This week, we’re dealing with the ever-elusive goal of uprooting anger. Anger is a sneaky sin, often arising out of situations or relationships in which a legitimate wrong has occurred. Throughout my life and career I have come to term this “The Incredible Danger of Being Right.” The fact that a wrong has occurred does not issue license to commit a wrong in response. Still, we see in Scripture that Jesus did respond in anger at times and that he clearly did not sin. So, is my anger sin or is it a form of righteous anger?
Robert D. Jones, in his book Uprooting Anger (P&R Publishing, 2005), has some helpful criteria to examine the righteousness of our anger. Here are some select excerpts from his book:
- Righteous Anger Reacts against Actual Sin
Righteous anger does not result from merely being inconvenienced or from violations of personal preference or human tradition. It responds to sin as objectively defined by God’s Word, including violations of both of our Lord’s great commandments (Matt. 22:36-40).
- Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns
Righteous anger focuses on how people offend God and his name, not me and my name. It terminates on God more than me. In other words, accurately viewing something as offensive is not enough. We must view it primarily as offending God.
- Righteous Anger is Accompanied by Other Godly Qualities and Expresses Itself in Godly Ways
Righteous anger remains self-controlled. It keeps its head without cursing, screaming, raging, or flying off the handle. Nor does it spiral downward into self-pity or despair…. Christ-like anger is not all-consuming and myopic but channeled to sober, earnest ends…. Rather than keeping us from carrying out God’s call, righteous anger leads to godly expressions of worship, ministry, and obedience. It shows concern for the well-being of others. It rises to the defense of oppressed people. It seeks justice for victims. It rebukes transgressors. Godly anger confronts evil and calls for repentance and restoration.
Too often, we take a personal offense against us and justify our anger by claiming some “righteous anger clause”. Jesus never responded in anger to criticisms or attacks against him. However, when the offense was against God the Father or the Kingdom that God is bringing, Jesus demonstrated anger (Mark 3:1-6; 10:13-16; John 2:13-17). Even in those times, though, Jesus’ anger was purposeful, controlled, and furthered the ministry of the gospel rather than hindering it. That last sentence by Jones is powerful, “Godly anger confronts evil and calls for repentance and restoration.”
When you are confronted with sin that is atrocious and disgusting and an affront against God, how do you respond? Are your words full of hatred, pride, and arrogance? Or do you approach the sin as a forgiven sinner who knows a hidden but now revealed truth – God’s ways are the best ways and they are possible through Jesus Christ? All of anger is an outflow of the heart, so be very careful of the incredible danger of being right. And, in your anger, do not sin (Eph. 4:26).