Godly anger is holy discontent. It turns people into Popeye, the cartoon sailor man who in every TV episode intervenes with godly anger. Popeye fights against evil and shouts with endearing resolve, “That’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more!” Godly anger is heroic. It subverts the power of evil by championing the truth.-Sarah Sumner
A HEALTHY temper without harming anyone is a divine gift that strengthens us to stand bravely against evil.
The world is full of wrong kind of anger. Verbal aggression with derogatory and hurtful words has ruined many lives. Domestic violence, assault and frequent outbursts of anger change the home intended as a place of safety in life’s battlefield. We are mostly negative towards any form of anger. When someone raises his or her voice, we immediately begin to defend ourselves or crawl into our shell. The world’s steamtrain of rage continues to boil over and we read more and more about violent crime, road rage, passion murder and violence against children.
The church’s response to the anger epidemic is mostly an unrealistic disregard for anger. Most Christians try to contain their anger, reason away, or incite with just such devastating results.
Righteous, Divine Wrath
However, Jesus shows us that there is a place for righteous divine wrath. We know that Jesus never sinned, yet he became angry. Jesus shows His love for the Father and His Father’s house by chasing out all the money changers with a whip. “The love for Your house has consumed me.” (John 2: 13-22). Is not love also sometimes a passionate moment of anger over injustice or wrong? When I defend my wife and step in for her, is it not exactly a confession of my love? True love is not lame, is it?
Surely Peter did not feel much loved when Jesus rebuked him? “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:23). Yet Jesus’ stern admonition is not rejection, for just a few days later Peter accompanies Jesus to the transfiguration on the mountain (Matt. 17: 1-5).
Only parents will understand that no education takes place without a periodic serious admonition and visible disapproval of an act that could harm the child. On the other hand, Jesus would not be known as a moody, angry man. He shows compassion and empathy with the weak and outcasts. Yet He does not turn a blind eye to the so-called religious leaders of that time openly addressing their double standards and falsehood.
Jesus’ anger is based on and born out of true love and not out of self or power. In this time in which we live, we need more than ever to learn to understand Jesus’ anger and grow in it in our own application. For a world without righteous wrath becomes a world without rules. Everything is then permissible, that evil, lies and corruption must be accepted in silence. Jesus’ love was not passive. On the contrary, his anger is commendable and necessary. It proves how serious He is about our safety and healthy survival.
Some people may get overwhelmed when a preacher shout-preaches from beginning to end in his sermon. This type of screaming voice confuses people. Think about it. Who else in our lives is yelling at us to make a point? A Parent whose patience is running out? A terribly manipulative boss? If you grow up in a household that is full of aggression and where there is always shouting, it makes you deaf, because shouting causes anxiety.
Screaming preaching confuses people about God’s attitude toward them.
Many people sit in churches around the world and accept that the pastor speaks on behalf of God. Is God then angry with us? What we communicate is just as important as how we communicate. Many times, Jesus sat and taught the people (Matt. 5: 1; Luke 4:20; Luke 5: 3; John 8: 2). One cannot likely sit and shout.
Volume and fervor affect the emotions and people make emotional decisions, but it is not always persistent.
“What satan hates more than when you shouted at him is your obedience to Jesus.”
You do not preach people right with God by yelling at them. The simple question is: Do people change? Preaching guilt every week does not make them holy. Jesus never raised His voice or shouted in His preaching.
Jesus knew exactly when anger would have the greatest effect. Anger is therefore merely one of the tools in His toolbox to move us and lead us to the truth. So Jesus was not always angry. Any child will tell you that a gentle, engaging, loving parent’s anger over a wrong thing and an injustice is life-changing.
True, Righteous, Divine Wrath is Like Salt
It preserves and is an antidote to inner corruption and pride. Sometimes we become so caught up in our own self-righteousness and excuses that someone’s divine admonition and rebuke frightens us. This anger is rooted in an indisputable truth that one simply cannot deny or disregard. Too much salt is unbearable and indigestible and raises one’s blood pressure, but a little salt gives taste.
We know what is right, but because no one stands up in truth and defends it, we become comfortable, cynical, bitter and harsh. This list is all examples of unprocessed, pent-up anger that sweeps innocent people away completely unexpectedly – like a tsunami.
