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What is the Bible’s teaching on anger and forgiveness?

Everyone is born with the emotion of anger. Everybody occasionally expresses anger in one way or another. However, there is a Godly way to handle your anger and a worldly way to handle it. We are all too familiar with the worldly way. The bible talks about anger and says that when you get angry, do not let it lead you to sin. 

Let’s learn what the bible says about how to manage and allow God to change our hearts.

Table Of Contents

Where Did Anger Come From?

where did anger come from image

Anger was established in the heart of man through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. The disobedience came from their heart having a changed view of God. Within their disobedience, a moral transformation took place. This showed up immediately, in the form of shame (a guilty conscience), fear of God, and blame shifting. Because of the original sin, anger became normal to humanity. Every human being has been and is “infected” with sin (Romans 5:12).

The decision to eat the fruit of the tree of life forever altered their and our lives. Because of this choice, everyone is born with a natural bent toward prideful anger.

Pride is the core sin of all sins, Genesis 3:5. 

Looking at the words that describe the emotion of anger and the expression of anger will help us understand anger in action.

Definition of Anger

Anger is: A strong passion or emotion of displeasure or antagonism, excited by a read or supposed injury or insult to one’s self or others. 
Antagonism is: an actively expressed feeling of dislike and hostility
Hostility is: 1. animosity 2. an act of an open enemy, acts of warfare
Animosity is: violent hatred leading to active opposition; active enmity; energetic dislike
Enmity is: The quality of being an enemy, hostile or unfriendly disposition
Disposition is: natural or prevailing spirit, or temperament of mind…temper of mind
Temper is: Disposition of mind; the constitution of the mind, particularly with regard to the passions and affections; as, a calm temper; a hasty temper; a fretful temper.

All definitions by Webster’s Dictionary

How Does Anger Affect Us?

how does anger affect us image

Anger affects us through our emotions and our actions. It is how people naturally respond to pain, unfairness, and other experiences. Anger can be expressed in numerous ways.

Such as openly and aggressively or passively and aggressively. With it, there is an attitude of dislike and displeasure, no true joy. It can be communicated through words, attitudes, and actions that are like a sharp knife that cuts and hurts others.

Anger has a warlike mentality, which makes a person or people the enemy. This is an attack first or attack back outlook. Unresolved anger will influence our thoughts and emotions, and it will give us a certain disposition. In other words, it is the position that drives our feelings and inner thoughts. Therefore, our mind stays in a state (disposition) of irritation, annoyance, and lack of patience.

Holding anger makes us quick tempered, quick to be critical and judgmental. We are also quick to say attacking things and to see life on the negative side. For many, functioning in anger is all they know. We can be completely unaware of how unresolved anger makes us abrupt, critical, and attacking in our tone and words.

How Our Anger Destroys Our Relationship With God

How Our Anger Destroys Our Relationship With God

Habitual anger will destroy relationships with others and with God. Why? Because in James it says, “you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Why? “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” And as Christians, we are to live a righteous and godly life. This means our prideful anger does not please God, but definitely pleases Satan. 

Ephesians 4:26-27; tell us it’s a tool that Satan uses. He uses the temptation of anger to alter our attitudes from righteous to unrighteous. How? When we hold on to our anger, it provides an opportunity for Satan to build strongholds in our mind. That is, in your thinking, your words, your attitudes, and your positions.

What is the Difference Between Righteous Anger and Flesh Anger

Simply put, righteous anger glorifies God and fleshy anger satisfies our fleshy emotional state. Knowing the difference between righteous anger and flesh anger will help us to make the right choice.

righteous anger example

RIGHTEOUS ANGER

Righteous anger means you hate what God hates. We can only find out what God hates and loves through the reading of His word. 

Ephesians 4:27-28 BSB; 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing good with his own hands, that he may have something to share with the one in need. (righteous anger)

John 2:13-17 BSB; 13 When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. 15 So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those selling doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.” (righteous anger)

flesh anger example

FLESH ANGER

Flesh anger is all about you and not about God. When expressing flesh anger, it is an out of control emotion. This results in aggressive action.

John 1:20-21 BSB; 19 My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and every expression of evil, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save your souls… (flesh anger)

Therefore, the relationship you have with the Lord will distinguish your righteous anger from your flesh anger.

