All the Feels: How God Created Me(Anger)

New World UMCPastor's Blog

Today, we continue the sermon series “All the Feels: How God Created Me.” As I explained last week, this series will explore the connection between faith and emotions, helping us better understand our emotions and find ways to draw strength and wisdom from Scripture.

For this, we are also using the movie Inside Out from Pixar as we navigate the different emotions we experience as humans. For those who haven’t seen it, “Inside Out” is an animated film that delves into the mind of a young girl named Riley, where five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—navigate her through life’s challenges. Today, our focus is on the second emotion: Anger.

What’s anger? Anger is a common human emotion that everyone experiences, regardless of age, background, or circumstances. From childhood to old age, anger shows up in different ways, often reflecting the unique challenges and frustrations of each stage of life.

In childhood, for example, anger can arise from simple misunderstandings or feelings of unfairness, like when a sibling takes a toy. As children grow into adolescence, anger often stems from academic pressures, social conflicts, or struggles for independence. In adulthood, triggers for anger can become even more varied, including work stress, financial pressures, and relationship issues. Older adults might experience anger related to health issues, loss of independence, or the passing of loved ones.

Throughout these stages, anger serves as an emotional response to perceived wrongs, injustices, and frustrations. To illustrate this, let us consider the character Anger from the movie “Inside Out.” Anger often takes control of Riley, the young girl, leading her to make rash decisions that sometimes result in conflict and regret. For instance, when Riley’s family moves to a new city, Anger’s influence contributes to her acting out, causing tension with her parents and friends. Let’s watch one of Anger memorable moments from the movie,

What’s happening here? As they are having dinner, Riley’s mother asks her how school was, and Riley’s blunt response reflects her frustration with their recent move. Her father’s insistence on getting more details only makes things worse. As the conversation escalates, both Riley and her father become increasingly angry, leading to a heated argument.

This scene teaches us important lessons about anger. Anger often arises from unresolved emotions and stress. For Riley, it’s the stress of moving to a new city and starting a new school. Miscommunication and feeling unsupported further fuel her anger. Her parents misunderstand her frustration as disrespect, which only escalates the situation.

This so-common scene in real life shows how quickly anger can spiral out of control. Minor irritations turn into shouting matches, and anger takes over. Do you know what I am talking about? This loss of control leads to hurtful words and damaged relationships. Instead of addressing the real issues, we, like Riley and her dad, end up in a conflict that leaves everyone feeling worse.

What does the Bible teach about anger? Our main Scripture today is from Matthew 5:21-26, a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount,

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment, and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council, and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

This is a shocking take on anger. Jesus is equating anger with murder, teaching that anger itself, not just the act of murder, brings judgment. Jesus highlights the seriousness of anger, showing that it can lead to destructive thoughts and actions that harm relationships and one’s spiritual well-being.

This passage is profoundly significant. It underscores the idea that righteousness involves not only our actions but also our attitudes and emotions. By addressing anger, Jesus calls his followers to cultivate inner peace and reconciliation. The lesson is simple: harboring anger and resentment is dangerous and sinful, and it is essential to seek reconciliation and manage anger constructively to live a life that honors God.

But this leaves us with a puzzling question: If anger is so bad, why does Jesus himself get angry? Jesus gets angry at the Pharisees when they want to prevent him from healing on the Sabbath. Mark 3:5 says,

“He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”

He also gets angry with the money-changers and sellers in the temple,

“In the temple [Jesus] found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, with the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Jesus was whipping their… tables. So, why is it acceptable for Jesus to get angry? Perhaps if we can figure out what God gets angry about, we might have a clue about how anger is supposed to work in positive and not sinful ways. Let’s take a look.

One of the primary causes of God’s anger is injustice and oppression. In Isaiah 10:1-4, God’s anger is kindled against those who enact unjust laws and deprive the poor of their rights: “Woe to those who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, to make widows their spoil and to plunder orphans!” This passage highlights God’s deep concern for justice and his intolerance of any form of oppression.

Also, disobedience and sin, such as the Israelites’ complaints in Numbers 11:1 and general ungodliness in Romans 1:18, further incite God’s anger: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those who by their injustice suppress the truth.” These passages illustrate how evil behaviors and people who suppress the truth by their wickedness make God angry.

Hypocrisy and lack of genuine faith, denounced by Jesus in Matthew 23:13-33, also anger God. Here, Jesus denounces the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their hypocrisy, pronouncing a series of woes upon them, for example: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and of the plate, so that the outside also may become clean.” Their outward show of piety, coupled with their inner corruption and neglect of justice, mercy, and faithfulness, was a significant source of God’s anger. This is the kind of ungodliness Paul talks about in Romans.

These examples illustrate that God’s anger is directed toward behaviors and attitudes that fundamentally oppose his good nature, character, and commandments. Idolatry, injustice, disobedience, sin, and hypocrisy all represent a turning away from God’s will and a violation of the relationship he seeks with his people and how God intended for us to treat one another.

Does this teach us something about righteous anger? The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle had a deep understanding of anger. He noted that “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle wisdom aligns with what the Bible teaches us about anger. So, when we get angry, we need to reflect on what we are angry about, who we are angry with, the end goal of our anger, and whether we are addressing our concerns properly. Otherwise, we may be committing sin, hurting others and ourselves along the way, and we should stop it.

To make sure we are angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, let’s think of anger this way: negative and positive.

On the negative side, uncontrolled anger leads to harmful behaviors and outcomes. Proverbs 14:29 warns, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” When we react impulsively in anger, we often say and do things we later regret. James 1:19-20 further advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” If your quick-tempered actions are damaging your relationships and escalating conflict, you are on the wrong side. If your rage is leading you to bitterness and resentment, poisoning your heart and mind, you are on the wrong side. If your anger leads you to violence and retaliation and harming others and yourself, you are on the wrong side, and you know what Jesus says about that.

On the positive side, anger can be constructive when it aligns with righteous causes. Righteous anger, for example, is directed towards injustice, sin, and wrongdoing. It reflects a deep sense of moral integrity and aligns with God’s anger against evil. In Ephesians 4:26, we are told, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” This passage suggests that anger itself is not inherently sinful; rather, it is how we handle our anger that matters.

As such, anger can serve as a powerful motivator for positive change and protection. Using anger as a catalyst for positive change involves channeling it towards constructive actions. When we witness injustice, our anger can motivate us to advocate for those who are oppressed. (Whipping… tables falls in this category.) Anger can also be an opportunity for personal growth. It is ok to be unhappy or dissatisfied about a situation or behavior that is not good for us and be upset about it. Anger can also reveal areas where we need to develop patience, forgiveness, and empathy.

So, when you get angry, ask yourself this question: is it good or bad? Then, as you manage your anger depending on your answer, seek God’s guidance through prayer, practice patience and understanding, and focus on resolving underlying issues. If your anger is the good kind, it will give you strength and determination to make things better, not worse.

Here is the invitation: Let us strive to manage our anger in a way that brings peace and understanding, following the example of Jesus and the wisdom of Scripture.

Let’s pray together,

God, we have learned that anger can arise at any stage of life and from various circumstances. Help us to communicate effectively, listen with empathy, and support one another through our struggles. Guide us to cultivate inner peace and seek reconciliation. Help us to channel our anger constructively, turning it into a force for good, advocating for the oppressed, and promoting fairness and compassion. May our anger lead to positive change and personal growth, driving us to develop patience, forgiveness, and empathy. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


You can replay this service at THIS LINK.