Jesus lived as a human (John 1:14). As such, He experienced emotions. He displayed these emotions frequently. Just like us!! We are emotional beings. Love is the basis of our faith. Love. Love is an extreme emotion, and when we open ourselves up to one extreme, the opposite (anger and grief, for example) is also possible. Not only did Jesus experience these same extreme emotions as us, but He showed us the proper way to handle them. With that, I will be spending the next few weeks focusing on the human emotions of Christ and how they relate to us.
Some (believers and non-believers alike) feel that anger is a sin. Those people would be wrong. It says in the Old Testament 375 times that God got angry, which leads Mark Driscoll to point out, “Anger is not a sin because God feels anger and God never sins.”
So what made Jesus angry?
Most go straight to Jesus and the temple (John 2:13-22). He walks in, sees what’s going on, turns into The Hulk, and drives everyone out with a whip while flipping over their tables. Todd Nighswonger says, “We tend to think of Jesus as half-Ghandi, half-Mr. Rogers. But can you imagine what He must have looked like in Jerusalem when that indignation took over? You can tell a lot about what a person loves by what they hate…and Jesus loved people. Jesus loved God. He hated anything that kept people from experiencing God.”
I went to a movie on Saturday. It cost us $20 for two tickets…yet over $20 for some popcorn, a couple beverages, and a box of candy. While stupid, we’ve grown to adapt and even accept that in our economy. Jesus was angry because this garbage was going on in a place of worship. The poor were being taken advantage of and even prevented from worshipping because of this. Naturally, He didn’t take too kindly to that.
Dan Kimball: Some have made Jesus out to be an angry, avenging figure. Instead of having compassion and love for sinners, he has only anger and points his finger at their sins to condemn them.
There is an unfortunate misperception about Jesus. Many non-believers see Jesus as Kimball describes—and who can blame them when many Christians hide behind Christ as a way to judge the world and their “fallen ways”? Christ is not angry at the person who curses. He is not angry at the lustful man. He is not angry at the homosexual. We are—and that attitude is keeping many from knowing the Truth. This image of Jesus is one we have presented, and if nothing else, that’s the kind of thing that makes Him mad.
Jesus displayed anger at those who used their higher rank in society to judge the lower class. Judah Smith says “Jesus’s harshest words were directed at the sanctimonious Pharisees (who) made careers out of ridiculing broken souls. They imposed judgment without mercy, punishment without love, criticism without understanding. In the name of hating sin, the Pharisees ended up hating sinners.” Many of us have become the Pharisees.
Anything harmful to children also made Christ angry. In Matthew 18:6, Jesus says, “…should you lead a child to sin, you’d be better off tying a stone around your neck and drowning in the sea.” That’s pretty hardcore. Committing a sin is one thing, but if you directly lead an innocent child to sin, you’re better off killing yourself. That is righteous anger.
Are you noticing a pattern yet? Jesus did get angry, but look at what made Him so: Injustice, deceit, inhumanity, abuse—pretty much any harmful action towards someone (or a group of someones) who were too poor, weak, or young to defend themselves. As human beings, we’re going to get angry. As Christians, we’re allowed to get angry, but these are the things that should spark our ire.
Edward Rutland: Show me your anger, and I’ll show you my passion. We should get angry at the things that anger God. We should get angry when His reputation is maligned. We should get angry when people construct barriers to worship God (Jesus at the temple). We should get angry when there is injustice.
How angry are you thinking about the things that are said or done “in Jesus’s name”? The KKK claimed (still claim) to be a Christian organization. There are entire churches who will picket outside of funerals for military men and women…for homosexuals…telling their family that they deserved to die. Does that make you angry? It should. Those were the kinds of things that angered Christ as well. As Christians we have every right to take action against Christian hypocrisy that clearly misrepresents God. If we take no action…we are basically condoning the hypocrisy that can lead people away from the truth of God.
Once again, take note of what did make Christ angry, then look at what did not: When He wasn’t received, even in His own hometown…When the disciples fought over who was His favorite…When one of His closest friends betrayed Him…When one of His closest friends denied knowing Him…When lies sent Him to His death…When He was mocked…When He was beaten…When He was nailed to the cross. Here, He could have been angry, but He acted in love.
Perry Noble: Appropriate anger responds justly to injustice or evil. It is a controlled, selfless anger. Appropriate anger leads to action, which calls attention to, diminishes or outright destroys the wrongdoing that caused it. Inappropriate anger seeks to repay evil for evil, exacting vengeance on others. Inappropriate anger is selfish and doesn’t make things better.
