Jesus got angry on multiple occasions in the Bible. However, He was angry and did not sin. How is that possible?
What does righteous anger look like? Righteous anger is getting angry at the things that are not of God. It is an anger that is grieved by sin, death, and any form of evil. Righteous anger is a characteristic of Jesus Christ that we as Christians receive when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior and choose to follow Him. We are to be angry at the things that oppose Christ and His image.
Not all anger is bad. In this blog, we will look at what righteous anger is and find examples in the bible to explain why we as Christians are to have righteous anger and what we should be angry at.
Biblical Definition of Righteous Anger
And He (Jesus) looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…Mark 3:5 ESV
The Bible talks about the righteous anger of God as grief over sin. It comes from a place of righteousness and holiness and is directed at the things that oppose God.
Righteous anger is not a defense mechanism that we are to use to wield against those who hurt us.
Rather, righteous anger springs forth from a sense of justice, a moral compass of right and wrong, and a desire for things to be made right.
Righteous anger is being angry at all the things that oppose God—unrighteousness, evil, idolatry, impurity, and sin—in the world without being motivated by sin.
As Christians, we are to practice the things of God and follow Christ’s example, including being angry at the things that God hates.
We need to look at the heart of God and see what grieves Him. As Christians, we have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live but He who lives in us. This means that all attachments to the world, sin, and flesh have been broken off.
However, since we are still living in the world, we will still experience the effects of sin in our lives.
While our relationship with the Lord has been restored through Jesus Christ, we are to grieve that all things are not as they should be.
We should also grieve that there is so much evil around us. f you look at the culture of the world we live in today, your heart should be grieved to see that the things God hates are celebrated in broad daylight.
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.Psalm 4:4 ESV
There should be holy and righteous anger that rises within us for all things to be restored to their original design as God created it to be.
God’s Righteous Anger
Now that we have defined righteous anger, let’s look at what righteous anger looks like from a few examples from scripture.
The Bible gives us many examples of how to be angry and not sin. We see this first in God’s character.
So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone.Numbers 32:13 NKJV
God has consequences for those who disobey and dishonor Him. In His righteous anger, God made the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty years because they had chosen to follow other gods and not listen to His voice.
God’s anger is not a self-defense mechanism. It is righteous anger that always comes out of a place of wanting people to know and worship Him.
For the Israelites, this verse gives us just one glimpse of how God dealt with His people who rebelled against Him and chose their own way.
God desires people to experience Him fully, yet is saddened and grieved that they cannot know Him because of sin.
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.Psalm 7:11 ESV
This should make us reflect on our own lives and search our own hearts to see if there is any way in which we have grieved the Lord’s heart and sinned against Him.
It is important to understand why God’s anger is justified and righteous. When God created the heavens and the earth, He created everything in it to be good.
But then sin entered the world and distorted God’s original design for mankind and all of creation, bringing evil to the perfect world God had created.
From that time all the way through the Old Testament and into the beginning of the New Testament, spanning a timeframe of over 4,000 years, God’s wrath has been stored up to bring punishment on those who have been walking in darkness.
But God, in His love and mercy, His one and only Son to earth to die so that we would not have to experience the full brunt of His righteous anger.
Jesus restored us into a perfect relationship with the Father by taking on the full wrath of God the Father and dying on the cross. Without Him taking the full brunt of God’s righteous anger, we would die the death we deserve.
Jesus’ Righteous Anger
As we look further into the scriptures, we see that Jesus also got angry but without sin.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.Matthew 21:12-14 ESV
Jesus’s anger toward those who were buying and selling in the temple was holy and righteous because His desire was to drive out all forms of idolatry, which is sin.
The temple was supposed to be a place where people came to seek after God and know Him.
Jesus’s anger is justified as righteous because He is standing up for the truth of who God is.
Jesus understands the heart of the Father and is displaying the grief God feels towards those who become legalistic in their pursuit of Him.
