Anger in itself is not a sin. But if you are not careful it will drag you into sin. It is the uncontrolled burst of anger and the actions that you take against justice and truth that lead you to sin. Anger, when it is uncontrolled, harms you and others. When you hurt others by your words or deeds it becomes sinful. When you lose yourself and turn violent and harmful, the consequences make it a sin. In fact, it is hard to take a right action when you are angry.
Bible says in so many places that God was angry on human beings. Many incidents are mentioned in the bible as wrath of God’s anger.
James, the Apostle, says, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21 RSV). It is when one’s anger acts against the righteousness of God that it becomes a sin.
The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount will give a clear idea on being angry.
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Mattew 5:21-22 RSV)
It may seem that Jesus condemns the emotion of anger as sinful in itself, as condemnable as a murderous act that might spring from it. In the same spirit, after several verses, he seems to charge the feeling of lust as tantamount to the sin of adultery (Matthew 5: 27-28 RSV).
If you look beyond the Sermon on the Mount, however, you can find some other New Testament passages which show that negative emotions can occur without sin being present. When Paul writes to the Ephesians he says, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26 RSV). It is a clear indication that Paul means to say that you can feel angry without sinning.
Is there anything like “good anger” and “bad anger”?
One may be prompted to think the Christian response to anger may experience two types of anger: one “righteous indignation” and the other as “sinful anger”, since the former is directed at a noble cause, the other at a selfish one.
What about the anger of Jesus?
There are a few Gospel accounts of Jesus getting angry. On one occasion, however, he got angry when he saw people misusing the temple in Jerusalem for buying and selling instead of worship. In that case, Jesus became angry because of the disrespect shown to his Father and to his Father’s house. His anger did not prevent him from taking proper action to “accomplish the righteousness of God.”
A clear and powerful teaching. May God empower us to die to 'self' and to flee sinful anger. This is such an important subject in a world that is so often incensed with rage. Thank you also for explaining 'righteous' anger, and the example of Jesus.