Is it okay to be angry as a Christian? The Bible says, “be angry, but sin not” (Ephesians 4:26, Psalms 4:4). Yet, in Colossians it says, “we are to put away anger” and those who don’t will not inherit the kingdom of God (Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:31-32). If the Bible does not contradict itself, we must conclude that there are two types of anger. One that is called, righteous indignation, and the other that is unrighteous anger. Righteous indignation propels us to healthy action, whereas unrighteous anger leads to unforgiveness and destroys our health in many aspects. Jesus had times where he experienced righteous indignation. The SDA Bible Commentary states, “Jesus was not angered at any personal affront, but by hypocritical challenges to God and injustices done to others (see Mark 3:5). Justifiable anger is directed against the wrong act without animosity toward the wrongdoer. To be able to separate the two is a supremely great Christian achievement” (Vol 6, p. 1027, emphasis mine). The longer we hold on to unrighteous anger the more opportunity evil has to take root in our hearts and the harder it is to remove the damaging effects it has on our minds and bodies.
Holding on to unrighteous anger leads to unforgiveness. According to CBN News (2015), Dr. Stevens Standiford has realized the value in treating cancer patient’s emotional wounds in order to more effectively treat the disease. He states that not addressing emotional wounds such as unforgiveness “can hinder ones reaction to the treatment or someone’s willingness to pursue treatment” (Standiford, 2015). “Of all cancer patients, 61% have forgiveness issues” (CBN News, 2015). According to Dr. Michael Barry (2015), unforgiveness creates a state of chronic anxiety. “Chronic anxiety produces adrenaline and cortisol which deplete the production of natural killer cells which is your body’s foot soldier in the fight against cancer” (Barry, 2015). As you can see, anger influences the hormones in our body and causes a breakdown of our immune system making it more difficult for the body to protect itself from physical ailments.
Anger is often used to mask deep hurt and to keep us from being vulnerable or experiencing that deep hurt. Many times anger and unforgiveness are used in a futile attempt to “protect” ourselves. But in reality, not forgiving or staying angry only hurts ourselves. Surrendering anger can be a very difficult task, but all things are possible through Jesus Christ who strengthens us. Considering the damaging effects of unforgiveness, the next time we become angry it would do our mind and body good if we assess whether we have an anger that propels us to healthy action or an anger that is selfish and destructive. If we identify that our anger is from a “personal affront,” we must surrender our right to be angry so that unforgiveness does not have a chance to take root in our hearts. “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).