Often, it seems, our media culture sees murder and violence as a matter of wrong ideas.
The Secret Service police arrest a man for bringing a rifle and ammunition near the vice president’s home and a suspect accused of killing women whom he considered a “temptation” are mostly of Asian ancestry. In both cases, there are many who ascribe the actions to general political or racial beliefs. Anger is spawned by bad convictions which we must eliminate to end hate.
I am sure that all sorts of beliefs influence people’s actions. But what if anger is its own power that drives people to find excuses to be violent? If so, realizing that truth would be important because it would mean we are not immune to “hate” just because we hold correct beliefs (as we are all prone to flatter ourselves that we do). Just because we have the right politics or the right racial views doesn’t make us impervious to the temptation to hate.
Proverbs suggests that anger is like an addiction that takes hold of some people, making them incapable of dealing rationally with the consequences of their own behavior:
- “A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19 ESV).
- “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Proverbs 22:24–25 ESV).
It is not necessarily wrong to be angry. But you have to be careful that anger doesn’t grow because it will expand if not restrained. Anger motivates us to find reasons to be angry. If we are angry at a person, we will tend to interpret everything he says and does in the worst possible light, thus creating new excuses to be hostile. Anger can become an addiction that effects your judgment. Notice that Solomon’s warning against letting anger “entangle” you is similar to his warning against overindulging in alcoholic drink: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1 ESV)
So the directions for people who are angry, even justifiably angry, is to not continue in it. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:26, 31, 32 ESV)
Nursing a rage may not lead you to acts of homicide. But it will have other consequences in you life, hurting your relationships and twisting your personality. It is a mercy you are not as far along that road as people who make the news. But we would all do well to take those stories as a warning for us about our own anger rather than as evidence of our superiority. We can all work more diligently at heeding the Bible’s command: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20 ESV)