Be Angry, But Do Not Sin

Aristotle said, "Anybody can become angry—that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy."

I shared that on Facebook, and a friend replied with the question, "Is there a right time for anger?"

Paul commanded us to "be angry" in Ephesians 4:28, so I would say yes.   The NIV does not do this passage justice.  It states, "In your anger do not sin."  But the word anger here, in the Greek, is a present imperative.  John Stevenson writes, "When the present imperative is used in a command, it signifies a command to repeated or continuous action."  Paul is trying to express here that we are to live in a repeated state of anger.  The word literally means trembling from anger.  Both the NASB and ESV (both more literal translations than the NIV) translate Ephesians 4:28 as "Be angry." 

Mark 3:5 states that Jesus was angry.  "He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart" (Mark 3:5 ESV).  This occurred when Jesus saw a man with a withered hand.  The Pharisees were watching him to see if he would heal the man on the Sabbath.  When Jesus had compassion for the man and healed him, the Pharisees held a meeting to figure out how to destroy Jesus.  How ludicrous; they wanted to destroy Jesus because he healed a man on the wrong day?  Their emphasis on the rules rather than on loving the hurting man angered Jesus, and he exhibited a righteous anger.

I just read through the headlines and looked to see what made my spirit grieve.  This is just a glimpse of our world at noon on May 18, 2010.  There are bad things happening right around us.  In our neighbor's houses, in places of employment, down at the hospital, and all around town.  It's much worse than just these headlines.


Republican Congressman Resign After Affair w/ Staffer [Female]...

Senate Frontrunner Never Served In Vietnam, Despite Claims

Child Prostitution, Right Here At Home

Tar Balls Found Off Key West

WATCH: NBC Correspondent Swallows Huge Fly On Air

Mountain Climber Dies From Horrifying 1,000-Foot Fall

Anti-Semitic Incidents At School Rile Jewish Groups

Suicide Bomber Hits Convoy In Afghanistan, 5 U.S. Troops Killed

Waitress FIRED Over Status Update On Facebook

Gov't failed to assure drilling safety...

Man accused of trying to swap baby for beers...

Women tried to zap WENDY'S worker with stun gun; Botched drive-thru order...

Anger is the opposite of apathy.  Matthew Henry shares the quote, “If we would be angry and not sin, we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own."  Another commentator on the passage in Ephesians wrote, "Anger, as the mere expression of wounded personality is sinful for it means that self is in command. Anger, as the pure expression of repugnance to wrong in loyalty to God is sinless, where there is true occasion for it."

We are deluged every day with events that are contrary to what God has designed for this world to be, and this deluge of the world's sinful state has led to a desensitization of our souls.  Those terrible situations should stir in us a righteous anger that will spur us toward bringing God's kingdom into this reality as much as we possibly can.  God designed us with the emotion of anger; it is this anger that will lead us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to fix the broken world into the kingdom he designed it to be.

Tomorrow, I'll deal with how to handle our anger properly because Paul links the teaching to "be angry" with the command "do not sin."