Q: Is it a sin to get angry?

In a word, no! There are times when it is acceptable for a Christian to experience what we euphemistically call “righteous indignation.” But what is it which makes our anger righteous?

Even Jesus was angry on rare occasions. In a flash of holy emotion he cleared the rough and greedy merchants out of the Jerusalem temple (Mark 11). Once when the religious rulers set a trap for him, to see if he would heal an injured man on the Sabbath day, the Bible says: [Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

In both of these anecdotes, we see that the anger of Jesus wasn’t self-directed; he wasn’t concerned for some slight done to himself. He defended the holiness of his Father’s temple, and he was also indignant that a fellow human being who was suffering was being used as a pawn for selfish political gain. Jesus was angry when children were slighted or abused; he was angry with the disciples’ lack of faith because of their insatiable pride and ambition.

What about us? We’re not Jesus! But our own anger always needs to be directed toward protesting evil, toward protecting the frail among us, and resisting tyranny and abuse. We should be angry whenever God’s kingdom is attacked or undercut by deliberate greed or manipulation.

Two additional points. Even when our anger is justified, it needs to be temporary and quickly surrendered! The apostle Paul is a saint who seems to have had a temper – and here’s his advice to fellow Christians in Ephesus: In your anger do not sin. So there is a kind of anger which is not sin. But his next words are telling: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry – now notice this – and do not give the devil a foothold (4:26). When we hold grudges or nurse our anger, we give Satan a clear avenue our souls. Nothing will destroy our faith in God more quickly than an insistence on taking personal charge of our own “getting even” crusades.

And that’s the second point. If we have a mighty Savior who has overcome the world, we can relax a bit. If someone in your life is truly bent on mischief, Jesus will take care of it in the end. In Luke 17, Jesus tells his hot-tempered disciples to forgive an irritating enemy seven times in a single day for a repeated offense. They immediately respond: “Lord, increase our faith!” What’s the connection between faith and our emotions? Simply this: trusting in God’s omnipotence enables his children to let go of their anger.