For most of my teenaged-and-early-adulthood life, whenever I became angry, I spit out words faster than my mind could process them. Consequently, I said a lot of hurtful things to a lot of people I loved. Stupid things. Things I couldn’t take back, no matter how much I apologized. Smith says, “When you’re in the heat of the moment, typically what you really believe comes out.”
Smith is absolutely right, and that’s why we have to be extremely careful when anger strikes. Matthew 5:21-22 tells us that while murder is a sin and cause for judgment, so is calling someone a fool out of anger. James 1:19-20 tells us to be slow to anger “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” But the one that has hit me the hardest is Romans 2:1, which says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Often the sins we notice are the ones that we also struggle with the most.
Ready for some hard truth? Smith: No sooner do I conquer a bad habit than I become the biggest critic of anyone who still does what I just stopped doing. I make up rules to fit my standard of living, then I judge you by them. If you follow my rules, you are a good person. If you break my rules, you are a bad person. If you have stricter rules than me, you’re a prude who needs to lighten up.
Furthermore, I honestly believe that God has a sense of humor about this stuff. If you’re going to lash out in anger at someone, my money is on God finding a way to humble you in the same regard. Steph is remarkable about pouring her coffee in the morning. I’m not sure how she does it, but she’ll leave splashes of coffee on the counter and floor every day. I actually find it more humorous than irksome, but the other day I spoke up. “It’s amazing how messy you can be doing something as simple as pouring coffee,” I said. It was meant as a joke, but I realized that it had some bite in it as well. As I left for school the next morning, I bent over to pet Sadie goodbye…and spilled my coffee on the ground. I’ve been taking my coffee to school with me every day for two years, and that’s the first time I’ve done that. I literally laughed and said out loud, “Touché, God.”
Righteous, appropriate, God-sanctioned anger. Unrighteous, inappropriate, selfish anger. Those are your options. Suppressing anger is not one. Ephesians 4:26 lets us know that we need to deal with out anger promptly. Just because you don’t release that frustration doesn’t mean that it’s gone. You have two choices in your anger: Show God’s love or behave in a way that Biblically angers Him. The big question is—how?
Take a moment. When you’re fuming, it’s the worst time to speak. To act. When Jesus went off at the temple, He made a whip first. You understand that that would have taken a decent amount of time, right? But He took the time before acting and speaking. For years, in my frustration, my words were a weapon. Now…I control them (most of the time). The angrier I feel, the quieter I become. I process what I want to say and how I want to say it. I control what comes out of my mouth. This also allows me time to decide if what is upsetting me is even worth getting angry over. It also leads to more calm, rational, and constructive discussions with the person I’m angry with instead of shouting matches that could turn nasty. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes disciplined practice.
What frustrates us? Typically, when people don’t listen to us, right? The next time that you’re frustrated because someone isn’t listening to you, take a quick second to remember that you do the same thing to Christ every day. Does it frustrate Him? Yes. What does He do? He’s patient. He tries to help you understand that what you’re doing is frustrating Him and how you can fix it. Because He loves you. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to tell the person that you’re frustrated. But at the same time, show patience. Show love. Help them understand why it frustrates you.
Apologize. Be honest—when someone angers you, it’s probably because they are reacting to something you did that angered them. That’s how 99 percent of my fights with Steph start. Steph will complain about something I’ve done (or haven’t done)—and she’s usually right, I have (or have not) done what she’s complaining about—but instead of apologizing, I take offense, respond in anger, and a fight begins. It’s stupid. If I just apologize, Steph will feel better, no argument will occur, which means I will not become angry. Still…apologizing (especially if you feel that you haven’t done anything wrong) is hard. That’s why it’s so beautiful. Driscoll: The natural way to respond to evil is with evil…It takes more courage, strength, and dignity to be like Christ than to instigate further evil.
Know what feels good? Giving. Are you angry? Frustrated? Do or say something kind to someone else. Know someone who is also struggling? Send a loving text. Give them a hug. It’s remarkable how quickly your own anger lessens when you help someone else lose theirs.
Jesus was human. He felt emotion. He felt anger, yet He did not sin. We are human. We feel emotion. We feel anger, yet we should avoid sin. Ephesians 4:26 says “In your anger, do not sin…” meaning that we’re allowed to feel anger; it’s how we respond that displays our faith. Simply put: Satan can use your anger or God can. In whose hands will you trust?
Bonus: A pretty solid “How to Deal with Anger” article by Rick Warren.