How can I know if my anger is righteous indignation?

James 1:20 says, "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." Often the anger we experience as humans is born out of bitterness, pride, and selfishness. It is dangerous because it can lead us to sin through withholding forgiveness and hurting others. The Bible warns us against becoming angry. We are encouraged to let go of our anger so it will not turn into sin (Ephesians 4:26–27). In addition, we should be slow to become angry and instead respond to those who hurt us with love and leave the judgement up to God (James 1:19; Romans 12:19–21).

However, God's anger is not sinful because He is without sin. Therefore, if we are angry at what angers God then our anger is righteous indignation. The Bible describes many things that make God angry. God is angry when people turn away from obeying Him and put other idols before Him. He is angry when people do evil and sin. He is angry with anything that is against His word, even some of the things our culture celebrates. Paul describes some of the things that anger God in Galatians 5:19–21, "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Yet living with anger in our hearts, even righteous anger, is not healthy. When we experience righteous anger it should encourage us to act. We should work against injustice and evil. Through prayer, political action, charity, and personal example we can speak the truth to a hurting world.

Paul and Peter advise us to act with love and leave the avenging to God. Paul says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19–21). Peter agrees, encouraging believers to not be troubled by hardship, but to honor God through our actions so that it will bring others to repentance (1 Peter 3:14–17).

We can take a cue from Jesus who expressed righteous anger at people's sinful actions and clear injustices. Jesus experienced anger, but never sinned. Ultimately, He wanted people to know Him as their Savior. When we experience righteous indignation our goal should be to bring people out of sin and into relationship with Christ. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

Related Truth:

What does the Bible teach about anger?

Does the Bible talk about managing our emotions?

In what way is God a God of justice?

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?

How can I increase in spiritual maturity?

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