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The Truth about Righteous Anger

 

Several weeks ago I really began to think about anger because I see so much of it in our society. People in the news media are angry, children are angry, husbands are angry at their wives and wives are angry with their husbands.  Parents are angry with their children and children are angry at their parents. Blacks are angry with whites and whites are angry with blacks. The Republicans are angry at the Democrats and vice versa. You probably see the anger also and you probably know what the Bible says about anger.  The question is, when I get angry am I justified?

Justified is defined as “to show a satisfactory reason or excuse for something done, or to show a good reason for.” 

So if you ask yourself this question, “when I get angry and respond am I justified?” your answer will probably be yes because each of us has had something done or said to us that aroused our anger and we responded.  Or we may see injustice in society and it arouses our anger.

Our society says anger is justified because without it many social wrongs would never have been corrected, but according to the word of God is it acceptable for a Christian to be angry?  Is there such a thing as righteous anger?  To answer these questions we must first define anger. 

Anger or wrath is “an intense emotional response that you feel when you think that someone has behaved in an unfair, cruel, or unacceptable way.” 

The first thing we will do is examine scriptures that talk about anger, then we will examine situations in the Bible where people became angry, even Jesus and then we will answer the question about righteous anger.

Let us examine some scriptures that talk about anger:

Psalms 37:8,  “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” In this scripture David had become grieved with the acts of the wicked and in one Psalms he said his feet almost slipped when he saw the prosperity of the wicked.  David is cautioning us to not become angry with the works of those who are wicked because one day their judgement will come. What he tells us is to do good, even to the wicked. David is saying if you are angry then stop being angry.

James 1:19-20, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” What is James saying?  We are to be slow to wrath or anger, because when we become angry it does not allow God’s righteousness to be manifested through us. Being slow to anger gives us an opportunity to examine the situation, it gives us an opportunity to examine our motivation for the anger, and it gives us an opportunity to deal with the situation without sinning against God.  It keeps anger from controlling us.

Ecclesiastes 7:9,  “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” Solomon the wisest man who lived says the same thing as James. Do not be quick to anger. A wise person will defer or put off anger as Solomon said in Proverbs 19:11. He says anger rests or stays in the bosom of fools.

Colossians 3:8,  “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” 

Ephesians 4:31,  “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”

Proverbs 16:32,  “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”  Gill’s commentary says this: He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty,.... Than a mighty warrior or conqueror; as Alexander who conquered his enemies, and even all the world, and yet in his wrath slew his best friends: a man that is slow to anger is esteemed by the Lord, respected by men, and is happy in himself; and is preferable to the strongest man that is not master of himself and of his passions;

and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city; one that has the command of his temper, that can govern himself, and not suffer his passions to exceed due bounds, is superior in strength to him that can storm a castle or take a fortified city; but it requires the grace of God, and the assistance of his spirit, thoroughly to do the other.

Proverbs 27:4,  “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” 

Anger is a powerful emotion that often leads to plans for revenge or punishment.  No one is immune to anger; it is a work of the flesh.  God warns us about being angry with others; he tells us that anger rests in the bosom of fools.  Anger is a very dangerous emotion because if not brought in check it will cause the person experiencing the anger to bring harm to someone, whether that action is verbal or physical. Anger will keep us from forgiving others and it prevents us from showing love to others.  We must not be quick to become angry.  Anger can become a stronghold when we find it rules us and not the other way around.  A person may find themselves living in a constant state of displeasure over nearly everything in their life.  This emotion prevents the person from having joy and peace. 

Now let us examine scriptures where people became angry:

Moses was greatly angered at Pharaoh when he refused to let the people go.  However Moses wasn’t angry at Pharaoh because of his actions and speech towards him, he was angry because he knew Pharaoh was fighting against the righteousness of God. He refused to hearken to the voice of God.

When Moses came down from the mountain after receiving the 10 commandments from God and saw what the people were doing his anger was aroused. And when he destroyed the plaques with the 10 commandments he did it out of anger.  Not because of what they had done to him but because of how they were sinning against God.

