Jan 3 2021 - Can One Have Righteous Anger?
3rd January 2021
This is connected to last week – so if you missed that – the wedding at Cana – Jesus turning the water into wine.
John 2:13 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
This is a familiar passage – appearing in all four gospels. John places this near the beginning of his gospel, and he does not have it during the Passion Week where the other gospels have it. His purpose in doing this is his purpose! This is what his gospel is trying to teach from the beginning – the first story is turning the water into wine – and then turning the tables in the temples – is a confrontation with the religious system and structures of His day. He is rejecting and replacing those religious systems and structures and creating something new. And the second thing – He is starting His journey to the cross. From here on out, He is moving closer and closer to the cross.
16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!"
John leaves out the part about “My house shall be called a house of prayer” – that is not because John is against prayer – He has a different purpose in mind and he wants to emphasize that purpose.
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."
Jesus’ zeal will be evident throughout the rest of the gospel.
18 The Jews then responded to him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20 They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
It is the conversation after the event in which John tells us what is going on – the purpose of this event.
John’s gospel is structured around 7 signs that Jesus does. He does not include all of the miracles – basically only 7 – but at the end, John writes that it would take all the books in all the libraries to contain all the miracles Jesus did.
So he wasn’t saying he only did seven, but he structured his gospel around these seven. And the Pharisees are asking for a sign.
Jesus is speaking of His own body – the death and resurrection.
Back to John 1 – Creation – new Creation.
Last week, Jesus was the new wine.
This week, He is the new temple.
22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Now – last week I looked at these passages and looked at a cultural historical perspective of the wedding and how it relates today.
This week – I want to get practical – I want to look at the issue of ANGER – our small group has been going through a book called Unoffendable.
We see this action of Jesus as one of righteous anger.
That may be true – there is a lot of discussion in the scholarly world about that – but the problem with that is it is often used to justify our anger – righteous or not!
We see Jesus did this – and we think – this gives us the right to start flipping tables!
First question – was Jesus angry when He did this? Maybe. But that is not the point of the story.
If you read all four stories in the gospels – none of them says that He was angry. The problem – when we turn tables – either literally or metaphorically – we read into Jesus’ actions what we do.
Sometimes tables need to be turned. Sometimes the animals need to be driven out of the house! But the question – was He angry? Maybe – and if so, it was ONLY righteous anger and not reactionary anger.
This whole thing was planned. He did not just walk into the temple and react to what He was seeing.
In the other gospels – this takes place right after the ‘triumphant’ entry into Jerusalem.
But in Mark – He sees it – goes home for a day – sleeps on it – and comes back with a plan.
This could be called a prophetic parable. The prophets did this type of thing all the time to teach a lesson – to get a point across.
This was directed at very specific people – Things need to change!
For us – what does the Bible say about righteous anger? And can we, as humans, possess righteous anger?
In this book we are reading – he makes a case for why we can’t. My first response is – that can’t be! I probably have verses against that!
SO I started searching – “Righteous anger” – and most were preachers talking about it.
Then I looked at scholarly journals. And there was one where the researcher went through the Bible and demarcated every time there was anger or wrath. And it was always God. – and it usually spoke about being SLOW to anger.
When it talks about human anger – it is almost always in a negative sense – be slow to anger.
There may be a handful of verses in the Old Testament that indicate that righteous anger might be possible.
Like Moses coming down and throwing down the tablets – that COULD have been righteous anger.
Another time Moses struck the rock in anger – and he is judged for it.
New Testament – majority of the time it speaks of God being slow to anger.
When it does talk about human anger – it is mostly about being slow to anger or the negative sense.
Can we have righteous anger and act on it? Possibly. But it is probably not what we think.
From the scholarly article: “There is never any direct endorsement of human righteous anger in the Bible”
What about Ephesians 4:26 – Be angry!
Can we have righteous anger – and act on it without sinning?
My answer is – Probably not!
Dallas Willard was asked about it.
“Anger is the most fundamental problem in human life”
What about Jesus in the temple?
“I trust Jesus to flip over tables, but I don’t trust myself to do that!”
If you are quarantined and want to read a good book – Dallas Willard – The Divine Conspiracy – it is the kind of book that you can read a couple pages and stop and think about for a couple days.
