I haven’t encountered many angry Christians lately—and that fact does not give me a lot of comfort. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Wesley, and virtually all of the reformers had a sharp edge and we can detect anger to this day in their writings. The prophets and even the psalmist knew and showed anger. I’m not advocating a truculent attitude, and I’m not forgetting that Christians are to be peacemakers. However, many of God’s people don’t get angry simply because they don’t care enough. When we accept the world on its own terms, we are seldom incensed at the wrong we see.
Anger has a purpose. It stirs us to action and helps us declare to ourselves what is right and what is wrong—what we should do and what we should not allow ourselves to do. Anger or indignation, when it’s righteous, helps us distance ourselves from those who would harm us either by their unhealthy influence or by intention. At the same time, righteous anger draws us closer to God, whose indignation is always righteous.
The Bible says be angry and sin not—and so we must guard against a wrong kind of anger that leads to sin.
The wrong kind of anger has us lashing out at people in unproductive and harmful ways. It can keep us from enjoying God-given relationships. It can make us suspicious of people who deserve our trust. The wrong kind of anger causes us to sin by taking pleasure in causing insult and hurt to others. Worst of all, that kind of anger is like an acid which consumes its container.
Righteous anger is always ready to forgive. Righteous anger is self-denying rather than self-assertive. We feel righteous anger when our principles are violated, not when our pride is hurt or our personal desires and ambitions are thwarted.
The Scriptures say we should not let the sun go down on our anger. So how can we deal with it before sundown?
Ah, we can always do something about our anger. We can pray. We can pray for those who persecute us and spitefully use us, just as we can pray for God to set right any number of wrongs. When we are angry, we should turn to the One who has the power to right all wrongs. When we truly open our hearts to God about the source of our anger, He will let us know whether our anger is righteous or not.
If prayer can move mountains, then it can move people to care. If God can answer prayer, then we can trust Him to rectify every situation in this world and, to give us patience to wait until He does so.