In an earlier blog I wrote that on one occasion Jesus left Jerusalem for Lake Galilee because his life was being threatened by the religious establishment. In contrast to the clerics who were set on putting him to death, Jesus appeared to be a calm and gentle man.
However, we also know that on occasion his anger could rise. This is clear in Matthew 12 when he denounced the religious leaders who claimed that he had an “unclean” (read “Satanic”) spirit. He rebuked them, “You brood of vipers! How can you say anything good since you are evil?” (vs. 34). To call leaders of the religious elite “vipers” would be to castigate them in the worst possible way. But Jesus was angry. The sacred tradition, which he had been taught to honor and respect, was being violated by the very ones charged to teach it. In the following verse Jesus says that they are evil and will have to answer for every thoughtless word they have spoken.
Since believers have always been urged to live Christ-like lives, does not Jesus’ response on this occasion allow us to become angry? Does it not suggest that where Christian truth is being distorted anger is permissible? That is what Jesus did. The rebuttal that pops to mind is that Jesus also walked on water, so why shouldn’t we follow his example at this point? The answer, of course, is that we are not Jesus. While our lives cannot duplicate his in some precise way we are to allow his indwelling presence to transform us to be like him. Sanctification (the biblical word for becoming more like Jesus) is a life-long process not an instantaneous reversal of all we are as children of Adam.
Yes, there are times when Christians should be angry. It is clear that God hates sin and so should we. Paul condones Christian anger but cautions “in your anger do not sin”(Eph. 4:26). Obviously, since God is who he is, we can’t pretend to hate sin exactly he does. His is a righteous anger while ours at best is an anger that should be expressed with care and only in connection with an acknowledged injustice.