Anger’s entire function is to enact justice.
Injustice or unfairness, real or perceived, makes us mad. It is a primordial force, implanted within us at some point in those moments after the Fall when we were rearranging all our internal powers to make sure we were dealt with fairly, in those moments just after the bliss when “fair” was an unknown concept. This force is now wildly disordered this long after the Fall, but anger’s birthright and mission was survival and self-defense. In some twisted form, it is now a fallen angel in our nature. It longs for the garden. It wants it all to be set right. It wants justice.
Even in our disordered state we can see that injustice is the target of all angers. If I am self-centered I may get mad at slights and pout over trifles but it is still anger over perceived unfairness. The self-centeredness creates false unfairness, and so the resultant anger is self-centered and destructive rather than justice-creating. But the logic is the same; I perceive a disconnect between my state of affairs and the imagined fair universe. Anger wants to correct.
Two people in an argument both feel misused and so are both mad. Both struggle against each other toward differing visions of justice.
Now comes this word of freedom from the scripture: “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Or, in other words, my anger cannot enact fairness as God has defined fairness through the entire body of His revelation. It CANNOT. It wants to, but it is too small. Our intrinsic anger gets the logic right, triggers, but lacks the force and breadth to carry it off. And God’s fairness is the only fairness, since only He has the depth of knowledge required to sift through the multitude of variables in any situation.
So two brothers disagree. If they cannot come to absolute perfect unity of heart and mind (which is the definition of normal in the kingdom of God) then they need God to judge. They may not know it, but they are hungering for His justice. We may even say that human anger is a prayer for God’s kingdom to come.
Again, this is a moment of great liberation for those who have ears to hear: my anger is impotent. I am doubly liberated, without and within: my anger dies, for it has no function, and the burden of justice passes from me to God. Anger turns to rest, and the perceptions of injustice which are too numerous to count in anyone’s day — these turn to unceasing prayer.
It is then, and only then, that the Holy Spirit can use the function of anger within the man; the outer man is sentenced to death on the cross and will no longer respond, while the inner man is renewed as a servant of the Spirit. The inner man, the spirit of man, will move only under obedience from an interior witness. The faculties are ordered.
At this point, after perceptions of fairness have been rendered irrelevant, they begin to fade away, as the attention of the outer man turns more and more inward in a listening for the inner word of the Holy Spirit.
After this there remains a desire for justice, but this ordered desire is a longing for the kingdom of God to come on earth completely aside from any personal issues. This ordered desire has no anger in it, except if a grief would originate from within, from God’s spirit grieved by sin and death, like Jesus experienced at the tomb of Lazarus.
This is what it means: “The kingdom of God is within you.”