“Be angry and do not sin.” This proclamation by the Apostle Paul seems a bit far-fetched at times. At least in my own life, anger seems to be directly associated with sinful behavior on my part. I certainly am a pro at getting angry or at the least, a bit miffed when someone has rubbed me the wrong way. Additionally, there is plenty going on in the world to be angry about, most notably man’s constant inhumanity to their fellow man. So what does this being angry and not sinning look like in practice? Is it even possible? It must be given what Paul has told us.
In his excellent book Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness Dr. David Powlison explores the issue of anger, digging deep in a very biblical and practical manner on the issue of anger.
Let me begin by stating this book came across my desk at a very opportune time. I have been struggling with being angry over recent months for a variety of reasons. Not raging Incredible Hulk type anger. More so the constantly miffed about something going on at work, home, or the world in general. Dealing with what I know to be an incorrect approach to anger has been difficult. It is so easy to fly off the handle or to harbor bitterness in your heart towards someone. Furthermore, it is not always that easy to grasp how to appropriately be angry while leaving the sinful part of anger at the door.
Dr. Powlison quite frankly does a marvelous job of unpacking what righteous anger is all about. What I found most helpful throughout this book is how he focuses the correct approach to dealing with others and the nature of being angry in a righteous manner upon the framework of looking to God. You see God gets angry. I know that might be a shock to some people’s perspective of God and His nature, but throughout Scripture, we see God dealing with man and God is described as being angry. Yet we know God is without sin meaning He got angry for a reason that was fully and utterly holy and perfect.
Powlison reminds the reader that as people made in the image of God, we too can and should get angry. We are hard-wired if you will to have that emotion. If we watch the evening news and see a terrorist attack against innocent people and nothing is stirred up in our hearts in reaction to that horrific event, we had best check our physical and emotional pulse. Righteous anger is part of life and part of becoming more like God. Jesus got angry. Remember him tossing around tables and cracking the whip. He was displeased with what the people were doing and he let them know quite demonstratively his feelings on the matter.
It is first important to understand anger. Powlison walks the reader through a bit of a self-assessment in order to recognize that anger comes in many forms. Some explode while others stew. He then assesses exactly what anger is all about. This is the real meat and potatoes of the book and the section to really dig into. Using some personal examples (good and bad) as well as continually looking at how Scripture describes God’s righteous anger, Powlison provides a foundation for why anger is good, but also how it should be rooted in a spirit of mercy and forgiveness while at the same time not ignoring that a wrong was committed. This is not easy to do and Powlison makes no bones about that reality. Despite its difficulty, being angry in a spirit of forgiveness and mercy is an absolute must.
Finally, Powlison provides some practical guidelines on how to implement a paradigm shift in our approach to anger, the movement from letting anger control us in a sinful way to being angry yet not sinning. He utilizes some helpful case studies using real-life scenarios we can all connect with to help walk through the manner in which anger can be redeemed.
As I noted earlier, this book arrived at my desk at the most appropriate time. I needed to read this book and I am quite sure you need to read it as well. Anger is a tricky thing. One wrong move and we can explode and lash out at others in a way that will damage relationships and accomplish nothing positive. I submit we all have a lot of work to do when it comes to the issue of redeeming anger. Good & Angry by Dr. Powlison was a godsend of a book for me. I fully plan on re-reading and re-reading this book for years to come as I work in my life through the help of the Holy Spirit to be angry and not sin.