Monday, June 17

Anger: the naughty or nice list?

Scripture: 1 Kings 20-21, 2 Chronicles 17, Colossians 3


In his book Unoffendable, Brant Hansen says that we are so attached to our anger that we have a hard time letting go.  We want to justify it and hang on to it, so we call it “righteous anger.”  But Brant points out that in all the lists of negative and positive qualities in the New Testament, anger always lands in the negative list, never the positive.  

For example, in Galatians 5, Paul lists “the acts of the flesh” and then “the fruit of the Spirit.”   Anger (rage) is in the first list, not the second.  Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit, but an act of the flesh.  

The same thing in true in Ephesians 4.  Anger is something to “get rid of” and quickly; don’t let the sun go down on your anger.  

It’s the same here in Colossians 3.  Verses 5-9 catalog vices that “belong to your earthly nature.”  We’re to get rid of these things, to take them off like old clothes that don’t fit anymore.  Anger, rage, malice—they are all in this bad list.  

But Paul goes on to say “put on the new self” and list its characteristics.  He doesn’t come close to mentioning anger, not even righteous anger.  Instead, we’re to put on compassion, kindness, patience, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, forbearance, and above all, love.  

Brant points out that if our anger was righteous and beneficial, you’d expect it would show up on one of these good lists.  But it never does.  It’s always on the bad list, with instructions to get rid of it or put it off.

As I said in our recent Let it Go series, you can’t help feeling angry sometimes.  The issue is what you do with it.  Let it go.  Don’t hang on to it, feed it, nurture it, stoke it.  As James said (1:20), “Human anger does not achieve the righteous life God desires.”  


Let it go.  Don’t hang on to your anger.  Process it with God; take whatever steps you should; but then let it go.

Last week, I was on a motorcycle ride with some friends.  We stopped at an out of the way restaurant for lunch.  We got there at 11:20 am and the owner met us at the door and told us they were closed and wouldn’t be open for lunch until noon, and he was busy prepping.  He even recommended a couple restaurants down the road we might enjoy.  We asked to look around, and he got upset with us, so we left.  I was offended and thought, “I’ll never eat here—ever!”  I spent a few minutes brooding on my bike, then remembered I needed to let it go.

Two things happened.  

First, I tried to see it from his point of view.  We were an unwelcome interruption.  He was trying to clean and prep and we were in the way, a nuisance.  And he just got irritated with us.  I’ve done that.  I could cut him some slack.

Second, I thought that he is in the hospitality industry and he wasn’t very hospitable—in fact, he was rude.  But no matter how I justified my feeling offended, I needed to let it go for my sake, not his.  So within a few minutes, I chose to forgive, to overlook, to let it go, and just move on.  

We went to one of the restaurants he recommended and had a great lunch and made a new friend there!

Let it go.  The quicker, the better.  Don’t hang on to your anger.  

Prayer: Lord, this chapter reminded me again of the value of letting go of all my anger and the garbage associated with it.  Thanks…and help me!