How would you define righteous anger? Is there such a thing?


(SeanO) #1

Do you believe there is such a thing as righteous anger? What does it look like? Before answering, consider the below resources and take some time to reflect on what the Bible says. Looking forward to your thoughts. The Lord Jesus guide our discussion.

Tim Challies’ Article

“Righteous anger reacts against actual sin, not a violation of my desires or preferences.”

“Righteous anger throbs with kingdom concerns.”

“When we turn to the Bible to find accounts of righteous anger, we see that this kind of anger focuses on God and his kingdom, his rights, and his concerns, not on me, my kingdom, my rights, and my concerns.”

"Anger is too often opposed to self-control. When we are angry we lose control of words, of tone, of facial expressions, and even of fists. But righteous anger expresses itself in a controlled way. It does not rant and rage, it does not swear and curse, it does not mock and sulk, it does not sink to self-pity and despair, it does not blow off people and storm away from them. Righteous anger is a controlled anger that moves toward good and specific ends. “Godly strains of mourning, comfort, joy, praise, and action balance it.”

CARM Article

" Of course, our anger should emulate Christ’s anger. Two examples are recorded in Mark 3:5 and Matthew 21:12. In the former, Jesus was angry with the Pharisees who were plotting to kill him for healing someone on the Sabbath. In Matthew 21:12 Jesus is rightfully angry with those who are using the house of God per profiteering. Of course, we can find other examples, But it should be obvious that we are to follow righteousness and be angry at the promotion of evil. Therefore, righteous anger is that godly attitude of condemnation and judgment of that which contradicts the character and will of God."

CARM Article

Greg Koukl Video

John Piper Video


(Lakshmi Mehta) #2

@SeanO, what an important question to answer, lest we justify our unrighteous anger as righteous. In my experiences I have seen that however great our service for Christ or our arguments for Christ, one moment of anger and there is great damage to our witness for Christ.

A few months ago I heard a sermon by Erwin Lutzer where he described anger specifically as an emotion that arises when our desires are denied. Based on that, we could define righteous anger as that which arises out of unmet Godly desires and unrighteous anger as that which stems from desires for significance . The only way then to have righteous anger is when our lives are so tuned with God that our desires are His holy desires ( Prov 37:4). To make the distinction between righteous and unrighteous anger we may need to pay attention if we are packaging our selfish desire as a holy desire. For example: When I am with my religious family who spend the first 3 hours of the day reading and praying to their god, I find myself unconsciously pressured to perform for Christ instead of resting in Christ. As a result when faith conversations come up and I am met with resistance, I feel anger building up in me with emotions of feeling powerless for the unmet longings I have for my family. Self finds a way of creeping in unless I do the hard work of submitting myself to Christ moment by moment. Since eastern religions have a huge emphasis on controlling mind and senses, any lack thereof becomes magnified and is understood as unfruitful spirituality.

Righteous anger is the fuel for great exploits for the kingdom of God, a means to recognize our calling. Ex. Wilberforce for slavery. Here’s a quote of Jonathan Edward’s from “Religious Affections” I came across: “for he who sees the beauty of holiness must necessarily see the hatefulness of sin, its contrary. By this men understand the true glory of heaven, which consists in the beauty and happiness that is in holiness”. Righteous anger that hates sin draws people to God and gives Him glory. But unfortunately, what we see is church splits with unrighteous anger against people masquerading as righteous anger. Strangely, humility and anger can work together in righteousness bringing justice, love and mercy to those who need it. Here’ s a book on righteous anger by Sarah Sumner Ph.D who studied anger for many years.


(SeanO) #3

@Lakshmismehta Great thoughts! I really liked your point that it is very easy to mask unrighteous anger as righteous anger and the example from spending time with your family was very nuanced. Also that righteous anger often expresses itself, as in the case of Wilberforce, in a way that is very different from unrighteous anger - it is controlled and purposeful. Thank you for the book recommendation - it looks like Dr. Sumner takes a fairly nuanced look at anger and its implications.

For the benefit of everyone reading, when you spend time with your family and feel that unrighteous anger begin to boil up how do you submit yourself to Christ in that moment? Is there any particular method you have found helpful for recognizing and correcting unrighteous anger?


(Lakshmi Mehta) #4

@SeanO, cannot say I have figured it out. I am really trying to grow in this area of dealing with unrighteous anger. In the heat of the moment, I tell myself that it is not about winning but loving. I have to determine to act contrary to my emotions. I shoot up quick small prayers at the moment. If anger is noticeable, instead of defending myself, I am learning it is better to just humbly admit and apologize if they are hurt. Few things I try to do immediately during / after the moment:

  1. Forgive as many times as needed even if it hurts to keep a clear conscience before God. Actively think highly about the person.

Matt 18:21-22. 21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven

Phil 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things

  1. Seek all that I desire from the other person, from God instead. Someone told me as a Christian we lose the right to be offended.

1 Peter 2: 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Please feel free to add other thoughts that are helpful. Would love to learn.


(SeanO) #5

@Lakshmismehta We can definitely discuss the issue of dealing with ungodly anger. I think the below article from Seattle Christian Counseling did a good job of describing some of the common approaches people to take to anger - unhealthy and healthy. The case you described with your family would be one where I would say the need was to ‘let it go’ or drop your anger.

