What are the things that makes us angry? A traffic jam, stubbed toe, disrespectful slight, someone who didn’t keep an appointment with you, or a surprise assignment that will take all night? Anger is emotional frustration. It often arises when our path is blocked, when someone or something is standing in our way.
Anger is a God-given emotion that all human beings experience.
Jesus, became angry for the sake of others. He was outraged at the religious leaders who allowed people to be exploited financially in His Father’s house and thought He shouldn’t heal the man with a deformed hand (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 3:5). Jesus became angry because He loved people.
While it isn’t wrong to be angry, what we do with it is vital. God commands: “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). This doesn’t mean that if we get into a fight in the morning we’re allowed to stay angry all day. God’s point is that anger, like any emotion, shouldn’t control us (Ephesians 4:26).
Anger that’s allowed to run free will lead to unhealthy beliefs and behavior. We can convince ourselves we’re fighting for what’s right, when we’re merely fighting for our rights. Instead, God wants us to pursue reconciliation with those who wrong us, and if that’s unsuccessful, to entrust our anger to Him. Our Father “has identified [us] as his own, guaranteeing that [we] will be saved on the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Because of our relationship with Him, we can leave our anger in His wise and loving hands.
One Sabbath, Jesus became angry while He was preaching in a synagogue when a number of His critics were present (John 2:13-17; 11:33). In a provocative move, Jesus called to a man with a crippled hand and had him stand in front of the group. “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath,” Jesus asked, eyeing His critics, “or is it a day for doing evil?” (Mark 3:4). Silence. “Is this a day” (we can imagine Him speaking louder now), “to save life or to destroy it?” Still silence.
God made the Sabbath as a time for rest and renewal (Exodus 20:8), but by Jesus’ day the religious leaders had made its strict observance a sign of one’s righteousness. No work was to be done on the Sabbath, including, in the Pharisees’ eyes, the healing of crippled men. And Jesus was angry about that—angry at the Pharisees’ hard hearts.
But, astonishingly, we find Jesus being “deeply saddened” by them too (Mark 3:5). His anger at evil wasn’t accompanied by hatred for its perpetrators, but by sadness, grief, compassion.
To feel anger is human. To feel compassionate anger is divine like Jesus.