i wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! [galatians 5:12]
righteous anger is a rare thing in our lives – but why?
we often tell people – “when Jesus grew angry walking this earth, when he cleared the temple of thieves, he was showing righteous anger.” we then follow this up by saying, “however, when i get angry, usually, it is selfish anger or self-righteous anger.” sadly this is true. but why?
if we are blood-bought Christ followers, indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit – why don’t we experience more “righteous anger”. Jesus, the Righteous One – experienced anger, righteous anger.
- when he saw stubborn, hardened religious hearts who sought to do evil, he grew angry. [mark 3:1-6]
- when he saw little children being kept from him, like they were not important, or worse, they were not important to Jesus, he grew angry. [mark 10:13-16]
- when he saw his followers, getting in the way of anyone coming to him, he grew angry. [mark 10:13-16]
- when he saw those seeking his Father being led far from him by religious rulers, he grew angry. [matt 23:1-36]
- when he saw his own setting their mind on the things of man and not God, he grew angry. [mark 8:31-33]
- when Satan perverted his word, he grew angry. [matthew 4:10]
- when he saw his Father’s house being perverted from a house of prayer to a house extortion, he grew angry. [mark 11:11-17]
Jesus was and is righteous. and, the Righteous One, the most righteous one ever, lives in us. if we are being led by the Spirit, should there not be moments, we grow angry in the midst of this broken world. the answer is yes, God’s Spirit should stir his righteousness in us to anger, and i believe he does. the problem is not do we experience righteous anger, the problem is do we display righteousness in our anger?
if we study the accounts of Jesus’ anger, you will never see him degrade of abuse anyone in his anger. and, rarely (not always, but rarely) does he respond rashly or immediately to the rise of righteous anger. i give you one example, mark 11:11-17.
11 and he entered jerusalem and went into the temple. and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to bethany with the twelve.
12 on the following day, when they came from bethany, …
15 and they came to jerusalem. and he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, 16 and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 and he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? but you have made it a den of robbers.
notice verse 11. Jesus comes into the temple and “looked around.” he saw the sin, the extortion, the perversion of his Father’s house – and he left. did he experience righteous anger in that moment. yes! for sin was abounding. did he respond in that moment. no! the next day he returned and then he entered the temple and wrecked the place of the money-changers who were extorting God’s people and perverting God’s house.
his actions were pre-meditated, thought through. he was not responding in raw emotion (like we often do), he was responding from the Spirit. he still had passion. John tells us, –
his disciples remembered that it was written, “zeal for your house will consume me.” [Jn 2:17]
zeal, passion – consumed Jesus’ heart in regards to his Father’s house. but this passion did not lead him to do rash things. also notice, he hurt no one in this display of zeal.
let us take away a few things from all this.
- if we are in Christ, filled with His Spirit – we will experience righteous anger in this world.
- we cannot let our emotions drive our response to this righteous anger. we must let the Spirit – which means time to pray, engage the Spirit, God’s word, and wise counsel.
- i think i (maybe we) need to repent for often not having the courage to respond to the righteous anger the Spirit wells up in me. in an attempt not to sin in my anger, i sin by not responding at all.
we must learn to listen to the Spirit and respond to righteous anger. it must be full of love and zeal for the Lord and others. it must be full of tenderness and boldness. it must be full of hope and compassion.
how will you respond when the Spirit stirs righteous anger? will you grow angry and hide? will you grow angry and sin? or, will you grow angry and pause, seek the Lord, and respond as the Spirit leads – in compassion and zeal.
– john ryan