In terms of some things I personally find helpful, I would say:

  • acknowledge your anger - acknowledge that you are angry and be sure not to act or speak in anger - especially if you don’t understand why. Also, don’t heap guilt on yourself for feeling angry because that is part of being human - “be angry and do not sin” (Eph 4:26)
  • understand your anger - if you don’t understand why you are getting angry, that is the first thing that needs to be dealt with - take some time to journal and reflect - get to the bottom of it
  • give your anger up to God in prayer - ask Him to search your heart and give you wisdom
  • if you identity a sinful motivation such as selfishness or an attempt to maintain control, confess that to God and work on renewing your mind with truth from God’s Word - of course this process is incremental and takes time
  • now that the source of anger is identified and God’s truth on the topic has been understood - whenever that anger starts to rise up take corrective action immediately - acknowledge it, confess it, pray through it and continue to walk in the Spirit by loving others and rejoicing in God

Do those thoughts spark further questions? Do you agree/disagree? Hope it is helpful :slight_smile:

Seattle Christian Counseling Article

  • Suppressed Anger: Controlled by Fear and Shame
  • Aggressive Anger: Forceful and Insensitive
  • Passive Aggression: The Pretense of Control
  • Assertive Anger: Honest Communication
  • Letting Go: Knowing When to Drop Your Anger

“Assertive anger, in contrast to the styles already shared, involves asking for what is wanted (or saying no) in a simple, direct fashion while considering the needs and feelings of others . Simply stated, a person’s feelings and needs are honestly communicated while maintaining respect and consideration for others.”

Letting go involves - “a tolerance of differences and a willingness to forgive . Examples would include, a wife realizing despite her many he will always be a perfectionist. She will establish her boundaries so she will not have to live life according to his unrealistic expectations, but also learn to love and accept him as he is. An employee decides, rather than griping about a company policy, decides no job is perfect and will do his best work in spite of his opinions. Please understand, however, that dropping anger is different than suppressing it. Suppression is unhealthy and phony while dropping anger represents a move toward godliness.”

Seattle Christian Counseling Article


(Lakshmi Mehta) #6

@SeanO, thank you for that article. Yes, I agree it is important to let go of the differences and be tolerant. Many a times its not just about being tolerant, its also about dealing with a degree of hostility due to differences of faith. In dealing with hostility, I find that we can either respond in our strength or in Christ with grace and love. I find myself needing a lot of prayer to enter these conversations.

Coming back to righteous anger, I have wondered about Matt 23, we see Jesus calling the Pharisees, whitewashed tombs, child of hell, blind fools, hypocrites, snakes and brood of vipers. Jesus tells the truth in a harsh manner. I am wondering if gentleness is always needed when presenting the gospel?


(SeanO) #7

@Lakshmismehta That is indeed a great question. I remember a youth camp I was at where the speaker’s name was ‘Big Kahuna’ and he was indeed a massive man. When he spoke to these kids, he dealt very directly with their issues - he did not beat around the bush. And when he spoke to the parents, he exhorted them powerfully to know where their kids go, who they hang out with and what types of lives they are leading. His manner was not what we would call gentle or kind - it was a bit in your face even, but whole families gave their lives to Jesus.

I think we need a lot of wisdom to know when to speak in this manner, because the Bible is clear that it is not wise to rebuke a fool. However, these Old Testament passages make it clear that we should even desire friends who would wound us when we are going astray so that we might return to the righteous life. And there may be times when it is our duty to inflict wounds that others might heal.

Proverbs 27:6 - Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Psalms 141:5 - Let a righteous man strike me–that is a kindness; let him rebuke me–that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

Ecclesiastes 7:5 - It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.

This article from Gospel Coalition suggest that gentleness is about putting God’s Kingdom and others first rather than self - it is not about speaking quietly or never giving offense to others.

“We see, then, that the gentle can be assertive, but they do not assert themselves . We can be strong and assertive, yet gentle if we leverage power not to assert self, but to promote the cause of God or the needy. Jesus was forceful, even confrontational, yet gentle because he used his powers for others. The same holds for us.”

What are your thoughts?


(Lakshmi Mehta) #8

@SeanO, the article you attached says, " So Jesus is gentle not because he makes no demands, but because He makes proper demands". We see this statement in play in Matt 23. In every verse after calling a harsh name, Jesus describes exactly where the Pharisees failed in true worship. He explains where they really stand as they feel so justified in their actions. Jesus doesnt end with just harsh name calling. We see Jesus’s love for the Pharisees, as He gives them a warning with hope at the end of the chapter.“For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

It’s easy to think we are being gentle when actually lacking the courage to confront the blindness of those we care about. It’s also easy to think we are showing courage by confronting blindness when actually we have lost patience and self-control. We do need the wisdom of God for each individual circumstance. A harsh word with humility may be the only way to draw attention if nothing else works for someone who is prideful and convinced of their own righteousness. It’s not the kind of harsh word that is followed by storming away but that which is followed with truth that provides hope. Gentleness seems to be more about our heart than external expression.


(SeanO) #9

@Lakshmismehta Well said - it is not loving to allow a loved one to continue forward in ignorance and yet it takes wisdom and humility to rebuke at the right time, with words that have the potential to build up rather than destroy and with the right heart attitude.