“Anger is a spontaneous response that has a vital function in life. As such, it is not wrong. It is a feeling that seizes us in our body and immediately impels us toward interfering with, and possibly even harming, those who have thwarted our will and interfered in our life. The primary function of anger in life is to alert me to an obstruction of my will, and immediately raise alarm and resistance before having time to think about it.”
In the sermon on the Mount – He took that from a passage in the Sermon on the Mount. He is explaining this passage. We start with the Beatitudes – the peacemaker – the poor in spirit – and loving your enemy – light and salt – the Law – and how he did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Then He has a list of laws that He prioritizes. The first one is on anger – the first specific thing Jesus addresses after going through these other things.
“You have heard it said – do not murder – but if you are angry with your brother or sister – you will be held accountable.” – condemned in the court – I’d like to add one other thing to Willard’s definition -
The Bible recognizes anger as a natural emotion. It happens out of response often to injustice or injury – a natural emotion.
Ephesians 6: Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. (Eph. 4:26 NET)
We see this as an imperative – a command – Be angry and do not sin!
"In your anger do not sin" (Eph. 4:26 TNIV)
The purpose of this verse – what is more important – knowing whether this is imperative or the context? You’ve been in this church long enough to know - The context determines the meaning - always. The purpose of this verse is NOT to promote righteous anger – but to warn against the consequences of anger.
What is the next line? Do not sin.
Don’t let the natural emotion of anger cause you to sin.
Do not give the devil an opportunity…
He lays it out clearly. If something happens that stirs up natural anger – you have not sinned – but if you do not control it – put it away – deal with it immediately – you will sin!
You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. (Eph 4:31)
We are okay with putting away every kind of evil, right? And every kind of bitterness – and He doesn’t change it for anger – that is the context.
Righteous anger – the Mike Marette version – this has not been peer-reviewed!
Anger is a natural, emotional response to an injustice or injury. The initial emotion tells us that something needs to be done about the injustice or injury. However, in order to act righteously, we must first put away the anger and then do what is right.
I think this is what Jesus did before going in the temple - Jesus was responding to an injustice and injury.
James 1:19 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
He acknowledges the natural emotion – but then he says.
20 For human anger does not accomplish God's righteousness.
Anger belongs to God – just like revenge, conviction – etc.
For those of whom righteous anger resonates – that is not wrong – but we must work with God and His righteous anger.
Like Righteous revenge – God says numerous times – don’t you try to repay – Vengeance is mine.
And He tells us how to work with Him on that – Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you – speak well and bless those who slander and accuse you!
How do we repay? We love – we bless – we do good.
DO you want to work with God in His righteous anger?
Be quick to listen – slow to speak – and slow to anger – you get control of it and don’t allow it to control you – and then you can act right toward the person who has brought the offense – the injury – or the injustice.
But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. (Col. 3:8 NET)
There we go. The Bible is clear.
How do we put off anger? Be slow?
First – I am talking about standard anger – but if you have a chronic case of anger – something you struggle with all of the time – I would encourage you to get help. These practical things will help, but you probably need someone working with you.
First – discover the source of the anger – where does it come from? Often, something in the far past – abuse as a child, abandonment – where does it come from? Something that happened in your life? You must go back and address that first – go back to move forward.
Second – recognize your own flaws when you are ready to be angry with someone.
I had an example of this this morning – the person in front of you is texting at the light! What do you do? You honk!
I’m looking at the gas station prices… and the light had changed – and thankfully – the person behind me was slow to anger!
They could usually be just as angry as we are at them.
Third – lay aside the right to be angry –
Philippians 2 – Jesus laid aside His rights.
I’ll close with this last thought – the most favorite verse of men’s group
Cease striving – shut up! And know that He is God. And I will add – and YOU ARE NOT!
We are not the Holy Spirit – sent by God – to convict the world of sin – not our job – that is the job of the Holy Spirit!
If people do not follow our sage advice – God’s work in their lives will not collapse.
IF people will not change when we make them feel shame and guilt – God would still reign without us.
Anger is always about taking things into our own hands and out of God’s hands.
Lord, we thank You – we know that this is a very difficult thing for us – we live in a time of anger and rage and we are influenced by the world we live in and we are part of it – help us to learn – be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger –
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, (Gal. 5:19-20 NET)
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish--that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2Cor. 12:20 ESV)