I love football. I love just about everything about it. I especially love it when my team wins. That makes me glad. One thing is curious though, football coaches are often not glad. In fact, they get downright mad, and no one thinks anything about it. They even pitch fits that would be outrageous in other contexts. That's true in other sports as well. The fans love it when the baseball manager kicks dirt on the umpire. It's almost like it's part of the game. Even Christian ball coaches lose their temper, and it's normal. But what does God think about it? What does God think about our anger?
Well, there's not a single verse in the bible that says that human anger is okay. In fact, the Scriptures are chockfull with admonitions against anger. Paul says that we're to put off all anger and malice (Eph. 4:31). All is kind of all-inclusive. And James tells us that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:20). We could cite many more, but those two verses are sufficient to make the point.
What about Eph. 4:26 which says "be angry and do not sin?" Some take that as a command as well as a justification for righteous anger. The problem is that the phrase "be angry" is in the passive voice. Think about that. I hit the ball is active voice. I was hit by the ball is passive voice. So, what Paul is saying is that when you’re hit by the ball, don’t get angry; when something outside of you happens to you, don't respond in anger. A better translation would be "when you're provoked, do not sin (by becoming angry)."
What about God? We know He’s angry. He is, but He's not arbitrary or capricious like us. He doesn't fly off the handle like us. I know someone who got angry, kicked a wall, and broke his foot. God doesn’t do that. His anger, or wrath, is a steady and abiding hatred of sin. We can have that too, yet, it doesn't look like kicking a wall in anger or rage. I hate abortion, but I'm not raging about my office right now because of it. At the same time, while I'm to image God, I can never be exactly like God. I'm a sinner, albeit a redeemed one.
Some will talk about Jesus driving people out of the temple with a whip. What about that anger? First, if it was anger, it wasn't a human outburst of anger. It was divine wrath. Second, the text never tells us Jesus was angry. It's dangerous to ascribe our emotions to God whether Father, Son, or Spirit. Third, in John's account, an emotion is ascribed to Jesus: zeal for God's house. Zeal is a strong emotion, but it's not anger. We ought to be zealous for God's glory, truth, reality, ways, etc.
If there is a distinction between human righteous indignation and human anger, so be it. The reality is that most (if not all) of the time our anger is in fact sin. We're told to put it off and replace it with things like love, grace, contentment, and peace. The good news is that you can. The Spirit works to help us. We need to work on thinking right about anger, making a decision not to respond in anger, and trust God that we're going to feel a lot better when we respond in love. None of us want to be angry persons; we want to be peaceful persons. There's an old television commercial that sums it up nicely; don't get mad, get glad.
Dr. Dean and Christi Johnson invite you to learn more about God, His world, and yourself. Listen to their podcast, True Worldview, and find other helpful resources there as well.