Evaluating Our Anger in the Current Crisis

Along with the devastation and tumult that has characterized much of our experience in 2020, and now 2021, we have felt the added burden of the common responses people have had to all that has occurred. I know I’m not the only one who has spent some time scrolling social media in the past year feeling like it was the emotional equivalent to walking through a car wash. And while it’s easy to think of the problems as existing “out there,” we need to take the time to assess whether our responses have been glorifying to God and loving toward others.

In this post, let’s consider the sin of anger. For you, is there a need for repentance here? Is there room for growth as you are tempted by the headlines and the posts that seem to assault you each time you wake up your phone? In considering this, we first need to admit that there is a such a thing as righteous anger, and certainly, there is much in our world right now to legitimately provoke it. However, just because something morally wrong has occurred does not automatically mean that a person’s angry response to it is righteously angry. That is a convenient label, for sure, but Paul wrote these words for a reason: “Repay no one evil for evil” (Romans 12:17). It is common for unrighteousness to be met with unrighteousness, so a healthy suspicion of our hearts would have us consider whether, the vast majority of the time, our angry responses are the kind that God rebukes.

To help us determine this, it is beneficial to evaluate why we are angry at the wicked acts that we perceive in our world. Specifically ask yourself, “Am I at the center of this anger or is God at the center?” When we become sinfully angry, it is an indication that our cherished idols have been threatened. James 4:2 describes this clearly: “You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” What idol(s) have you exalted to the throne of your affections, the throne that belongs to Christ alone? Is it certain rights or privileges that you don’t want to imagine living without? Is it being seen as right? Is it being respected by others? Is it wanting people to agree with you and see things from your point of view? There is nothing wrong with these desires in and of themselves, but when they provoke a biting tone, sarcastic comments, harsh accusations, slanderous statements, and vengeful behavior, they indicate that you (and what you want) are at the center of this anger instead of God.

Robert Jones, in his book, Uprooting Anger, helps us see this when he says, “Righteous anger is accompanied by other godly qualities and expresses itself in godly ways. Righteous anger remains self-controlled. It keeps its head without cursing, screaming, raging, or flying off the handle. Nor does it spiral downward in self-pity or despair. It does not ignore people, snub people, or withdraw from people.”¹ Simply put, righteous anger does not act unrighteously.

What does this say about how you have responded to the turmoil of the last several months? Does it reflect a heart that is devoted to God before all others? Does it reflect the heart of the psalmist who prays, “Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law” (119:53) or, “I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands” (119:158)? The heart of the psalmist in these texts is centered on the reality that God’s law has been abandoned by the wicked. He is not offended because he has been dishonored, but because God has been dishonored.

My desire for us in grasping this truth is that it would cause us to pause when we find our hearts provoked to anger. And if we detect that our anger is rooted in self instead of God, that we would restrain ourselves from inserting more immorality into the world through a sinful response that would displease God and harm those made in His image. May that moment of pause lead to moments of confession and prayer to God, and encouraging words that seek to exalt God before the eyes of a world that desperately needs Him.

Finally, we will not grow in our ability to feel and express righteous anger unless we know our righteous God in greater degree. This will require more time in His Word, meditating on His character and the reality that His anger against us was poured out on Jesus instead (Romans 3:23-25; Isaiah 53:10). God has exhibited indescribable love toward you in Christ. Therefore, He is worthy of your “hot indignation” when He is dishonored.

 1. Robert Jones, Uprooting Anger (Phillipsburg, NJ: P and R Publishing), p. 29.

Note: This article originally appeared on thecbcd.org. We encourage you to visit the Center for Biblical Discipleship and Counseling where you can find helpful, biblical resources by a number of trusted pastors and authors.

Brent Osterberg