It is also known as righteous indignation; righteous anger that is. Is it biblical for a Christian to display anger, even if it is righteous? Personally I struggle daily with the question of, “Is my anger biblically righteous or am I reacting in the flesh?”

Jesus displayed righteous anger a number of times. One time was when He healed a man’s withered hand; in the synagogue; on the Sabbath; in front of the Pharisees.

    “And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’ Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” (Mark 3:1-6)

Let’s look at this passage closely and we discover a number of intentional acts by Jesus:

1. He went into the synagogue; the place of worship…God’s house.
2. He knew He was being closely watched by the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day.
3. He commanded a man with a physical ailment to step up to Him.
4. He asked what He knew to be a provoking question of the Pharisees.
5. He was angry with the Pharisees and yet was grieved by their hard hearts.
6. He healed the man’s hand knowing it violated the Pharisees Sabbath traditions.

Jesus knew, because He in omniscient, that the Pharisees would consider this a violation of His law and cause them to conspire against Him. Is it a stretch to believe Jesus was picking a fight with these men? Did He not know these would anger the religious leaders? Why would He do that? l

Let’s look at another, more famous example of Jesus displaying righteous anger.

    “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’” (John 2:13-17)

There are three important elements to Jesus’ righteous anger that we do well to learn and follow:

1. It was focused; His intent was to cleanse the Temple.
2. It was controlled; He went after only the money changers…those doing business in the Temple.
3. It caused improvement; He cleared the Temple, reminded all the purpose of the Temple, and caused His disciples to realize Jesus was fulfilling prophecy.

Focused. Controlled. Improvement.

Jesus was the only man to walk this earth who displayed perfect righteous anger; He is God. So how do I know when I am displaying righteous anger or just venting my frustration and striking out in sinful anger? Solomon teaches that I must have wisdom otherwise I act as a fool:

    “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)

Solomon also teaches that although I think I am fixing a problem, I am actually adding to it when I vent frustration:

    “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.” (Proverbs 15:18)

Lastly Solomon teaches us that although I think I am being mighty when I vent my frustration, it is actually the patient man that is mighty:

    “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)

So how do I find the necessary balance between heavenly mercy and righteous anger? Three New Testament passages teach me how.

    “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil…Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:26-27; 31-32)

I’m not to go to bed angry and give the devil a chance to stir up bitterness, wrath, anger, discord, or talking bad about someone behind his or her back. Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness should be the prevailing attitude I have towards others; not the last resort. The Apostle Paul instructs:

    “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)

Jesus’ brother James gives me solid advice, a three-step plan if you will on godly conduct:

    “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

So it doesn’t look as though I have many instances where I display righteous anger; definitely not as many as I believed.

The lesson for me is that in my flesh I will almost always resort to sin. I simply must remember to do as the Apostle John teaches:

    “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

This is a simple to understand concept but not easy to do in my own power; so it is with all biblical principles.

However, if I will surrender my will to the Lord Jesus Christ and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life, by His grace when I display anger it will be righteous anger.




In Christ
Ps. 37:4

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    Copyright © 2009 David Jeffers


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