There are two types of anger: 1) the anger that comes from our prideful, sinful nature or 2) a righteous anger that comes from our regenerate, Spirit-filled nature.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about about how we are free from condemning ourselves and others. We miss so much of the picture thinking that this righteous, holy God came only to save us from our individual sin instead of understanding that the point was to reconcile the world to Him, not through shame and guilt, but through showing us the extent of His love by condemning His own Son instead of us and in so doing freeing us from condemning each other.
I also shared that on Friday nights I pray for an outreach team that goes out to minister to victims of human trafficking. I was only praying for the outreach team and the victims of human trafficking. It didn’t even cross my mind to pray for the salvation of the traffickers or the individuals soliciting the victims. To be honest, I have a hard time even wanting to because I hold so much anger and resentment towards them.
This got me thinking, while I am not responsible for condemning others, can I have righteous anger towards the evil being committed right in my own backyard and throughout the world. It seems that there is so much anger in the world and it can be hard to distinguish between sinful anger and righteous anger.
What is Sinful Anger?
Even in situations where it is appropriate to hold righteous anger, we often express a type of anger that is unrighteous. Anger is tempting and deceptive. The Devil likes to distort reality and destroy what is valuable by quickly bringing us to a prideful, sinful anger. This type of anger destroys, plants bitterness, tears down and slanders.
“My dearly beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” James 1:19-20.
God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. Our anger is only righteous when it is based on a God-centered spiritual foundation. So ask yourself does your anger focus on your will and try to take the place of God as judge, or does it seek His will and aim to restore people back to Him?
What is Righteous Anger?
In the Bible, we see Jesus expressing anger when he flips over the tables in the temple, yet he did not sin. Here he is clearly angry that the Jews had turned the temple into a grounds for profit – not showing care for what the place represents, giving glory to God.
“The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex, He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers coins and overturned the tables.” John 2:13-15.
Jesus is passionate but demonstrates self-control and His anger is directed by love. His righteous anger stemmed from what was done in place of honoring God. Jesus’ example of righteous anger is the type of action that pleases God.
God’s Anger Redeems
God is not fundamentally angry. He is righteous and His anger is a byproduct of His righteousness. His anger is not designed to tear us down but repair our hearts. God’s anger is always pure and holy. His anger makes right what is wrong.
“Yahweh – Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7.
These attributes emphasize God’s benevolent character. The Lord has the capacity to be compassionate, gracious, to be slow to anger and to forgive. God’s covenant love with His people was made possible through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
My prayer is that we can all reflect Jesus’ example of righteous anger. He was angry at the sin but still sought ways to bring about redemption for the church and His followers.
We must remember that God is the sovereign One who can convert even a Saul who persecuted the church (Acts 9). But God is also the judge and administrator of wrath. The good news is that there is a day of ultimate judgment coming. This is good news because after the judgment, the wrongs of the world will be righted and we will live in the everlasting mercy of God.
As Christians, we are called to hate what is evil but display God’s grace and love in our lives (Romans 12:9). Our righteous anger should stem from our love for God and promote the healing grace of God. The more we mold into who God made us to be, the more we will grow in the grace of righteous anger.