Anger is Not a Fruit of the Spirit

Anger is Not a Fruit of the Spirit May 19, 2023

Angry face sign
Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Anger is in. A quick scroll through social media, browsing of opinion-shapers’ websites and blogs, and even viral sermon clips might lead to those unfamiliar with Christianity to conclude that anger is some sort of virtue. In the language of the New Testament, we might wonder if anger is now considered a fruit of the Spirit.

To be fair, anger seems to be en vogue culturally. Many spaces on social media seem to exist solely to tell the masses about what they should be outraged about each hour. Political rhetoric seems designed to anger people into action against “the other side,” whichever side on which one finds themself. News media has discovered that outrage sells and, like addicts, many of us keep coming back for another hit even after becoming aware that it’s bad for our hearts, minds, and souls.

Christians aren’t the only group that’s angry. But our collective, consistent anger is obscuring the message of our faith in ways we don’t fully appreciate. 

When is Anger Righteous?

When confronted with the depths of our anger, many Christians rush to justification, not self-reflection. We prefer to explain exactly why we’re angry over evaluating whether or not the level of our anger is appropriate for the supposed offense or if the expression of our anger was disproportionate. We (and I’m including myself in this) like to use the account of Jesus turning over tables in the temple and driving out money changers with a whip as a validation for our outbursts of anger. 

Meme of Jesus turning over tables and driving out money changers in the Temple.

“If Jesus can do that, then surely my anger is justifiable,” goes our inner monologue. We might even convince ourselves to label our anger “righteous,” convinced that God feels the same way we do. 

We fail to remember that the motivator of Jesus’ anger in that particular meme-worthy passage was the obstruction of the ability of the poor and lowly to worship God during a holy feast. Jesus didn’t get irritated at someone’s politics. He was zealous that all who wished to draw near to God would be able to do so. That’s why his anger can be characterized as righteous.

If we’re honest, our anger regularly fails this measurement of righteousness.

A Better Way for Christians

In a world where anger is in, what does a Christianity that hops right on the anger train communicate to those who do not believe? At best, that we’re just like everybody else. At worse, we’re just like everybody else but use Jesus as the measuring stick to determine with whom we should direct our anger. 

A recent Barna study found what many of us likely know subjectively: people of no or other faiths tend to have a favorable opinion of Jesus but a low opinion of Christians and the church. The two most common objections to Christians cited in the study are that they are “judgmental” and “hypocritical.” 

Do we think that both of those could be negatively influenced by Christians being swept up in anger culture?

Anger is, in fact, not a fruit of the Spirit. While it is a normal human emotion and no one should ever feel shame from feeling angered from time-to-time, anger should neither be our neutral gear nor a place we get to regularly or quickly. 

In contrast, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23, ESV). 

A life controlled by the Spirit of God is a life filled with peace, patience, love, joy, and self-control. Yes, we will feel anger at times. But instead of spewing anger out into a world already full of it, what if Christians were people characterized by peace? By expressing love and grace to those with whom we disagree, even deeply. By rejecting the cultural practice of being quick to anger with a posture of listening and discerning? By pursuing joy and seeking out good things instead of embracing pessimistic and overly deterministic narratives about how bad things are getting. 

The world has enough anger. Here’s to being a part of a peace and joy revolution led by Jesus. 

Best Coffee of the Week

I found myself passing through Atlanta with some time to spare between airport trips this week and stumbled upon The Black Coffee Company. The shop itself is in what was the basement of the former Lakewood Baptist Church which has now been renovated into an event venue with some commercial space on the basement level. 

Cup of coffee from The Black Coffee Co in Atlanta, GA.
Peruvian pour over from The Black Coffee Co in Atlanta, GA.

I was thrilled to learn that they had a Peruvian coffee available for pour-over and ordered it enthusiastically. It did not disappoint. I loved it so much, I got another one for the road.

The space was cool. The service was great. The coffee was excellent. 5/5, highly recommend!

About Benjie Shaw
Benjie Shaw serves as a Campus Staff Minister for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Georgia. He is married, the dad of 2 kids, a self-described coffee snob, and an MCU apologist. Benjie is an ordained minister, a Georgia Southern University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary graduate, and a former personal trainer. You can read more about the author here.

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