Millions of people are victims of injustice, evil, and sin. However, no one has been taught how to express healthy anger towards what is wrong. False humility teaches that we should just accept everything when embarrassed and remain silent. Jesus teaches: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17: 3). This word, rebuked, is explained in the context of a pupil pointing out an error to a teacher or principal. One does it with respect, you have your facts right, and your tone does not become personal or demeaning.
Maybe conflict management should be a compulsory subject in school. Everyone makes mistakes, but when our mistakes hurt other people, then we need to be able to talk about them. Because we mostly try to avoid conflict, we are clumsy and inexperienced in our handling of something that is wrong.
Forgiveness in Conflict
Divine temper is always accompanied by forgiveness. Forgiveness removes the poison from anger and holds people accountable for their actions. This is a fine balance. Jesus forgave His murderers, and He asked the Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. Yet, each person will be held accountable for his or her actions. Forgiveness disarms the suffocating power of bitterness and retribution. God will repay.
When we have truly forgiven, we can address the person who is wrong, because we are no longer the victim of the transgression. A woman whose husband beats her can address and report the offense candidly and calmly, because the offender is the real victim. She is no longer going to validate his abuse by staying with him. She takes a stand against injustice so that therapeutic recovery can begin with the offender. This is what Jesus’ healthy anger does to you. It empowers you against injustice, as Jesus took a stand against the exploitation of gullible saints when He cleansed the temple. In this way He also wants to empower us to take a stand and act without reluctance, revenge retaliation. Apart from the noise, a pile of gunpowder ignited remotely could not harm. But a little gunpowder compressed in a bullet can kill someone.
Of course, Jesus’ anger does not kill, it gives life (John 10:10). Years ago, a certain farmer’s farm went through devastating fires for two consecutive years. The last few months he became very moody and short of temper, and his wife asked us to come and see him. On the way home, the Holy Spirit spoke to me not to moralize his anger, because it was his anger that kept him going. Anger is energy. Anger is often an expression of desperate powerlessness. We must learn to distinguish between divine, healthy types of anger, and destructive anger.
When Is Anger Sin?
The Bible clearly shows when anger is destructive and ultimately self-destructive:
- When it is Unresolved Anger: “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). Deal with injustice quickly and help a person to see and confess the error (Luke 17: 1-5). When we brood over a case, we start keeping a “court case” in our head where we want to be both the prosecutor and the judge. Rather factually speak a matter and learn how to calmly address something that is wrong. Unresolved anger eventually gives the devil a chance and makes us puppets in his hand. Sinful wrath is like acid, but divine wrath is like soap. We must be very careful that our anger does not become sour in us.
- When It’s Unfair and Demeaning: “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matt. 5:22). Some commentators conclude that all anger is wrong and that we should simply never get angry with our siblings. But Paul quotes David in Ephesians 4:26 where he says: “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” (Ps. 4: 5). So you can get angry, but you just must not sin. The sin that Jesus clearly points out here is:
- To be angry with someone for no good reason. You are therefore angry without the matter being discussed and the guilty party is being lawfully convicted.
- When you name someone and belittle the person. The word, raka, can also be translated as worthless, idiot, useless. This wording is in direct opposition to: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27). Every human being should be treated with dignity and is essentially, at the core of Jesus’ ministry and preaching.
- Note that the person who blames himself or herself for this sin of wrong anger will be judged. They will therefore not be free from God’s retribution.
- Depressed Like Cain: “…but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” (Gen. 4: 5-6). Cain’s murder is the first transgression of one man against another man. He felt wronged by God, but took it out on his brother. After all, God did not accept his sacrifice, but preferred Abel’s sacrifice. His case was then against God, wasn’t it? Someone who feels too close, offended or offended, falls into a trap like a bird and cannot get out of it himself. For our own spiritual survival, it is essential that we learn not to take offense! “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Prov. 18:19). “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11). “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2: 24-26).
