Anger is NOT a sin, but many Christians grew up being warned about it. The Bible gives us examples of people whose anger was out of control. Like Jonah who got mad because God saved Nineveh and Balaam who got so angry he beat his donkey. But there are other examples in the Bible where good people got angry and took action. Moses was angry when he saw the people worshiping the golden calf, Paul got angry over false teachings among the Galatians and I doubt anyone would want to call Jesus bad for turning over the tables in the temple.
The problem with the traditional Christian practice of never showing anger is that it only presents one side of the anger picture. Such an arbitrary rule ignores the fact that we all get angry sometime and need to deal with it healthfully. It also keeps women from leaving their abusers and causes victims to remains victims because in order to stop being a victim we need to get angry at some point so we can change the way we think.
Anger is not always wrong, but the bible warns about the ways we use our anger. To not let the sun go down on our anger means don’t go to bed hating your spouse or children. When we clear out our anger, we can all start fresh in the new day. It also tells us not to sin in our anger. This is where most dysfunctional families suffer because members hold grudges and wish to get revenge on those who hurt them.
Trying to control others might be the short definition of sinning in our anger. And such anger quickly sparks into violence. Some members in dysfunctional families express their anger in violent ways, while others ignore their anger. Both patterns are unhealthy. In childhood, we learned it only takes one sarcastic word followed by another just a little more belittling building on another angry word and before we know it violence happens.
Healthy anger is expressed by restorative action, while unhealthy anger is destructive toward a person. Many children in dysfunctional families live in fear of a violent parent. When anger is directed toward children or a spouse and it it harms their mind or body it is definitely sinful anger. Ironically, if you are a victim, or have been a victim of sinful anger, you will need to find your righteous anger to counteract it.
Healthy anger is not about getting even or doing harm to your abuser, but rather getting angry enough to change your own thinking into a healthy pattern. If you don’t get angry, you might keep putting up with the same abuse over and over. Jesus doesn’t ask you to do that. He has given you free control over your own life so don’t give up that control to others whether they are a spouse or parent. Claim your God-given right to make your own choices.
Avoiding sinful anger and violence is one good reason to bless even our enemies. This is the way of peace.
In your anger do not sin,
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.