Question: I know the Bible talks a lot about anger and how bad it is but it also gives examples of righteousness anger such as when Jesus braids the whip and rebukes those using God’s house as a marketplace. However, what about righteous anger for us? Can we as Christians be righteously angry? For example is it righteous anger to be angry at someone for sin they struggle with because it bothers us? Jesus lashed out and rebuked people at the people in the marketplace but does that mean it’s okay for us to?
Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB)
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Be angry, and yet do not sin. That seems like an impossible task sometimes but I think it will make more sense when we understand it.
I love the instruction of Scripture. It has saved me from so much trouble and yet ignoring it has caused me so much. What has caused me some issues at times was not understanding it. This is a wonderful question because instruction on anger misunderstood can cause a person issues including at times loosing their witness. Sometimes, Biblical instruction is written in hyperbole. An example of this are the Beatitudes. Jesus wasn’t really encouraging people to gouge out their eyes if they sin with them. He was stressing the importance of not sinning with them! To understand the Scriptures instruction you will have to spend some time studying, not just reading through.
So how would one be righteously angry, or you could say be angry and not sin? You gave the example of Jesus in the temple. Now first things first, Jesus is, was, and always will be God. He knew the line so well because He made the line! When He operated in life on earth, He only did so by close contact with and the instruction of the Father through the Holy Spirit. He did exactly what was right in everything He did and in this moment, God was angry. His temple which was supposed to be a place of blessing and prayer, became a den of thieves. Jesus, as God in the flesh, was pronouncing judgement on it. That was righteous anger.
Sin should make us angry, but we learn an important lesson through Jesus and how He dealt with it. To understand we take counsel from all of how He walked, not just one incident. The reason is, with one incident we cannot understand His whole heart. Whenever Jesus dealt with the Pharisees, or the religious leaders of the day, he dealt harshly with them. This was because they claimed to be righteous, but they were actually not. When Jesus dealt with sinners, he did so with compassion. He did this because often they were people lost, caught up in their sin. He never justified the sin, saying things like go, and sin no more, but He gave them room to get it right.
The Bible says in Galatians 6:1 (NASB), “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” A spiritual person recognizes sin yet seeks to gently restore, not destroy. Now, there can be a time when judgement is necessary, and He helps with this. As a pastor, the most uncomfortable part of my job is discipline. There are times when people just will not do what’s right and they have to be corrected. My goal however is always to do so gently and humbly. In fact, when my first reaction is to jump on someone (metaphorically) God often reminds me of how much and how long He put up with me. Ouch! Now, if someone’s sin is hurting or negatively affecting others, as I have place to, I have no choice but to step in.
When it comes to dealing with people, especially those in public, we have to be very wise with how we do so. I have an example that I’d like to share. My wife and I do a lot of traveling and so when we eat or stay places we often use and rely on public reviews of different establishments. Because we do this often we also review places. If done right, an honest review will actually be a service and blessing to other people. Though I am a Christian, I am also a human, and when I have had a terrible meal or terrible service, I am very tempted to act just like any other angry person would. I cannot tell you how many times I have been writing reviews, and the Holy Spirit has arrested me with this idea, “Is that really how you want to respond?“ I looked down and remember that part of my online profile is “so blessed”. Is so blessed what your creative word destruction is exemplifying?!? I have had to delete or rewrite reviews many times because of the heart behind how I wrote them. Just a little secret, unless I can give a five star review, I generally will not even review local places because of the fact that I pastor near them.
The purpose behind the idea of righteous anger has nothing to do with vindicating ourselves, but in helping others. As a parent, I am going to have to discipline my children. If they have done something bad enough, I may be angry, but I have to check that anger and make sure it’s not just because it hurt my feelings. Responding in any kind of anger because of what an action has done to us is generally not right. Now, I am talking about very generalized things and certainly every situation does not apply here. If somebody is being hurt or abused, then they have right to speak up against that abuse. It does not give them the right to attack back, but they don’t have to be silent either.
In closing, Ephesians 4:27 gives an important truth to being angry. In however we respond we do not want to give an opportunity for the devil to do his work. Some versions say do not give place to the devil. I like that as well. In everything we do we cannot allow the enemy, as much as it’s up to us anyways, to be able to have free course to do his work. This is why it says in James 1:19 (NASB), “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” We would do well to meditate on this scripture and take heed to it!