- When It’s Impulsive: “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools.” (Eccl. 7: 9). “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (Jas. 1: 19-20). The problem with a quick temper is that, like Judge Dred, you just want to settle a case before you have gathered all the facts, and also want to carry out the punishment yourself. This is unreasonable and unfair. Would you be happy with the same treatment? Speak a case and get all the first-hand evidence, then you can decide a case. Many people excuse themselves and claim they could not control their anger. This is simply not true, because if the phone were to ring, you would find it within yourself to answer in a controlled manner. However, you do not want to control your anger. You chose this anger for yourself. No one is forced to do anything.
- When God’s Image is Dishonored: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression.” (Prov. 29:22). Anger is energy, and some people enjoy the fear that their mood inspires. The problem is, you become a very lonely figure and will eventually have no real friendships left. Anger could become such a part of your character that this is all that people will remember about you. It is a terrible violation of God’s purpose of creation with your life, because we were all created for the purpose of being like Jesus (Rom. 8:29).
- When Truth is Diverted: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (1 Tim. 2: 8). “…he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Tim. 6: 4-5). Some people always find something to argue about. They want to disagree on everything as if only their opinion matters. Jesus is the truth and perfect in everything He does and says. He does not need to get involved in battles. “He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.” (Matt. 12:19). However, the Bible gives the origin and true reason for strife: hatred and lovelessness (Prov. 10:12) and self-exaltation (Prov. 13:10).
- When it is the precursor to physical violence and assault. The obvious signs of sudden anger are usually a red face, swollen necks, clenched fists and a stutter. The angry person’s vision can become blurred, because anger has a negative effect on the part of the brain that deals with sight. Dr. Walter Cannon, a researcher in psychosomatic medicine at Harvard University, describes it very clearly: “Respiration deepens; the heart beats more rapidly; the arterial pressure rises; the blood is shifted from the stomach and intestines to the heart, central nervous system, and the muscles; the processes of the alimentary canal cease; sugar is freed from the reserves in the liver; the spleen contracts and discharges its contents of concentrated corpuscles, and adrenalin is secreted.” – James C. Hefley.
What Angered Jesus?
The word rebuke occurs 29 times in the NT. Other translations of the word are reproach, reproof, barre, censure, command, scold, criticize, tell-off. In English, the word literally means “straightly charge”, “slap on the wrist” or “beat back”. It is clear to see the healthy anger behind this action: it’s focus is on what is wrong.
We usually only have an impression of Jesus’ meekness. We do not want to see or receive this harder side of Jesus. After all, was it not the strict but fair teachers who had the greatest impact in our lives? Parenting is not just about providing a child with food and clothing – it primarily involves effective education. Jesus reveals the heart of the Father by wanting to see us grow into maturity in our creative purpose.
- FIRM COMMAND: Jesus casts out the demons with a firm command. “And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.” (Matt. 17:18. See also: Mark 1:25; 9:25; Luke 4:35, 41; 9:42). Jesus’ displeasure and firm conduct toward demons also show His authority over them. He does not enter into conversation with them. He rebukes them with the contempt they deserve. This moral authority that Jesus exercises lies at the heart of our own victory over evil. On the one hand we want to report the evil spirits under the table, but above the table we want to rebuke them. In the spirit-world, this falsehood was very quickly exposed, as what happened to the sons of Sceva (Acts 19: 13-17). The demons know the truth. The question is do you know the truth? Do you believe that there is only one God? “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (Jas. 2:19). What is the truth behind your anger energy? Some people get angry because their honor is injured. This anger brings destruction because it is empty. Behind Jesus’ anger is a straight line of living right, thinking right, and speaking right. This power of persuasion is the key to Jesus’ ministry. That is why people were often amazed at His words.
- “WHY ARE YOU…?” Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4: 35-41). The disciples are actually indignant: “…do you not care that we perish?” (v. 38). Nature’s anger subsides in a few seconds before His authority. One can hear the frustration in Jesus’ question: “Why are you afraid? Do you not have faith? ” (v. 40). After all that Jesus explained and demonstrated to them, they are still full of unbelief. Jesus’ healthy temper exposes the false motives of their temper. Their faith is still passive and they still expect Him to do the works instead of understanding God’s will in faith and living according to it.