On two occasions Jesus became angry, one was when he overturned the tables of the money changers because the people had defiled the temple and the other was when he was going to heal a man with a withered hand.  He became angry with them because of their lack of compassion and their rules.  Notice I said THEIR rules.  His focus was God and the righteousness of God and the ways of God.  God never placed this type of burden on the people when he gave the commandment of resting on the Sabbath day.  The Sabbath was given as a day of rest for man, not as a day to rule and enslave man.  However this is exactly what the Pharisees had done by saying nothing could be done on that day even if it was good to help someone in  need.

Ephesians 4:26 says be angry and sin not, however it is difficult to be angry at someone without committing trespass with God because anger is emotional and a work of the flesh. Anger is a powerful emotion, it overrules reason and it causes us to behave in a disrespectful way.  It is very easy to lose control when anger is present.

As we know in the Bible Jesus became angry, he became angry because of what the people were doing.  They were making a mockery against the ordinances of God.  The people were in the temple selling, the temple was supposed to be a place of worship and reverence for God. 

Now let us see if being angry is justified:

I am sure you have spoken Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”  We can also find in Matthew 5:22,  “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” 

These scriptures would seem to indicate that sometimes anger is not sinful. In today’s society we are told anger can be good because it can push us to act.  They define this as righteous anger which is characterized by acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous.  However is it even possible to act in an upright, moral and virtuous way when we are angry? I don’t think so; speaking for myself whenever I have become angry it did not result in my behavior being upright, moral or virtuous.

I get angry when I see injustice, when I see blacks being brutalized by the police, when I see kids being abused and exploited, when I see racism and prejudice, when I see people who refuse God, when I see man’s inhumanity to man.  I get angry at how the devil deceives and imprisons people and binds them, I also get angry when I see their wicked and evil deeds.  I grieve and it hurts my soul, therefore I know it hurts God and it also angers him.  Some people say this is righteous anger which is defined as a reactive emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult, or malice. It is said to be righteous because it is the motive behind the anger makes it righteous, it is anger that we experience over what angers God; however from my studies anger is never called righteous. The Bible says there is none righteous, no not one and the only way we are made righteous is through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is because of his righteousness that we are made righteous or in right standing with God.

People sometimes say they use anger to get them pumping, to get involved or to stay involved.  But should anger be the motivation, why not allow love to be the motivating factor to get us going and pumped? Love for the person who is causing the injustice which will cause us to pray for them and love for the person who has experienced the injustice or abuse.

We must be careful and not allow the anger we feel to take root in our hearts, we must do as David did in the Psalms and turn it over to God.  We do what we can do about the things that grieve God and let God do what we can’t because it is him who changes the heart of man.  We ask God to deal with the unrighteous but our goal should be to tell them of the love of Christ because Satan is always looking for a door, he is always looking for an opportunity to enter in.  Romans 12:19-21 says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” 

Anger expresses itself in so many ways, we may rant and rave, curse and swear, we may sulk and castigate others with our words, we might even engage in physical violence.  We find ourselves saying and doing things that are not pleasing to God.  We find ourselves being bitter, full of wrath, and speaking evil of others. These acts are not the workings of the Holy Spirit. I have heard many people speaking evil of President Trump.  They mention his derogatory speech and actions that occurred during the primaries. I have heard and read so much hatred towards the president, many of it coming from Christians. They say he’s evil, wicked, not fit to be president and that he hasn’t repented. My Bible tells me that he who is without sin let him cast the first stone. How often have we sinned, repented and found ourselves doing the same thing again.  Yet we say we are Christian.

We must be careful when dealing with anger because anger can cause us to be judge, jury and executioner.

We say we have a right to be angry; we are justified in our anger. Alright, suppose for a moment you are justified, the question would be, what type of behavior does this anger produce?  Does it cause you to lash out? Does it cause you to give hateful looks, or cause you to have an attitude, or does it cause you to speak evil of someone or say I hate you? Does it cause you to shout or raise your voice? Does it cause you to withdraw and give someone the silent treatment? And does it cause you to refuse to cooperate?

