Anger Without Sin?

Anger is not always bad. In fact, there are times when we should be angry. This may seem like a contradiction to the last article discussing anger, because we focused on being slow to anger. However, there are times that it is appropriate to be angry—we can look at Jesus as an example.

Pause and Think:

  • When do you think that it is okay to be angry?
  • When do you think that it is bad to be angry?
  • Can you think of a Bible story in which Jesus gets angry?

An Angry Jesus

We often reflect on the perfection of Jesus, so it may seem strange to think about Him getting angry (especially, since anger is something we tend to see as a character flaw). It is likely that you have heard someone described as having “anger issues,” and this certainly sheds a negative light on anger. However, we need to be careful when making that claim. While people can certainly have anger issues, they can also be totally justified in their anger. Jesus was certainly justified in His anger toward the money exchangers and people selling animals in the temple. These people were in the wrong—Jesus had every right to be mad.

“The Jewish Passover was near, and so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and he also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, he drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, ‘Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!’”

John 2:13-16 CSB

Understanding Jesus’ Anger

It is hard to understand what Jesus must have felt when He walked into His Father’s temple. Can you imagine His disappointment? They were using the temple, a place of worship, as a place to make money. This disappointment was completely justified, even as it turned to anger. After all, they were making the house of God into a convenience store.

Many people coming to the temple would be traveling a great distance. It would not always be practical to bring an animal for a sacrifice from such a far distance. So, in theory, giving those traveling the ability to purchase one in Jerusalem is brilliant. However, the temple is not the place for such an operation! Nor is the temple the place to have money changers set up. These people would exchange coins with pagan engravings for money that didn’t have such engravings. Money changing is not wrong in itself, but it was being done  in a drastically wrong place.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to worship God in a mall—how difficult it would be to focus on the Creator with stores flashing sale signs in your face, the smell of the food court down the hall, and people walking around doing business? It would be nearly impossible to stay focused on God in that scenario. This is why Jesus took such issue with the situation He found in the temple. People were distracting others from worshipping God, and the purpose of the temple was being distorted.

Jesus’ Anger Justified

Jesus wouldn’t just sit by and watch as people misused the temple of God. He would not let people distract others from worship. So, He decided to do something about it. He grabbed some cords and made a whip to drive the animals and people out of the temple. He flipped over tables and poured out the money changers’ coins! Jesus was mad, and everyone knew He was mad. However, Jesus made one thing abundantly clear; the temple should be used to worship God, not to make a profit.

When we look at Jesus’ actions in the temple, some might think that He was harsh or lost His temper. It is very important to remember, however, that Jesus was not only human, but He had and still has the ability to know the hearts of everyone. Because He is God, He had the authority to rebuke those in the temple based on what He knew was in their hearts.

A Relieving Takeaway

The takeaway for us is likely quite relieving. In certain situations, it is okay to get angry. When someone does something to hurt us, when we see evil in the world, or when we or others rebel against God, it is okay to be angry. It’s even okay to express our anger. However, love must be our primary motivation—revenge has no place in the Christian’s heart. Romans 12:17-21 has several important principles for us to remember when people make us angry.

Romans 12:17-21:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay,says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head., Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

While it is not a sin to be angry, we must remember that anger can be a slippery slope to sin. Paul exhorts us not to repay evil for evil, but when we are angry, that command can be difficult to obey. We must remember that anger does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas 1:21), and it can even lead to murder (Matthew 5:21-26). So, we certainly cannot leave anger unchecked. We must deal with anger in healthy and appropriate ways. Perhaps the words of  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, summarize this point and application the best in Ephesians 4:26-27.

Anger should never be allowed to rule us; we must be willing and able to move past the anger. We need to be willing to overcome evil by doing good! Sometimes it may help to step back and pray for those who have angered us. Other times, we may need to take deep breaths and count to 10. There are times that it might mean we need to get advice from a mature brother or sister in Christ. In one way or another, we must be able to work past the conflict. We must be able to resolve our anger. We must remember Paul’s words:

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.

Ephesians 4:26-27 CSB

Discuss the following:

  • Name some situations where it is appropriate to be angry?
  • What are some healthy ways to deal with anger?
  • Why is Romans 12:17-21 so practical and helpful?

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