Is it ever okay to be angry? Is anger always a sin? Is there such a thing as righteous anger?
Too often we’re advised by well-meaning folks that a Christian should never get angry. But is that really true?
In yesterday’s blog post, we wrote about Jesus healing the man with the withered hand. The Pharisees were intently watching Jesus to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. They were looking for an opportunity to bring an accusation against Jesus.
Knowing their hearts, He asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
Mark says, “they kept silent.”
Then he records that Jesus “looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts” (Mk. 3:5).
Too often we see Jesus as someone so meek and mild that He never raised his voice, displayed any anger, or expressed any outrage toward others. The politically-correct picture of Jesus as someone always smiling and never offending anyone is incorrect.
Jesus wasn’t smiling when he discerned the corrupt motives of the religious leaders. Their hardened, stubborn, callous hearts upset and grieved Him. He was angry.
We can learn some valuable lessons from the anger of Jesus.
1. It’s possible to be angry, and not sin.
“Be angry and do not sin;” Paul penned. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26).
The sinless Son of God proves this is so. What about the two separate occasions when Jesus entered the temple and saw the greed and extortion of the money changers? He turned over tables. Released the animals. And drove them out hurling a whip. “Take these things away!” Jesus bellowed. “Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (Jn 2:14-16). The second time He cleansed the temple he accused them of turning the temple from a “house of prayer” to “a den of thieves.”
(2) Jesus’ anger was properly directed.
Too often our anger is aimed at the wrong things. Traffic jams on the interstate. Slow service in a fast-food restaurant. Waiting in a long line. Being put on hold during a phone call. The annoying habits of other people. Or our favorite sports team losing a ball game. This kind of anger is selfish, shallow and superficial.
Jesus’ anger was directed toward sin. Hypocrisy. Greed. Stubbornness. Pride. Pretense. Injustice. Luke-warm living. These are the issues that upset Jesus and toward which He expressed His greatest displeasure.
Where’s our anger regarding the things that disturbed Jesus? Are we grieved over wrong attitudes? Unrighteous living? And ungodly motives?
(3) Jesus’ anger was an expression of His Father’s feelings.
It’s a fact that “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11). Numerous times in the Old Testament we read of Jehovah’s anger toward the sins of heathen idolaters, as well as his own people, Israel.
Righteous anger is real. When our anger is motivated by godliness and truth it’s a good thing. John Wesley once said: “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but God, and who hate nothing but sin, and who know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and I will shake the world.”
Do we hate sin? Are we are upset by wickedness? Are we angry over corruption, abortion, and immorality?
Author and historian, Bede Jarrett was right when he wrote: “The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”
(4) Jesus’ anger was under control.
Jesus never sinned in his anger. He didn’t allow his emotional indignation to degenerate into bitterness, uncontrolled temper-tantrums, or irrational outbursts.
What about you and me? Too often our anger is not only directed toward insignificant issues but even when correctly aimed, it may be expressed in an ungodly manner. Hurling ugly epitaphs, name-calling, and insulting, demeaning language whether verbally or on a facebook post is not the spirit of Christ.
(5) Jesus’ anger was tempered by love.
Anger and love may seem like incapable emotions. But Jesus knew about “tough love” before Dobson ever wrote the book. God is love. And Jesus’ vicarious, selfless sacrifice is the supreme expression of divine love. It has been said in various ways that “God loves us the way we are, but He loves us too much to stay that way.”
In our anger toward sin, may we always clearly demonstrate love toward the sinner.
There’s plenty today to make you angry. Just be sure you’re angry like Jesus.
“Be angry. And sin not.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman