God is slow to anger (Ps. 103:8, 145:8), but the Psalmist also asks the Lord how long “shall thy wrath burn like fire (Ps. 89:46)?” Anger is likened to a kindling of fire (Ps. 78:21). The hebrew word aph (אף) is commonly translated as anger or wrath, and it is used to describe the heat of passion when one is transgressed by another party or parties. God’s wrath in the New Testament is likened to a goblet of wine slowly filling up which will suddenly overflow in holy judgement upon evildoers. All this together should show us that anger is not a sin, but what our anger is directed at determines whether our anger is righteous or wicked.
If a genuine transgression is committed against you, anger is a proper response; but the question comes down to whether it was a real offense or only a perceived one. Furthermore, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not,” followed by the famous admonition to not let the sun go down on your anger. Meaning, anger over an offense should be dealt with swiftly, and that anger must not be allowed to linger. Forgiveness and reconciliation is what anger’s end game should be (Eph. 4:32).
We experience anger internally, which can lead to various external exhibitions of anger. Internally, anger leads to brooding over the offense, bitterly seething over means of vengeance; rarely, however, does anger stay bottled up. It bursts forth either in “cold-shoulders” or raging frenzies. Physical violence, cruel words, manipulative moodiness are all ways which anger “comes out.”
In the fruits of the flesh listed in Galatians 5, Paul includes wrath in the list of things which an unregenerate life will produce. Along with strife, murder, sedition, and the rest of Paul’s list, wrath is given as an evidence that the Spirit is absent in a man. However, in the fruit of the Spirit list, long-suffering is included; the Greek word there could also be translated “long to anger” or a more natural rendering: slow to anger. As a Christian, the Spirit works in us to forbear each others offenses (Eph. 4:2), and enables us to endure with patience when we are wronged. Rather than being a “fleshly” man who blows up at the slightest offense, a Christian covers a multitude of sins (Pro. 10:12).
Our anger is intended to drive us in a particular direction. If we’ve been wronged, it should drive us to lovingly confront the one who offended us in order that our relationship might be restored; or else we need to simply let go of the anger and overlook the sin, forbearing to hold it against them. If we are angry at a perceived offense, our anger should be quelled and it should drive us to see our pride, self-righteousness, selfishness, and our own sinful heart. This last sort of anger should drive us to repentance, whereas just anger should drive us to reconciliation.