- “YOU DO NOT KNOW….” Jesus rebukes the sons of thunder. As we work through all of these Scripture passages, one repeatedly sees the misplaced anger of man. The following section is a perfect example. Jesus sends some of His disciples ahead to a Samaritan village to arrange accommodation for Him. However, they did not want to receive Him. Scripture gives the spiritual reason: His time to be taken up into heaven was approaching (v. 51) and He was on His way to Jerusalem (v. 53). However, James and John become very indignant. They simply want to call fire from heaven to destroy the town (Luke 9: 51-56). Their misplaced anger is very clear. They were never to call fire from heaven, only Elijah could manage it. Jesus had also never mentioned that it is was part of His ministry plan to destroy villages with fire! Jesus severely rebuked and silenced them. “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” (v. 55). Admittedly, they do not know that they are operating entirely from a spirit opposing Jesus.
- LOVE IS PASSIONATE: Jesus’ love for His Father’s house consumes Him (John 2: 13-21; Matt. 21: 12-13; Mark 11: 15-17; Luke 19: 45-46). These are some of the few stories about Jesus that all four Gospel writers report on. We focus on the whip that He sat and braided in time, but the real miracle is how He emptied an entire marketplace full of money changers, sheep and cattle. In this case, Jesus’ voice echoed against the walls and with the help of a whip, he chased the animals out of the place. He demonstrates on this day how He not only exposes the abuse of an entire organization, but also acts and brings order. It must have cost courage! Even before the temple police or priests could protest, Jesus overturned the tables and forcibly chased the whole group of people apart. Jesus’ love for His Father and His children was driven to an emotional high on that day. He could no longer tolerate the injustice to continue! May we also be filled with a holy divine wrath for what is right!
- INSIST: Jesus becomes Indignant Towards His Disciples: “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark. 10:13-14). The fact that Jesus became indignant is a revelation. However, once again, his unhappiness is not selfish or misplaced. This time it’s about the kids. The Greek word here is aganaktasen which literally means “full of sorrow”. So Jesus was sad-angry. Hear a child’s giggle and their unconditional love, spontaneity and freedom – that’s where Jesus wants us again! We are spiritually mature when we rediscover this childlike faith and love.
- “GET BEHIND ME…” Jesus Rebukes Peter:. “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:22-23) Peter falls in the blink of an eye from the high spiritual position he held moments before. The Father revealed to him that Jesus is the Messiah, but Peter was in too much of a hurry to see the whole picture. He did not see the price the Messiah had to pay because he was still blinded by his own ego. Perhaps he saw a position of honor with Christ. Either way, he still thinks like a human being. His flesh-driven comment is cut short by Jesus turning around and looking him straight in the face: “Get behind me satan!” Scripture says that Peter took Jesus aside and, like a friend, put his arms around his partner, came to stand beside him. He suddenly considers himself equal to Jesus, totally ignorant of Jesus’ cup that He should drink. Haven’t we all, in total ignorance after a spiritual camp or special service, undertaken to join family members so little? Again without any understanding of God’s processes.
- “JESUS WEPT…” Jesus Shows Grief at Lazarus’ Tomb. At this time of Jesus’ ministry, it was dangerous for Him to be in Jerusalem. He was almost arrested and stoned by the Jews a few days earlier (John 11: 8; 10:31, 39). The family knows this and therefore the short message: “The one you love is very sick” (v. 3). Their words show their respect and faith in Jesus as well as their boldness towards Him – He is their friend. They have often helped Him and He will help them too. As usual, the disciples were more focused on themselves than on the Lord. They do not understand Jesus’ words and they draw the wrong conclusions. Jesus must explain to them directly what He means when He first says Lazarus is asleep, because they do not understand. Thomas’ words, that they are going to die with Lazarus, indicate his usual pessimism. Thomas, the doubter was worried about his own life (John 14: 5; 20: 24-29) so Jesus knew Lazarus was dead, yet He did not go there immediately. God wants to use the circumstances for His glory. Jesus says He is glad that He did not go immediately, for the Father is going to glorify the Son (v. 4).