We can also observe from this passage that Jesus is not necessarily angry at people, but at the hidden motives that were in their hearts. They were using the place where people met with God to be a place where they could make a profit. This grieved the heart of God.
In another instance, we see how Jesus’ righteous anger is acquainted with grief. This shows us anger from the heart of God is grieved over sin.
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 ESV
Another observation from this passage is that people in the world are not always going to agree with you in standing up for God’s truth.
This is why Jesus was grieved and angry at the Pharisees because they were more concerned with following the law instead of seeking after God’s heart.
What Should We Have Righteous Anger Toward?
O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of His saints; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.Psalm 97:10 ESV
Many things do not honor God as holy. We as Christians are to hate anything that opposes God.
Think about the movies, TV shows, music, games, and entertainment that many Christians still enjoy today. It is hard to find anything that is pure, clean, and honoring God as holy.
Our hearts as Christians should be grieved over the way we have accepted things to be normal in our world. We should have a righteous anger toward the things that grieve the heart of God.
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.Proverbs 8:13 ESV
These are just a few of the many areas in our culture that we need to have righteous anger towards:
- Human Sex-Trafficking
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV
To be clear, we are not to hate people, even though people may be living in sin. Instead, we are to hate the sin and pray for the Lord to set those people free from their captivity.
We are also to speak the truth in love to those who are living in sin. As Christians, we are called to speak up and warn people about the coming wrath of God on all those who do not repent and believe in Jesus.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
On account of these the wrath of God is coming.Colossians 3:1-6 ESV
What Can We Do When We Sin in Our Anger?
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.James 1:19-20 ESV
When we sin in our anger, we need to repent and ask God for forgiveness. God is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Anger is sinful when we are motivated by pride or hurt. When we hold grudges and act out on our feelings from a place of pain, we use our anger to bring shame, guilt, and more pain to ourselves or others.
We also allow the enemy of our souls to come and plant bitterness, unforgiveness, resentfulness, disgruntledness, and dissatisfaction in our hearts.
It is important to recognize our angry habits of the flesh because when we operate out of sinful anger, our attention is turned away from God and we let Satan have dominion over our minds and emotions.
Reacting in sinful anger also keeps us from walking in the Spirit, and can hinder us from having a healthy relationship with the Lord and others.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4:30-32 ESV
How Can We Be Angry & Not Sin?
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV
Because we are humans and live in a sinful world, we need constant reminders to not sin while being angry.
To be angry and not sin is only possible because we are new creations in Christ. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He gave us a new Spirit to guide and direct our hearts so that we do not give in to the desires of our flesh.
To avoid sinning in our anger, we must daily be abiding in Jesus Christ and dying to our wants, needs, plans, and desires.
We must also be studying the Word of God and spend time in prayer so that we can grow closer to God and gain His heart.
Ask God to help you live in the light of His truth. When you are walking in His light, sin and unrighteous anger cannot dwell in you.
As you seek the heart of God, your love for others will also deepen, and you will want to show the love of Christ in all of your relationships.
This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7 ESV
Because we now live for Christ and have the Holy Spirit within us, we can have the spiritual discipline to abstain from sinful anger and instead have righteous anger towards our sin.
Without being close to God, we cannot understand the things that He is angry at and learn how to be angry with righteous anger and not sin.
The Bible tells us that now that we are a new creation in Christ, we are to hate the ways of the world and put away all sinful habits. This is having righteous anger that honors God and declares that He is holy because you abhor the things that do not honor Him as holy.
In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.Colossians 3:7-10 ESV
How many evil things do we tolerate in our world today that grieve God’s because we have slowly accepted it to be normal? God hates sin and wickedness.
If we, His people, have been made in His image, then should we not also hate the things He hates?
Righteous anger is not the type of anger that should divide churches and families. It is the kind of anger that looks at the ways of the world and says, “God is holy and I don’t want to engage in the things that grieve His heart.”
As Christians, we must choose to not participate in the ways of the world and instead stand up for truth and what God’s Word says is right.