Is anger a sin?

Film Title: The Incredible HulkA couple of Sundays ago, my Church 101 membership class was challenged with the question, “Is anger a sin?” Along with that was the observation that Jesus was angry when he cleared the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem. So the follow up question is, “Is there such a thing as righteous indignation (or anger?)”

Good question. My initial response was, “Anger is an emotion, one that we were created with, along with feelings like joy, fear and sorrow.” However, I quickly remembered Jesus’ teaching that anyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment (Matthew 5:22). Doesn’t sound good for those who think they have kept the commandment, “You shall not murder.”

On the other hand, you Paul’s admonition, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26) suggests that anger and sin could be mutually exclusive.

OK, time to do a little more research. The accounts of Jesus clearing out the temple do not explicitly mention his anger. He was visibly upset when he overturns tables and uses a whip to clear the room. But the text doesn’t actually mention anger.

The bible does say that Jesus was angry when (1) the disciples tried to keep children away from him (Mark 10:13-14) and (2) when the religious leaders won’t answer an obvious question (Mark 3:1-5). Of course, Jesus didn’t sin, so his anger isn’t sinful. But I need to remember that I am not Jesus.

The most insightful information comes from James 1:19-20. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” In our sinfulness, anger may be justified, but rarely gets us where we want to go. We are unable to harness it for the right time and purpose. While God is often angry in the Old Testament when his people worship other gods, we’re not God and we need his help, his forgiveness and his grace in dealing with our anger.

We know we can’t justify our behavior. We are justified by faith alone, right? (Romans 3:28)? Rather than trying to answer that question outright, it’s better to flee for refuge to his infinite mercy, seeking forgiveness for the sake of Christ.

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