“Anger: What about ‘Righteous Indignation?’”

September 21, 2010

Everyone recognizes the huge “downside” of anger.  In this article, I am dealing with the only real possibility of anger having an “upside.”

If you have been bullied or abused by angry people or full-bore rageaholics, it may be difficult for you to admit that there can be such a thing as positive anger.  However, after the following discussion, I hope you’ll be able to see that, although they are certainly the tiniest minority of angry responses, it’s at least theoretically possible for anger to be positive.

The biggest reason why I conclude that positive anger happens very little is that, in the Bible, I can only point to two pieces of evidence that give any indication that anger has an upside.  See what you think.

First, in John 2:13-22, when Jesus forced the moneychangers out of the Temple, he referred to what motivated Him as “zeal” for His Father’s house (i.e., the Temple).  In that case, “zeal” means godly jealousy, not anger per se.  However, it is primarily this passage that has been the basis for the concept of righteous indignation.  Thus, if a person truly reacted in outrage at the desecration of something holy unto the Lord, it could be “righteous indignation.”  How often does that happen, though?

The second angle is the quotation by the Apostle Paul of Psalm 4:4 in Ephesians 4:26: “Be angry, yet do not sin.”  In this context, what follows is an admonition to deal with anger quickly, before it becomes sinful.  The point is that anger of anything but the shortest duration has no chance of doing other than souring into sinfulness.

Bottom line: if it’s not a reaction to an affront against the Lord, or of extremely brief duration, it doesn’t qualify as truly “righteous indignation.”


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