How to Recognize Righteous Anger
Most people know the story of Jesus turning tables over in the temple. Jesus got angry. This has turned into one of the greatest apologetics and justifications for our angry behavior. We like to convince ourselves and whoever else is listening that our anger is righteous. The question is, how do we know if ours or someone else's anger is righteous or not?
First of all, it's really important to note that not all anger is sin.
Ephesians 4:26-27 BE ANGRY and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath,nor give place to the devil.(emphasis added)
What a wonderful commandment, BE ANGRY. I'm an old pro at that one. However, I'm not a huge fan of the next phrase, do not sin. This means that there is such a thing as sinful anger, but not all anger is sin. Discerning between the two is of huge importance. The next verse insinuates that sinful anger that has not been dealt with gives place to the devil. That's the only place I can recall that the bible says that. Our sinful, unresolved anger is an open invitation for the devil to wreak havoc in our lives and he won't quit until he's stolen our joy, killed our relationships, and destroyed our lives. Seems rather serious.
I can't address everything about anger today, but I do want to look at what makes it righteous. Robert Jones in his book Uprooting Anger gives 3 distinguishing marks of righteous anger.
1. Righteous anger is a reaction to ACTUAL sin. If we are angry because our preferences have been violated that's not righteous. If we are angry because someone dares interfere with our kingdom that's not righteous. If we are angry about something the bible doesn't address that's not righteous. If we are angry because our plans didn't come to be that's not righteous.
So much of our anger is because someone dared cross us, someone interfered with our desire to be selfish. How dare someone not conform to my law.? That's not righteous.
2. Righteous anger is concerned with violations against God and His kingdom. David was eager to take out Goliath because Goliath insulted his God. Righteous anger is unselfish, it isn't about our rights or what we think we're entitled to. Righteous anger is informed by the bible. There are times to stand up for yourself, but I'd say there are more times to turn the other cheek.
Righteous anger isn't concerned with ourselves. It's concerned with God and people made in His image. Abortion makes me angry. Racism makes me angry. Child abuse makes me angry. Harsh treatment of my wife or children makes me angry. Righteous anger is angry for the sake of God and others.
3. Righteous anger is expressed in a Godly way. Your anger isn't righteous if the way you handle it is by flying off of the handle. It is not righteous to lose control of yourself. You might argue that Jesus flew off of the handle. John 2 gives an account of Jesus cleansing the temple and verse 15 gives insight. It says "When He had made a whip of cords." Jesus came to the temple and saw the mess it had become and then proceeded to make a whip of cords. I'm not an expert on making a whip of cords, but I think it takes a little time. What this tells me is Jesus' anger wasn't Him losing control it was planned, calculated, and premeditated. Jesus had time to think it through and decided anger was the right response.
Righteous anger is expressed righteously. The bible says God is slow to anger. Anger is sometimes appropriate, but there's a slowness to it that not many people I know mimic.
Is your anger righteous? If not then repent.
Friends, by all means be angry but be angered by the things that anger God and be angry in a Godly way.