown me how some vices have carried over even into the saintly life. Now, I do not believe that Christians are still totally depraved and have the same degree of anger as the world; I believe that we have a new nature and we are growing into the likeness of the image of God Son (Romans 8:29). But I do believe that there are certain corruptions that stick a round and poke at the spiritual man many of his days. So mine has often been anger.
I do not think anger is the greatest sin, but I do believe it's the firstborn of pride and unbelief. You may not agree, but as I see it, it seems that after the foundational corruptions of pride and unbelief, anger is often a characterization of the wicked and foolish (Ecclesiastes 7:9). And for me personally, anger has often come from frustration at a lack of control. Not all anger is that way, but for many it is. Often, people get frustrated because things are not going their way, including myself, and may come to show said frustration in expressive passions to the point of sin. Again, the believers I know do not express anger to the same degree or in the same way that the world does. I can testify to this from first-hand experience. Though the bride of Christ is often tainted with many sins, expressively selfish controlling is less evident. This comforts my soul. Still, we struggle with desire for control, and I think we can see how believers ought to approach this and its two forms in the Bible. This is clear in at least two passages in the NT: Ephesians 4:26-27, and James 1:19-20. I would like to connect these two and address how believers ought to behave angrily.
Concerned With the Right Kingdom
Let me state the two passages and then we will connect them. Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV) says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.” James 1: 19-20 (ESV) says, “Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” What is astonishing in the Ephesians reference is that Paul actually commands believers to feel anger. Often times we just command to not be angry and leave it at that. But that's not what the apostle says. He actually says that we ought to be angry, and for the right reason. The way he does this is he says to be angry, but not from a sin. But still, there seems to be a question, at least in my mind: how do we actually avoid the sinfulness mentioned here? If we connect “sin” in Ephesians 4, and “anger of man” in James 1 together, we see that anger that comes from man is the kind to avoid. In other words, if we want to feel good anger, we need to feel the anger of the Spirit.
I believe that the the main difference between the Spirit’s anger and man's anger is the righteousness of God mentioned in James 1:20. The Spirit’s anger is concerned with the righteousness of God, and the anger of man is concerned with the righteousness of man. It would be helpful if we understand the word “righteousness” as justice. In other words God's righteousness is God's just law; man's righteousness would be man's law. The implications are huge: we are either angry for the sake of our own selves, that our laws have been broken; or we are angry that God's infinitely perfect laws have been broken.
I think it is interesting that James says that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. It's thought-provoking to think of vices and virtues as producers. Ask yourself this question the next time you become expressively passionate about something: am I producing the righteousness of God, or my own; am I spreading God’s rules in the land, or my own; am I propagating purity and wholesomeness in the land, or am I tyrannically controlling everyone else to obey my own? These are startling questions, but these are the right questions to ask, lest we manipulate for the sake of our own kingdom. Let us pray with our Jesus: “Father in heaven, your kingdom come.”