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Is it OK to be angry sometimes?


Is it OK to be angry sometimes? In 1 Samuel 11:6 it says: “Then the Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul, and he became very angry” (NLT).1 Was that OK?

Steve Answers:

Absolutely! Let me say it another way: definitely! In case you still didn’t catch that, the answer to your question is that it is OK to be angry sometimes.

I know some Christians who associate all anger with sin. This may be because of two statements Jesus made in the famous Sermon on the Mount. Here are the statements, and my comments follow them:

“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21, 22, NLT).1

Murder is anger gone wild. Since it’s better for a victim if we’re simply angry instead of angry to the point of murder, it’s easy to excuse ourselves for being angry with somebody—as long as we don’t kill them! But Jesus knows our thoughts, and He will judge our internal motives as well as our external actions.

Here’s another well-known statement from the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too” (Matthew 5:39, TEV).2

This is the origin of the statement “turn the other cheek.” When they don’t resist, Christians often fall into the category of sissies who won’t ever put up a fight. Bullies have a heyday with people this wimpy. But Jesus wasn’t asking His followers to just get beat up and pushed around; He was actually telling them to get pro-active. If someone wants to take something from you, give it to them, and then give them more. It demonstrates how much God (and His children) give to those who don’t deserve it.

Anger is an emotion that usually stems from hurt. A simple example is when an older sibling picks on a younger one. The younger one is hurt and lashes out in anger. There are many examples of this in other relationships, too. Think of someone who is angry with their teacher, a friend, or a former “special friend.”

Now, think of how often your anger stems from others getting hurt. For example, when your teacher gives an impossible test and you get angry, is it because the test hurts you or because it hurts others? Or what if a big, eighth-grade bully beats up a helpless third grader? Does that make you angry? Would you be more angry if that third grader was your sister? Obviously the third grader was getting hurt. If you’re related to the third grader, are you being hurt too?

Here’s a general principle for followers of Jesus: when your anger is rooted in your own hurt, give it to God to settle things. When your anger comes from somebody else getting hurt, step in and respond for God.

Here are some examples from the Bible of people getting angry when they were hurt. Check them out to see if their anger comes from feeling hurt themselves or for feeling hurt on behalf of others for what is right.

Moses returned from Mount Sinai and found the Israelites worshipping a golden calf. He got so angry that he threw down the Ten Commandments God had given him, causing them to break (Exodus 32:17-29).

Moses got angry with the Israelites for complaining about not having water. He got so frustrated with the people that he struck the rock twice, disobeying God’s instruction (Numbers 20:2-13).

God got angry when the Israelite men joined the sexual, pagan festivities of the heathen and turned their backs on Him. This occurred right after God had intervened for the Israelites, causing Balaam to bless them instead of curse them (Numbers 25:1-5).

King Saul was jealous of David after David killed Goliath. King Saul became so angry that he threw his spear at David while David was playing soothing music for him (1 Samuel 18:6-11).

Jesus called a man with a paralyzed hand to the front of the synagogue one Sabbath. Spies were present to accuse Jesus of anything they could. Jesus asked if it was OK to help people on Sabbath.  The spies remained silent. Jesus became angry, and He also felt sorrow for the people who were so stubborn and wrong. After Jesus healed the man, the spies started making plans to kill Him (Mark 3:1-6).

The Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, got angry with Stephen for his accusation that they were stubborn and had killed the Son of God. They got so angry that they stoned him (Acts 7:51-60).

Someday God will destroy His enemies, the ones who have done so much damage to His people, and He will do it in anger (Isaiah 30:27, 28).

Anger is an emotion; it isn’t sin. Anger can lead to sin, because sin is basically selfishness. But when others are being hurt, or when justice isn’t being done, the anger you feel is the proper response. It’s righteous anger—anger for the benefit of others, for what is right, and for God.

The text you mentioned is talking about righteous anger. It’s based on the humiliation King Nahash of Ammon wanted to do to God’s people by gouging out everyone’s right eye. This was a put-down to the God of Israel. That’s why the Spirit of the Lord caused anger in Saul—he became angry for God’s sake and for His peoples’ sake.

Instead of sulking or raging in anger over how you may have been hurt, direct your energies to where justice has gone haywire and where God isn’t given His rightful place. Then be open to God’s Spirit to move you to action! If He doesn’t, then hold His peace until He makes it right, and read Deuteronomy 32:34, 35 and Romans 12:17-19. If the Spirit does move you, go for it!

1Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

2Bible texts credited to TEV are from the Good News Bible—Old Testament: Copyright © American Bible Society 1976, 1992; New Testament: Copyright © American Bible Society 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992.

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