Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Is anger a sin?

Is anger a sin?

I have discussed this very point with a lot of people lately. Here’s how it started: because God’s character has an attribute of anger, the attribute of anger in Man’s character is godly. Is it therefore wrong to temper anger?

Many of man’s greatest sins are the result of anger. Wars, crimes, violence and selfish acts – many of the most potent in history have anger as the catalyst.

This begs the question: is it wrong to get angry?

Some of the most heroic, selfless actions through time are because of a sense of anger –anger against injustice, for example. These great deeds, without anger, might have otherwise gone undone.

This begs the question: is it wrong to NOT get angry?

Ephesians says to be angry and not sin. Clearly anger is not forbidden. In fact, Jesus demonstrates anger at least twice, once with the money-changers and again with the Pharisees.

He called the money changers a “den of thieves” and upset their tables. They abused the faithfulness of God’s people for their own gain. This was blasphemy.

He called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers.” They used the law which was supposed to orient hearts toward God, for their own selfish ends. This was injustice toward others.

This begs the question: are their two types of anger, a “good” and a “bad” anger?

If nothing else, at this point, we can conclude that anger in itself is not sinful. It is commented in the Bible and modeled by Jesus. The answer to “is anger a sin?” is a clear no. But what if there are types of anger?

Jesus could only model the “good” anger if there is such a thing. His anger motivators were blasphemy and injustice toward others. When the Sanhedrin and Romans “crowned” injustice on him, he did not get angry.

The “good” anger then is not injustice to self. It is, though, injustice to others and for blasphemy. The “bad” anger, then, must be a sense of selfish injustice, motivated by what I think I do or don’t serve.

This begs the question: if “bad” angry exists, is it a sin?

The question of “good” or “bad” anger is interesting, but it comes over a person internally. That is, I get angry when I see injustice to others, but I also get angry when I see injustice to myself. Jesus modeled expressing anger when it is for injustice to others but did not model expressing anger when it was for injustice to self.

I think then the answer is no. Anger in no way can be a sin as it is more like temptation. Temptation is not a sin (even Jesus was tempted) but the expression or result of temptation can be a sin. Similarly, I think, is anger. Anger itself is not a sin, but anger’s expression or result can be a sin.

This begs the question: is it a sin to respond in any way to wrongly motivated anger?

In any way? How can that be? One way might be by saying, “I am angry!” It’s not sinful to speak your mind in a sober and respectful way. I might pick up my chair and throw it across the room. This might not set a good example and might not be the right thing to do. I might punch the nearest person – actually causing a new injustice – and that, we can surmise, might be a full fledged sin.

So, we can conclude that anger is not a sin. Some anger is wrongly motivated, but to have that anger cannot be a sin, but to respond to that anger with sinful actions is, of course, a sin. Like temptation, it is our response to anger that characterizes it.

1 comment:

esheppy said...

The famous (infamous) Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. While not biblical, this list is listed in paragraph 1866 of Catechism of the Catholic Church . So, Catholics believe (and how can 1.07 billion Catholics be wrong?) that anger is a sin.

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