Story of How Anger (flesh) Can Destroy a Person’s Life

In Matthew 18:23-34, Jesus tells us a parable about how anger can destroy our lives. In this story, there is an unforgiving man who chose to be angry rather than accept the forgiveness bestowed upon him. Because of this choice, he never fully understood the act of kindness. 

To follow along, please read Matthew 18:21-35.

Angry Man Owed The King Money and Begged For Patience

Matthew 18:23-27 BSB; 23 Because of this, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlements, a debtor was brought to him owing ten thousand talents. 25 Since the man was unable to pay, the master ordered that he be sold to pay his debt, along with his wife and children and everything he owned. 26 Then the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Have patience with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 His master had compassion on him, forgave his debt, and released him.

Angry Man Owed The King Money and Begged For Patience image

A king wants to be paid what he is owed. So, he calls on those who are indebted to him to come and settle their debts. This one man is called, and he comes knowing he owes more than he could ever pay in a lifetime. The king also knows this. Wanting some payment for his debt, the king decides to sell him, his family, and all his possessions.

The man comes to the realization that life as he knows it is over. He’s thinking, “I’m going to lose everything. How do I get out of this?” He decides his only recourse is to beg the king to be patient and allow him to somehow pay off his debt. The king knows he could never pay off the debt, but the man’s begging moves the king to compassion. He canceled everything he owed. He released him from his debt and marked it as paid in full.

You would think the man would be filled with joy, praising the King, and doing the happy dance. But he didn’t. He did something else.

We will see how anger and unforgiveness go together, which causes retaliation in the heart. 

The Angry Man Purposely Seeks Who Owes Him Money and Repays With Anger

Matthew 18:28-31 BSB; 28 But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he went and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay his debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and recounted all of this to their master.

taking your anger out on someone else is not Godly

Right after his debt was marked as paid in full, the forgiven servant left. What did he do? He went out with the purpose (found) of finding someone who owed him money.

When he found someone, he told him, you’re going to pay me what you owe me. But he didn’t stop there. He grabbed him, and he started choking him. What did the man who owed him do? He said the same thing that the man did before the king, he begged him for patience and time to pay off his debt. This was an opportunity for the forgiven man to forgive the debt that was owed him.

But forgiveness was not in his heart, like it was in the king’s. Vengeance was in his heart. However, others saw what he had done, and it made them very grievous; it saddened their hearts.

So, they took their sadness to the king, and they told him what happened.

Today, we see a lot of people who claim to be Christians but walk around with an angry, haughty, and aggressive attitude. This is detrimental to those watching and to the person confessing to be a Christian.

Choosing not to forgive has consequences. Let’s learn what happened to the man who decided to act on his anger instead of forgiving.

Choosing Anger Destroys His Life

Matthew 18:32-34 BSB; 32 Then the master summoned him and declared, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave all your debt because you begged me. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should repay all that he owed.

When the king learned about the ingratitude of the forgiven servant, he called him back in to see him. But with a definite attitude change towards him. Before, when he came, and owed all this debt, the king didn’t call him wicked. But now he does. And he says, “I forgave you your debt when you begged me.” And then he asked a question: “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?” 

In righteous anger, the king then turned the man “over to the torturers” to pay off his debt. 

(Mt 18:34)  tortured (930/basanistēs) – “Livy (ii. 23) pictures an old centurion complaining that he was taken by his creditor, not into servitude, but to a workhouse and torture, and showing his back scarred with fresh wounds” (M. Vincent). (Discover Bible)

Anger Has No Place In “The Kingdom of Heaven”

anger will not be accepted in heaven

The Kingdom of Heaven is marked by hearts willing to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. That is the fruit of true saving repentance and faith. Forgiveness exhibits our new heart and new mind and a spirit that has been quickened to life. So, saving faith is habitual humility and forgiveness in our desire to please God. Therefore, we cannot fathom a life without God!​​​​​​​

There is not much preaching or teaching on this attribute of God. But God will not tolerate sin (disobedience). The anger of our flesh does not lead us to live a righteous life before God. Jesus says at the end of the story, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” This is not just a warning, it is a promise. God will not allow sin to go unpunished.

Read our bible study on “Being Made Brand New – New Creation In Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17

Choose Forgiveness Instead Of Anger

Our calling is to forgive others as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:31-32). This is not an easy call. But it is our calling. Disobedience comes with dire consequences.

