“But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language” (Colossians 3:8 CEB).
While people may often respond in anger when confronted by an injustice, there are certainly many who are indifferent to presence of injustice in its various forms. However, we can rephrase this idea in a way that encompasses virtually everyone: people usually become angry when they sense an injustice has been committed against themselves.
This illustrates the difference between the type of anger that Jesus experienced in Mark 3:1-6 and the anger that most people experience today. The difference was that Jesus wasn’t angry over an injustice that had been committed against Him. Instead, He was angered over an injustice that had been committed against someone else.
The fact that the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ era were prepared to deprive someone of a healing for the sake of their tradition provoked Jesus’ angry response. In fact, Jesus was not only angered, but emotionally pained (or “grieved”) by the callous disregard of those who were willing to prevent someone from receiving the benefit of what He could do.
In light of this, we can say that anger may represent a legitimate and appropriate response in certain situations. Nevertheless, the New Testament book of Ephesians tells us that all anger (even justifiable anger) must be handled in a manner that demonstrates respect and reverence for God…
“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT).
A God-honoring person knows that it’s not wrong to become angry when an injustice has occurred (especially when that injustice has been committed against someone else). Even so, we should also recognize that anger can turn into sin if we do not address it properly.
You see, the form of anger referenced here in Colossians 3:8 can be defined as “an abiding, settled, and habitual anger that includes in its scope the purpose of revenge.” (1) People don’t usually respond in such a manner unless they have let feelings of anger build up inside over a period of time. Therefore it is important to prayerfully manage this emotional response as soon as possible. As we’re told in the New Testament epistle of James…
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:18-20).
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on Colossians 3:8] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.