The Bible doesn’t tell us to speak truth in anger or self-righteousness—only to speak the truth in love. As God’s children, let’s never speak with an attitude that says “I told you so” or “I know more than you” or “I’m better than you.” When we bring correction in a mean-spirited way, we demonstrate a lack of compassion for those we address. That’s so tragic and costly. All of us must be motivated, moved, and even consumed with love when we speak into someone’s life, or we should not speak at all.
When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.
Philip Yancey tells the story of a rabbi who listened for hours to a man’s complaints until he finally asked, “Why are you so angry with God?” he asked. Stunned by the rabbi’s question because he had not even mentioned God during the course of his long outburst, the man replied, “All my life, I have been so afraid to express my anger to God that I always directed my anger at people who are connected with God. But until this moment, I did not understand this.” The rabbi led the man to the Wailing Wall, away from the place where people pray, to the site of the ruins of the Temple. When they reached that place, the Rabbi told him that it was time to express all the anger he felt toward God. Then, for more than an hour, the man struck the wall of the Kotel with his hands and screamed his heart out. After that, he began to cry and could not stop crying, and little by little, his cries became sobs that turned into prayers. And that is how the Rabbi taught him how to pray.
We must be careful… that our anger is not a cover for lovelessness or self-righteousness. Anger and bitterness (as well as hatred, jealousy, and resentment) aren’t identical, but they are closely related. Bitterness is anger gone sour, an attitude of deep discontent that poisons our souls and destroys our peace.
Our world constantly preaches that you can do or be anything you want until it is offended at what you are doing or what you are. Then a switch flips, a mob forms, and the pitchforks are unleashed. Holiness is replaced by autonomy and justice by rage. In the midst of this environment, Scripture calls us to be people of the towel rather than people of the pitchfork. Jesus modeled this for us when he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) without exception or expectation. This was not a simple object lesson but an example of perfect service that reflected Jesus’ humility when he came to earth (Philippians 2:1-11). Jesus then asked his disciples to imitate him in washing one another’s feet. People of the towel grasp that Jesus wants us to humbly and lovingly serve others in every human interaction.
God’s righteous indignation flows from his love and faithfulness; likewise, if your anger is not consistently and sacrificially tempered by steadfast love and forgiveness, it is not righteous anger. In order to earn the responsibility of displaying God’s righteous anger to the world, you first need to demonstrate that you can be a faithful vessel of his steadfast love and forgiveness.
The Bible labels unjustified anger as sin, and calls on us to repent of it and seek God’s help to overcome it. Often, however, an angry person refuses to face this and blames others for his outbursts—but God’s Word is clear: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger” (Ephesians 4:31).