Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “Yes,” he replied. “It is right. I’m angry enough to die!”Jonah 4:9 (HCSB)
Anger is a dangerous emotion. Anger can consume us so easily. Anger can poison our hearts ever so quickly. Anger can rob us of our joy before we even recognise what is happening. Anger can destroy everything and everyone we value and love. Whenever we feel anger surging up inside us—that slow cold heartless anger or that boiling over violent rage and everything in-between—we must ask ourselves ‘is it right for me to be angry?’
Far too many Christians think that anger is always wrong. Far too many Christians are simply wrong! Anger can be just and righteous and loving. Is it wrong for a father to feel anger when he learns of the injustice that his daughter has been raped? God certainly feels anger when people abuse His children. Is it wrong for a man, who invents a great source of power so that people might be saved from death, to be angry when someone else takes that invention and turns it into a weapon of mass destruction?
When Jesus came into the Temple in Jerusalem, His Father’s house, and saw the buying and selling going on, He was so consumed with anger that the word used to describe His anger in the Bible is one which conveys the meaning of “He snorted like an angry warhorse!” I don’t think I have ever been angry enough to snort like an angry warhorse, but clearly one can get that angry and remain perfectly holy, sinless, and pure.
Paul said “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). In this passage Paul tells the Ephesians to be angry, but not to let the anger overflow, and last—not to let it rule their hearts. Given the context of Paul’s words (the fact that they are a quotation from Psalm 4:4) and how Jesus acted in the Temple, we may know that an appropriate cause for holy and righteous anger is idolatry. Idolatry is seen in people who turn what is holy into something unholy, people who waste their lives following false gods and, in so doing, offend the one true God.
Christians should rightly be angry when they see people compromising with their faith and mixing their Christianity with paganism or false human philosophies (this mixing is called ‘syncretism’). Whether it is adding Christianity to the worship or recognition of other gods or it is adding eastern mysticism and the likes of yoga to Christian prayer, these things are offensive to God, and those who truly love Him will be offended by what offends Him. The same could be said with the idolatry of greed, lust, power, and outside approval. Yet whilst anger at such things is holy and good (so long as it doesn’t consume us), just like God, we must also be full of faithful love and mercy.