This is something that I don’t think most people take to heart. People profess to be Christians, and don’t take this seriously. They tell others the grievances they have against someone. Clinging to the right to be angry and making excuses for not letting it go. This is how Satan attacks our minds. And keeps us from thinking biblically. It keeps us from thinking kindly, gently, and graciously. It gives us a warlike mentality, which affects all relationships. Not only that, but it especially influences our relationship with God.

This is our reality, we do become angry. Occasionally, we have a lot of pent-up anger because of the past. It is a choice whether to lay it down or discard it. Every so often, it seems to be an impossible choice. God wants us to choose to forgive from the heart. Not with words only, but with the heart. He says, “Cast your cares on Him.” Come boldly before His throne of grace to find mercy when we need it. Why? Because we cherish our relationship with God above all else.

Forgiveness Is Joy

where-does-your-joy-come-from

Forgiveness gives God joy. Our joy comes from our relationship with God. When our relationship with God is cherished above all things, then our relationship with others becomes what it should be on our end. That is, we see people from a biblical viewpoint, not a worldly one (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

So if you’re asking where’s your joy, if you’re asking where’s your peace, if you’re asking, what is going on? Check your anger. Check your forgiveness and make sure that it is as it should be before God.

Having said all of that, it is important to know what biblical forgiveness is and what it is not.

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

Forgiveness does not mean that we stay with someone who is abusive physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually. Forgiving others does not mean the other person gets away with anything. We are not to compromise with or condone sinful behavior.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we do not guard our heart. It doesn’t mean that we check our discernment at the door. We know people through the fruit they produce. According to Scripture, we are to judge whether their fruit is righteous or unrighteous. Furthermore, we never judge from a worldly view of right or wrong. Being forgiving does not make us a better person (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).

Forgiveness does mean that sometimes we’re going to forgive another person, whether they are willing to forgive us or not. Occasionally, this means we will forgive a dead person.

Forgiveness is living faith in action. Jesus says, we are to forgive another person seven times seventy (Matthew 18:22). As well, if someone sins and repents seven times a day, we forgive seven times a day. The apostle’s response to this command was, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:3-5).

We don’t forgive because we feel like it; otherwise, we would only forgive those we think deserve it. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey Me.” Those who obey Me, love me. So, it is out of our love for God that prompts us to forgive through obedience.

What Happens When We Choose To Forgive?

your love is better Psalm 63

We are released from the cage (stronghold) that we are in. We are released from having to walk the same path of anger, hate, and retaliation. Not only that, but we are released from walking the same path of opposition and having a warlike mindset. And as we begin to step out of the circle we’re in and onto the straight path, we stop looking to our own wisdom and instead turn to God’s wisdom of forgiveness. Then our lives actually start to change because now we see and think differently (Romans 12:1-2).

So ask yourself. Who do you want punished for what they did? Is your anger more important than your relationship with God? Could this be why I’m not experiencing that deep love, mercy, grace, and blessing that God promises? He doesn’t just promise wrath and punishment.

Luke 6:35-36 NASB1995 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Jesus Made The Way to Receive Forgiveness

jesus-rose-on-the-third-day-and-acended-to-heaven

Our Lord and Savior made the way for us to receive the forgiveness and acceptance of God. Believers are no longer under the wrath of God. Jesus said on the cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30). Our sins were nailed to the cross and paid for with the precious blood of the Son of God. And through saving repentance and faith in the Son of God as Lord and Savior, we are no longer guilty before God.

God the Father calls us to Jesus, the Lord and Savior, and the only thing that we bring is our sin (debt we owe God). We come owing God a debt we will never be able to repay. The good news of the gospel is that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ made a way for us to have our debt marked as paid in full.

This is such a wonderful picture of the grace, mercy, and love of God. It is a positive representation of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Common Questions people ask

Should anger be expressed?

Yes, only if it is righteous anger. One should not express the emotion of anger (flesh).

How do I turn my emotions off?

You cannot turn off your emotions. You discipline your emotions in the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:19-25). Read our bible study on “Can The Holy Spirit Help Me“​​​​​​​

Does unforgiveness cause anger?

Yes, it does because having anger in your heart has no room to forgive. Therefore, causing unforgiveness.

How do you deal with someone who is unforgiving?

You handle them through your own forgiveness with the Lord. Forgiveness is for you, not the other way around. It sets you free! 

What causes a person to be unforgiving?

The cause to be unforgiving, is they believe they have a right to be angry, and the other person should be punished. Pride, is the root cause of being unforgiving.

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