Many of us have experienced that moment when, while shopping at the local grocery store, we
hear a sudden scream accompanied by large amounts of crying. As the intensity of the scream
echoes throughout the store, we might push our cart around the corner to discover a red-faced,
tear-soaked toddler sitting on the floor and pounding it with their fist. We may even comment to
someone nearby, “Somebody is throwing a fit!” While we rightfully view these “temper
tantrums” as unacceptable behavior by children, they sadly aren’t left to our years of infancy.
Both children and adults participate in “fits of anger” and thus why Paul condemns such as a
work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20).
The word for anger here comes from the Greek word “Thumos” similar to our word
“thermal.” With this picture in mind, we might imagine the classic cartoon character who, when
angered, slowly and progressively turns red until they burst in frustration. This speaks to
someone who has a “quick temper” and is easily frustrated or offended. You most likely know
someone like this (maybe it is you). They are those we must “walk on eggshells” around;
generally, everyone they encounter, after spending any amount of time with them, grows
uncomfortable and on edge, fearing they will lash out at the smallest offense. James says such a
disposition is condemned as a work of the fleshly man and not of the Spirit of God (Jam. 1:20).
In fact, while the Bible speaks often of the wrath of God, it also emphasizes the fact that
God’s anger isn’t capricious or easily stimulated; rather it is the final, inevitable, judicious
outpouring of the holy God. Thus, we are told God is actually “slow to anger” (Ex. 34:6). This is
why we are so surprised when he breaks out suddenly and decisively in his anger (against Uzzah
for example in 2 Samuel 6:5-11). We are so accustomed to God’s grace that we are confused by
his wrath. The enduring legacy of our Lord is his patience and mercy with rebellious sinners
such as ourselves.
In contrast to this, we humans are quick to judge, condemn, and angrily lash out at those
who hurt us (or simply those that annoy us). Speaking personally, I have surprised and startled
myself at how easily I can snap back at my wife or children in moments of anger. It burst forth
quite naturally at times, leaving me disconcerted; I trust many of you felt the same at times. We
must intentionally fight against such outbursts, biting our tongue and redirecting our anger by the
mercy of God.
Nothing will destroy a family, a church, a community, or a nation more than constant,
unchecked fits of anger. Sadly, the present political state offers ample opportunities to feed our
fits, churning us into a frenzy of agitation until we lash out at the first, poor passerby that comes
out way. If you can’t handle it, turn off the T.V. and stop listening to talk radio, rather than give
opportunity for this sin. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be angry over sin (God forbid we grow
cold to the wickedness of this present age!) but rather we should be sure that our anger is
channeled by love for righteousness and God rather than our own opinions or pride. Or, as Paul
would put it, “Be angry, but don’t sin” (Eph. 4:26).