I saw a news report last week about two men who stopped their cars on a major city freeway, got out and started fighting with each other. They were literally rolling around on the asphalt while cars were trying to get by. No one was sure what prompted the road rage during the rush hour, but many commuters expressed concerns about their own safety. What’s with people getting so angry in traffic that they need to get into a fistfight?
It’s hard not to see the wisdom in James’ instructions. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
Anger is a serious problem in our world. Judging by the number of times it is referenced in Scripture, I don’t think this is a new problem. Here are some other verses teaching us about anger:
- Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. (Eccl. 7:9)
- But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (Colossians 3:8)
- Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:8)
- A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
People think that there isn’t much you can do about being angry other than just letting it all out. The Bible makes it clear that we have more control over our anger than we usually admit. We can be slow to anger and not quickly provoked. That’s a decision we can make. We can refrain from anger and offer gentle words rather than stirring up conflict.
We all struggle with anger at times. Yet we aren’t at the mercy of anger or the foolish people around us who just ‘make us mad’. The problems we see come from a belief that we can’t control our emotions. As Christians, we have the benefit of the Spirit’s work in our lives producing good fruit. We aren’t helpless. If anger seems to be out of control in your life, it’s time to ask for God’s help, it’s what he intended.