Our Wednesday night study dealt with the issue of “love is not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Of particular interest was the idea of righteous anger and when it is okay to be angry. I offer the following brief points for consideration:
(1) There is no denying in the Bible that God is “angry.” Therefore, anger in and of itself, is compatible with righteousness, holiness, love, goodness, and all of God’s other divine attributes.
(2) Because Christ as the God-man exhibited “anger” (Mark 3:5), anger is not opposed to our humanity. There are occasions where Christians have a license, and perhaps even a mandate, to be angry.
So how can we discern if we have righteous anger? Here are a couple helpful guidelines.
God’s anger is not an emotional response but it is a disposition of his holiness against that which is unholy. So when David writes that God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps. 7:11), it is not an emotional anger that comes and goes, but it is a steady anger. That is what makes righteous anger, “righteous.” It is opposed to all that is unrighteous.
When our anger isn’t righteous, there isn’t a constancy to it. Our problem is that our anger is all too often fickle and fleeting. Issue X may make me mad under situation Y. But issue X under situation Z may not. In both cases the issue is the same. But given different circumstances I am either angry or not. This is not how God’s anger functions and it is not how righteous anger functions.
David also writes: Do I not hate those who hate you with a perfect hatred (Psalm 139:22). While David doesn’t use the word “anger” it does reflect the principle that hatred is perfect when it is directed against those whom the Lord hates. Similarly, righteous anger ought to be directed against those thing which anger God (e.g. sin, unrighteousness, transgressions).
Our sin is often not righteous anger because we’re not angered over what angers God. We are angry at the inconvenience of things, at the personal loss I may feel, at the challenges I face, or the like. Righteous anger is righteous because it is against all that is unrighteous.
Therefore, righteous anger is an anger that is a disposition of our mind against that which is unrighteous. A good litmus test to help determine if my anger is righteous is to ask the following questions:
(1) Is this an emotion or a disposition? If it is a disposition than I will be angry regardless of the situation. If it is an emotion, I will be angry solely based on a situation.
(2) Is this against unrighteousness? Is the heart of my anger the fact that God is dishonored and not glorified; or something else?
(3) If I am angry at a person, will that anger quickly subside if the person repents? Because anger is a disposition towards unrighteousness, when that unrighteousness is repented of and forgiven, there should be no room left for anger.