If a Christian gets angry, is this sin? Do we have a right to be angry? What does the Bible teach about being angry if you are a Christian?
The Bible actually teaches that we can be angry but we are also told not to sin in doing so. There are some things in this world that should make a Christian angry. There is so much injustice, robbing of widows by schemes, the abuse of children, and violence against the defenseless. Paul actually commands us to be angry, believe it or not, by saying, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). This is an imperative command Paul gives to be angry…but it is conditional. Don’t
let the “sun go down on your anger.” In other words, get angry but get over it and, “do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:27a). Some things ought to make us angry in this world but to remain angry is sin. This seems contradictory at first reading: Be angry but don’t stay angry for that is sin. If you read these two verses in the context of the entire chapter of Ephesians 4, you can see why Paul told the church members to be angry. Some were stealing, others had unwholesome language, there was brawling, rage, and slander (Eph 4:28-34). Certainly this type of behavior is not fitting for members of Christ’s church and Paul had ever reason to be angry over such behavior because it shames the Cross of Christ and hurts the witness of the church. This was just the opposite of what Paul taught the Christians to be like (Eph 4:20). The Psalmist agrees with Paul and perhaps this is what Paul actually quoted from in Psalms 4:4a “be angry, and do not sin.” David was often angry but not without a just cause.
God is Angry at Sinners
“God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day” says Psalm 7:11. This wrath or righteous indignation is not directed at Christians but at the unrepentant. Evidence of this fact is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 which says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A key point here is that the wrath of God has been removed “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not by us but by Christ’s atoning work at Calvary. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole” (Gal 3:13).
God’s wrath then is directed at non-believers, as it is written in Romans 1:18-19 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” There is good news for believers and bad news for non-believers concerning God’s wrath Who “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thess 2:8-10). Paul specifically clears the believers (v 10) from this warning of the wrath of God to come on all those who have not believed in God or obeyed the gospel (v 8).
God became angry at Moses in Exodus 4:14 because Moses kept making excuses for not being able to speak well to free Israel who were enslaved to the Egyptian’s. God is angry when we mistreat strangers, foreigners, widows, and orphans (Ex 22:21-24). This ought to make the Christian angry too; when non-believers or Christians mistreat those who are defenseless or disenfranchised. God can become angry even at His own nation if they are breaking His commandments (Ex 32:10) but He has every right to do so.
Jesus Was Angry
Jesus also became angry as we read in John 2 14-16 where He cleansed the temple because in “the temple courts he found people 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 courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market.” Jesus had ever right to be angry because the merchants were selling animals for the sacrifices at an inflated rate, they were robbing those who came to exchange currency to buy animals for sacrifice, and they were making a mockery of the temple of God. It had become a den of thieves instead of holy sacrifices to God. The merchants were taking advantage of those coming to the temple to make sacrifices and they were in it only to turn a profit. (You can see a video of this from a movie about the life of Jesus in the top right corner of this article)
One time, “Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (Mark 3:1-6). Here Jesus looked at the religious hypocrites and was angry that the Sabbath Law allowed them to free a trapped animal yet their man-made laws prohibited others from doing good on the Sabbath. They had substituted man-made laws and rules and placed it equal too or above the Law of God and in fact had nullified God’s holy Law by their own vain (useless, empty) traditions (Mark 7:13).
Anger Leading to Sin
Some anger is good as we read in Ephesians 4 but James warns that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). James commands us to “be slow to anger” (1:19). Psalm 37:8 says we are to, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.” Ephesians 4:31 reminds us “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Paul writes again, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Col 3:8). Paul warns us to leave to God all those things that we can not make right because God will judge all unrighteousness someday.
Revenge is not the way to have justice served and so we are told, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Rom 12:19). Ultimately, all things will be settled in the Supreme Court of God (Rev 20). Every single person that has ever lived or will yet live, will have to give an account for everything that they have ever done or ever said. You can get angry at injustices and in fact you should get angry at some things but instead of lashing out in anger, you can call the police when you see a child abused, you can tell the authorities when you know someone is being robbed and leave it up to the God ordained authorities (Romans 13). These things ought to make us angry if we have any sort of conscience, just don’t let the sun go down on your anger for God will avenge and if we trust God’s perfect justice, ultimately no one will ever get away with anything.
New International Version Bible (NIV)
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www.youtube.com – Video “Jesus kicks out the money changers from the temple” by WesternVoices2