Righteous Anger?

From Rosalie Antuma: ”  I wonder if you can comment/blog about “righteous anger”. I’ve been wrestling with what that truly means and would love another perspective.”

Hi Rosalie,  Yes I can blog about it!  🙂  Not sure what you are looking for exactly but I have an idea so I am going to run with it. 

It’s not always a sin to be angry.  But anger often can lead us, in our fallen nature, to sin.  We all know the story of Jesus flipping the merchant’s tables in the temple.  We can all relate as well I think. We get that angry sometimes. The difference is that in His anger he did not sin – even in physically expressing his anger.  Often his anger in this instance is described as “righteous anger.”

But what is righteous anger? 

What we do know is that for us righteous anger is the correct response to sin. We can plainly see that throughout the Bible.  God’s righteous anger and righteous judgement are always directed at sin. So it is good and right to get angry at sin.  But we are not Jesus so are we even capable of “righteous anger?”   So often in our fallen natures we get mad at the stupidest little things.

Someone makes us feel silly, we get mad.

Someone shows up late, we get mad.

We don’t get acknowledged for coordinating something, we get mad.

Someone cuts us off in traffic, we get mad.

The two year old draws on the wall, we get mad.

Someone leaves the toilet seat up, we get mad. ( I have never done that…)

The kids drop cheerios and chips and crackers everywhere, and I mean everywhere, and I step on them and they get ground into the carpet and I lose it…

I digress. 🙂

and-then-the-fight-startedI think you get the point. Our anger is often so selfish.  We tend to get mad at those things which makes our life more difficult, or less enjoyable.  But I would say, yes we are capable of righteous anger. It is a holy anger that comes from and is focused on the righteousness of God. Righteous anger is always focused on sin, and sin is always against God.  Even if the sin is against me or you, it is fundamentally against God and His righteousness. John Piper said that the mark of true righteous anger is that it is set off in us by a belittling of God, not the belittling of ourselves. Righteous anger is  not “me” focused.

Pastor Wes Bredenhof, in this sermon,  states the following:

Anger is righteous when it grows out of love for one’s neighbour. For instance, when we see a child being abused and we get angry because of the injustice and pain being caused – that’s righteous anger and it is not sinful. In fact, one could say that it would be sinful not to be angry about something like that. That’s the sort of anger the Lord Jesus was feeling at this moment. He was a sinless man and he was angry because the Pharisees had added all kinds of burdens to God’s law that ended up hurting people.

So we can see that righteous anger is not only permissible for the Christian, but is also something we should do.  But do we?  How often while watching TV do we hear “OMG?”  Do you change the channel?  Or turn it off?  If Jesus flipped the tables for a belittling of his father we should at least turn the TV off.  Food for thought. 🙂

keep-calm-and-don-t-get-angry-5The Bible  is full of examples of justified human anger. This is why in the letter to the Ephesian Church Paul said, “Be angry, and do not sin.”  He doesn’t say, “Don’t be so angry,” or “Calm down,” like we tend to say. Paul reveals that anger is a legitimate emotional response to sin. But he  also warned us to be careful about anger that is rooted in our own sin.

The Christian life is not to be marked by anger.  Our lives are to be marked by the fruit of the spirit which is love joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Jesus spent very little  time being angry and a lot of time displaying these other characteristics. We should take note of Jesus example if we are often angry.

As broken sinful people it is so easy for us to believe that our anger is justified, that what “I” am displaying is righteous anger. We get mad when adultery is exposed in the congregation, we are quick to gossip and judge the sinners, but we don’t go to their side and walk with them through their struggle.  We get mad when our pastor says something we don’t like in the sermon, we are quick to slander, but we are slow to ask for clarification or to pray for him, or for ourselves to be willing recipients of the message. We are so quick to dish out judgement, and condemnation under the guise of the “pursuit of righteousness.” But we are slow to seek reconciliation, repentance, offer support, prayer, a hug, or a shoulder to cry on.  We are quick to anger and slow to love. It is so easy to sling mud on an already hurting person, it is much harder to grab a shovel and help dig a brother or sister out of the muck he fell into.

Righteous anger is rooted in Love because God is love.  He has never ceased to be love.  His holiness demands anger against sin. Our righteous anger must also be rooted in love.  Love for God and for others. We should pray for discernment so that when we are mad we might discern whether our anger is truly righteous.   Because after all, Paul also told us in the same letter to put away anger…

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

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  1. nersonangelo says:

    In my point of view, I think “Righteous Anger” is that type of anger that is being expressed with a purpose and to convey an important message. Jesus did it to teach us a lesson, that was the purpose and that anger was deemed righteous.. I think… 🙂 Thanks for this… 🙂

  2. Janice says:

    It is a very difficult thing to have righteous anger if someone is living in sin, and continues to live in sin, especially a family member. You love them, but don’t want to condone the sin. It is a dilemma.

    • I agree, it is often difficult to see a loved one in a consistent pattern of sin. Righteous anger does not absolutely need to “flip the merchants tables” so to speak, but can be manifested in a less “expressive” manner as well. Righteous anger is rooted in love and we should be striving to the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, – and our anger should reflect those things as well. Patient admonition following Matthew 18 is probably the best route with loved ones. Thanks for your comment Janice. 🙂

  3. Rosalie Antuma says:

    Thank you for this article. The text about “be angry but do not sin” really struck me, because at the end of that it says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” and so often that is what righteous anger turns in to. It may start as anger against a sin, but can quickly turn to revenge on that person etc. I think what Janice said is very interesting, because that is where right anger really becomes a dilemma-when the sin is ongoing or keeps coming back in new ways etc, then this “right anger” continues and it can turn to bitterness or revenge BECAUSE the sin keeps happening. It is no longer about the sin, but the hurt it is recurrently causing us.

    • janice says:

      This is exactly what I mean, Rosalie. It is so difficult to deal with someone who persists in sin, and I myself confess to anger at their unrepentance, and anger at the situation. I hate the sin, and am frustrated with the sinner, though I love them dearly. It is difficult to show you love them without them thinking you condone the sin. Patient admonition is good, but it is extremely difficult to do when you see someone perishing by their lifestyle. I found that I have had to pull back from this person, though this goes against everything that a parent normally feels. Like I said, it is a dilemma.