Visited my mom’s grave today with a bouquet of red roses as a farewell before I go back home to my father’s place. Still feels so unreal to know she’s buried six feet under… I guess I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that she’s gone.
I know of my spiritual poverty, my own nothingness without faith. I am so weak, that it is only by Christ’s name that I live and obtain peace, that I rejoice and my heart expands, whilst without Him I am spiritually dead, I am troubled, and my heart is oppressed; without the Lord’s Cross I should have been long since the victim of the most cruel distress and despair. Only Christ keeps me alive: and the Cross is my peace and my consolation.
When Christians act in anger, a lot of them will jump to the example of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple court. They say, “See! Jesus got angry. It’s not a sin and my anger is righteous.” This is true, anger is not a sin. Jesus did get angry and there are numerous examples of God’s anger burning against the Israelites (and a lot of other people). But here is another question to think about: Give me another example of a time when Jesus got angry besides the temple thing.
I’ve read the Gospels a bunch of times. Yes, there were times when Jesus got a little feisty, like when He said, “Get behind me Satan” to Peter in Matthew 16. There were also times when he expressed somewhat of displeasure with people for not having enough faith. Some of this may be us humans inflecting our own imperfections on Jesus’s attitude. I would also suggest the displeasure is not the same as anger. In fact, I would argue that aside from the temple incident, anger is not the typical reaction of Jesus, and thus, it shouldn’t be for the Christian either.
Let’s take a closer look at the temple incident:
Matthew 21:12 - 13 - Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
A couple of things you have to note here. The sin of the money changers wasn’t just selling things, although church probably isn’t the place for that. They were saying that the animals people brought to the temple were imperfect (so they couldn’t be used for sacrifice) and then forcing them to buy their animals for an increased fee. It was lying and greed.
And here is what fascinates me about Jesus’ anger. Of the few (if only ) true times we see Him get angry, it is over something that, to the people of that day, seemed completely normal. Jesus doesn’t get angry over the things of the world, He gets angry over sin and corruption.
But if sin causes Jesus to be angry, and His anger is a rarity, does that mean sin is also a rarity? Of course not! It just means that anger is not to be our primary response to sin. In Ephesians 4, Paul is writing about spiritual maturity. He quotes Psalms and writes:
Ephesians 4: 26 - 27 - “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
He doesn’t write, “don’t be angry,” but merely to be careful of how you act in anger because it can lead to sin. Anger can be so destructive that Paul writes that it can even let the Devil into your life. Later on, in verse 32, Paul gives us the remedy. He says to be kind and compassion, just as Jesus was. This is to be our primary response to the trouble of this world, just as it was Jesus’ initial reaction when he encountered sin.
Anger is not inherently bad, but it is a product of sin (if there was no sin we would have no reason to get angry), it can be misguided, and it can lead to more sin and frustration. Yes, anger can come from a righteous place when it is like a fire that burns for seeing God’s will be done in this world. But it is not how we should respond every time. Instead of being driven to anger in our righteousness, we should receive Christ’ righteousness, bestowed unto us with His sacrifice on the cross, and extend the hand of compassion to others just as it was extended to us by God. Yes, be passionate! But let that passion fuel your good works and not your anger.