Elders and Anger

An elder must not be quick-tempered (Titus 1:7).  What does it mean to be quick-tempered?  This is the only occurrence of the Greek adjective orgilos in the New Testament.  The adjective describes a man who is inclined to anger.  The verb means to be angry: “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).  The older brother’s failure to control his anger caused him not to go into his father’s house after his younger brother returned (Luke 15:28).  Notice how anger works against all of the qualities of character listed so far.  Anger takes away our soberness and clarity of mind and, to control our anger, we must have discipline.

What is the opposite of being inclined to anger?  Paul said,  “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness” (Galatians 5:22).  Notice that all six fruits of the Spirit listed by Paul are the opposite of a quick‑tempered spirit.  The word translated patience in the above text is from a combination of two Greek words: makro, meaning long; and thumos, meaning wrath, anger, rage.  This kind of anger, or “fits of rage,” (thumos) is listed as a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:20).  Putting the two together gives us the Greek noun makrothumia, which is a Greek word that can be translated patience, steadfastness, endurance, or forbearance in our English versions.  One who has this quality is one who has a “long fuse.”   The quick‑tempered person has a “short fuse.”  Paul used this word when he admonished the church at Ephesus to be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).  The idea of “bearing with one another in love” literally means that we must be willing to “put up with” one another in a spirit of love.  Have you ever heard someone say, “I shouldn’t have to put up with this!”?  We can see the literal meaning of this Greek verb as it is translated in one place in the Gospels when Jesus asked, “How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17).

Patience is a virtue in working with people.  Several years ago I recall hearing about an elder who lacked patience in his ministry to others.  This elder was asked about some changes that were being introduced in the worship services of the church.  One family asked for an audience with the elders so they could be given an explanation for these changes.  When someone asked for a Scriptural justification for the changes, the elder exploded at the questioner and shouted, “This is the way it is going to be!”  This family was needlessly offended and the outburst demonstrated that the elder did not have the patience to minister to others.  The question being asked was legitimate and one that I would have asked myself.  Even had the question been frivolous, the questioner did not deserve to be insulted.

The book of proverbs says, “better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (16:32) and “a hot‑tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (15:18).  Paul says that love is patient, or as we suggested earlier, it has a long fuse (1 Corinthians 13:4).  One of the most obvious indications that a man is living a Spirit-controlled life is the patience and forbearance seen in his relations with others.  The work of being an elder requires one to be patient with those who need encouragement and discipline in the church.  A quick‑tempered man is the very opposite of this and such a man can destroy the peace and harmony that exists among fellow elders.

J B Myers

Books:

Faith and Addiction

Elders and Deacons

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