Righteous Anger is Never Wrong

Marvin L. Weir

The Lord enters the synagogue at Capernaum and finds a man with a “withered” hand. Even though the Pharisees expect Jesus to work a miracle on this Sabbath day, their belief in the Lord’s power to work a miracle does nothing to convince their hardened hearts that He is the Messiah. These religious leaders of Jesus’ day are much more concerned about their traditions regarding the Sabbath than having compassion upon a cripple man. What a contrast this incident is between blind prejudice and the desire to do good!

The Lord asks, “Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to kill? But they held their peace” (Mark 3:4). The question is designed to contrast His act of compassion and kindness on the Sabbath with the Pharisees evil desire to accuse Him of healing on the Sabbath. This should cause us to reflect on our reason for assembling with the saints each Lord’s Day.

The Scriptures next record that Jesus “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart…” (Mark 3:5). On another occasion the Lord drives the money-changers from the temple, overthrowing their tables, and saying, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16). Christ never harbored malice in His heart, and He does not do so here. He is angry, however, at the these religious leader’s abuse of sacred matters.

One might be tempted to argue that God can exhibit righteous anger but man cannot. However, Paul tells the Ephesian brethren, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). This clearly establishes the fact that man can be angry and not sin. Anger can lead to malice and a hatred that causes us to give “place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). Such is wrong, and the Lord never allowed His anger to be channeled in the wrong direction. Neither should we!

Alexander Maclaren in his book entitled The God Who Serves comments on anger as follows:

Anger is not weakness, but it is strength, if there be these three conditions, if it be evoked by a righteous and unselfish cause, if it be kept under rigid control, and if there be nothing in it of malice, even when it prompts to punishment. Anger is just and right when it is not produced by the mere friction of personal irritation (like electricity by rubbing), but is excited by the contemplation of evil. It is a part of the marks of a good man that he kindles into wrath when he sees “the oppressor’s wrong.” If you went out hence tonight, and saw some drunken ruffian beating his wife or ill-using his child, would you not do well to be angry? So it is one of the strengths of man that he shall be able to glow with indignation at evil (p. 69).

This writer stated in the 1999 Bellview Lectures [Worldliness] on pages 363-364 that:

righteous anger directed against evil is not worldly or wrong. It is amazing to observe those who are quickly consumed with personal anger steadfastly refusing to become angry at the spiritual rape of the Lord’s kingdom. The church is often maligned, attacked, mocked, and criticized while those who profess to be Christians raise not an eyebrow but stand calmly by practicing patience and forbearance. Brethren should be ashamed that they lack such zeal for sacred matters! The truth is always to be proclaimed in love (Eph. 4:15), but it is not unloving to express righteous anger at worldliness invading the precious bride of Christ! Are we not to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered” (Jude 3)? The things “written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). Many examples are given of people possessing a just and holy anger not concerned with their own personal rights. David was terribly angry with the rich man who took the poor man’s only ewe lamb (2 Sam. 12:1-6). The prophet Nehemiah was “very angry” when he learned of the abuses practiced by God’s people (Neh. 5:1ff). Moses was angry because his people did not trust God (Exo. 16:20), and his “anger waxed hot” at their apostasy on Mount Sinai (Exo. 32:19).

A child of God who is a faithful soldier of the cross is not to allow prejudice, bias, and unfounded suspicions tempt him to become angry and make unrighteous judgments. This is the spirit of Jesus in saying, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). However, the Savior also commanded, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Anything that God hates, His faithful followers must hate! God’s Word is clear in stating that He hates all wickedness and immorality. Man will continue to call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20) but simply saying such does not make it true. Christ makes this observation regarding man: “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved” (John 3:19-20). These words are as true in 2019 as they were the day Jesus spoke them.

Loyal soldiers of the cross will always hate all that is sinful and worldly (cf. 1 John 2:15-17) as these things are opposed to that which is godly and right (cf. Heb. 1:9; Psa. 119:104).

May we always remember and believe that righteous anger against worldliness and the abuse of sacred matters is never wrong!

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