James 1:20 says that human anger does not produce the righteousness of God. Usually in our anger we want the person/persons we are angry at to experience our displeasure, even when we are angry at injustice that is done to others.

Let us take another look at anger:

As mentioned earlier Moses became angry with the children of Israel when they sinned and made the golden calf. Many people will say he had righteous anger; however what were the consequences of his anger?  In his anger he destroyed the tablets in which God himself wrote the 10 commandments.  His anger caused him to destroy something God had made. Also years later his anger at the children of Israel caused him to strike the rock to get water instead of speaking to the rock as God had instructed him and it resulted in him not being able to go into the promised land. This is what anger does, it affects our emotions in a powerful way and in the process it can cause us to commit acts that we would not normally commit or say things we would not normally say.

David became angry at Nabal in I Samuel 25 when he refused to give food and drink to David and his men after they provided protection for Nabal’s men and herds.  In his anger he was going to kill everyone.  When Abigail Nabal’s wife heard about the intentions of King David she intervened.  She pleaded with him to reconsider his intentions in verse 26.  She told David to disregard Nabal because he was a fool. She also told David that God had prevented him from avenging himself with his own hands; she said he should allow God to fight his battles. David was a man of God yet in his anger he almost killed a countless number of people.  Would he have been justified? These people had done nothing to him, yet they were going to suffer because of the actions of one man. 

Jonah became angry because God wanted to bless the people of Nineveh and Jonah did not want them to repent.  In his anger he ran from God and he found himself in the belly of a whale. Later when the people of Nineveh repented Jonah became angry and wished for death, he didn’t want the people to repent, he wanted God to destroy them.

If anyone had a right to be angry it was King David.  He was hunted by Saul for many years, Saul wanted to kill him.  His son took the kingdom from him and he had enemies all round about him.  But David wasn’t angry, in Psalms 43: 1 he said “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.”  He asked God to deliver him from the deceitful and unjust man.  He mourned because of the oppression of the enemy, but he later began to praise God and say why am I sad, why is my soul cast down?  God is my hope and I will praise him.  David could have reacted in anger because he had done nothing to deserve Saul trying to kill him.  When an opportunity presented itself to David he could have killed Saul but he didn’t.  He also could have killed or imprisoned his son, but he didn’t.

Most Christians know the story of Joseph in the Bible.  How he was sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into prison.  He later became the second in command under Pharaoh.  He could have been angry at his brothers, and maybe in the beginning he was, we don’t have that information.  But what we do know is that after the death of their father David’s brothers thought he was going to retaliate, but he didn’t.  He forgave them.

We must replace anger with love.  Jesus said when someone mistreats us we should pray for them.  If Joseph and David had allowed anger to rest in their bosoms, in their soul and spirit they would have retaliated for the mistreatment they received. 

Anger is a work of the flesh Galatians 5:20.  Whenever we get angry about something we need to deal with it as quickly as possible, otherwise it will become a stronghold in our spirits and when this happens it will be difficult to rid ourselves of anger. Ephesians 4: 27 says, “Neither give place to the devil,” don’t give him an open door.

As we can see whether we express anger because of what someone has done to us or express anger because of injustice towards others, which some say is righteous anger; anger is still anger.  We must ask ourselves this question, why am I angry? How does this anger manifest itself in my life? No matter how we want to dress it up anger is not good; it is a work of the flesh.  Anger does not produce joy, peace, or love, anger does not produce longsuffering or any of the fruit of the spirit. It is impossible because it is a work of the flesh. No matter how much we say righteous anger is good if God is not getting the glory and the manifestation of that anger results in speech or actions that are inconsistent with the word of God then we must re-examine ourselves and our motives, repent and come into alignment with the spirit of God.  

Prophetess Nadine Richmond

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