Righteous Anger

“In the temple courts he [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” ~ John 2:14-15 NIV

During my adolescence, I remember struggling a lot with anger and my temper. I found it wrong of me and of others to be feeling angered over the little things. I wanted to so desperately act like Christ, being patient and kind and gentle but it was so difficult under all the frustration. I mostly based my feelings on anger from what Ephesians 4:26-27 says: “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while your are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (NIV). Yes, it is very risky to be angry because Satan can use that anger to lead us to sin. Think of when Cain killed his brother Abel; Cain was angry when he did it (Genesis 4:5-8).

For many years, my misconception of anger continued. I had in mind that God was the angry one. In Exodus 32:9-12, God was speaking to Moses about his anger towards the “stiff-necked people” or in other words, the Israelites. He even wanted to destroy them! However, Moses persuaded God and reminded Him that it was His people whom He brought out of Egypt. God had a reason to be angry, but even then, one would think that God being perfect wouldn’t get angry, right?

So if God is the angry one, then we must find someone who can mediate between us and God. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (NIV). Thankfully we have one! Jesus, the one who can keep us from God’s anger. And because Jesus is perfect, He would also not get angry, right?

John 2:14-15 actually displays a human response from Jesus. Jesus was angry. Shocking! Being angry might not seem as shocking, but the fact that Jesus went on a rampage was more so. And what made Him angry was, in His words, “’How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (NIV) Notice that He was so angry, He made a “whip out of cords” (John 2:15). Now, this was a side of Jesus I could not picture. He succumbed to anger and did what no one would have expected. It was definitely something a human would do, if they were angry. But Jesus? Inconceivable! In reality, the way Jesus responded was perfectly acceptable. Why? Because unlike our anger in most situations, Jesus was righteously angry. How dare people change the purpose of the house of God. It is not right to treat the house of God like that. Sin was the goal in the temple and that angered Jesus. Moreover, what angers God angers Jesus.

The anger that Jesus and God displayed in the two situations above is righteous anger. When you know that someone is doing wrong, it brings out natural emotions. There is a reason why anger sparks. On the other hand, our anger is a risk because we are human. We already know in Ephesians that anger can lead to sin. James also touches on anger in chapter one verses nineteen through twenty: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (NIV). The phrase “man’s anger” can be translated to “human’s anger.” There is a huge difference between human’s anger and righteous anger. Our anger is flawed, imperfect, and can be sinful. But the anger of God, the anger of Jesus, is a response to the sin and injustice in this world. They are right to be angry. Furthermore, knowing that they are perfect, they cannot sin in anger like we can.

Anger is not an evil emotion. Let us use anger in a response to the sin around the world, the injustice and the evil. Let it be an emotion to open our eyes over how we treat our Heavenly Father. And let it become a drive or motivation to get us on the right path.

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