- “DIDN’T I TELL YOU…” Friendship is a lever, an invisible bond that compels you to help. People will do anything for their friends. Friendship is an emotional commodity. Jesus offers His friendship and love, but does not let Him commit. That Jesus did not come immediately must have been a bitter pill for Martha and Mary to swallow. Jesus’ actions run counter to most people’s understanding of friendship. “If You were here, Lazarus would have lived.” They lightly reproach Jesus’ absence (John 11:21; 32). Even the mourners and spectators reproach Him (John 11:37). “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have stopped this man from dying?” But Martha and Mary do not take offense. Both Mary and Martha express their faith: I believe (John 11: 7) – she acknowledges Jesus as the chosen Anointed One (Messiah: Christ – cf. John 1:20, 41); the Son of God (cf. John 1:34, 39; 10:36); and the Prophet sent into the world (cf. John 3:31) to make God known to men. In one breath an important testimony about Christ. However, Jesus’ tears point to the pain in this relationship (John 11:38). He has told them on more than one occasion that He is going to die. Here at the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus sees His death. He had to think of the burden of sin of these people that He would soon have to bear, and they do not see it.
Jesus’ Motive in Anger: Relationship
The Greek word for “groaning”, embrimaomai (em-brim-ah-om-ahee); Strong’s # 1690: Derived from en, “in,” and brime, “strength.” The word is used to express anger (Mark 14: 5), to indicate a speaking or acting with deep feeling (John 11:33, 38), and for stern admonishment (Matt. 9:30; Mark 1:43); to roar, storm with anger; to be enraged, indignant, to express indignation against someone.
Since Christ and Mary were friends, it is likely that His deep emotion was due to His inner protest against their indifference, ignorance, and blindness, that His own impending death and suffering is not shown for their sake. Our greatest sadness in any friendship is when your friend(s) do not see you. Your partner does not see your heart, does not see your suffering, sorrow or grief. It is the one single sin / transgression that can send any relationship down the road and eventually destroy it. The person closest to me does not see me!
Jesus’ love is greater than our transgressions. He still gives His life and forgives us. Jesus overcomes this deep pain that gives us a beautiful look at His humanity: “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ He raises Lazarus! Finally, eternal friendship is only possible in Christ when we are resurrected with Him, in His glory. All the romantic eternal declarations of love are false and short-sighted. Eternal commitment is only possible in Christ. Jesus reproaches them for their unbelief. “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” (Mark 16:14).
Oneidos: Insult, offense. To defame, disparage, reproach. Generally, it means to rail at, revile, assail with abusive words. “Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ... But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”.” (Matt. 11: 20-24).
It helps us to see that Jesus also sometimes has a divine sense of reproach towards people’s stubbornness. He never opened His heart to respond to them and wipe them out. Yet He expressed His frustration and made it clear to them that they were standing before the judgment of a holy God. “Unbelieving and degenerate generation,” Jesus said, “how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? (Matt. 17:17). It is a staggering reality to know that many did not believe in God’s perfect example! Jesus’ aggression against the Pharisees and scribes. “And when he had looked round about on them with indignation, and was grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he said unto the man, Stretch forth your hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored, healthy as the other one. ” (Mark 3: 5).
Jesus is angry with good reason. But He lives what He preaches: He does not repay wrong with wrong. He heals the man before their eyes! Paul, later put it well: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21). Jesus also addresses them directly about their falsehood, double standards and lust for power (Matt. 23: 13-36; Luke 11: 45-54). Once again, Jesus shows us the best way to live. You are not to gossip about something that someone is doing wrong, you are to address them directly. If their transgression had been committed in public, then you are also to address the error in public.
Jesus restrains his displeasure with the leper: “Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him …“If You are willing, You can make me clean. … As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him.... And He strictly warned him …“See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, … However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely …so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, …” (Mark 1:40-45).
The oldest manuscripts use the word orgistheis but it has now been translated to splanchnistheis. The meaning is diverse. The first, older translation says Jesus was indignant. The context of the passage confirms this: Jesus is love, and out of love He puts His own life and reputation at stake to touch lepers. Jesus therefore gives the leper specific instructions which he completely disregards, and: “As a result, so many people began to surround Jesus that it became impossible for Him to enter any town openly. He had to stay outside in remote places. Yet people still came to Him from everywhere. ” (v. 45). Jesus wants to heal us, but He also wants to teach us to maintain our healing and live as healthy people. Faith-obedience is how we stay healthy! (Deut. 28).