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The Myth of Righteous Anger

The Myth of Righteous Anger

When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry by the end of the day. — Ephesians 4:26 NCV

So, overall, how does Scripture, which is well acquainted with injustice, describe anger? Take a look at some verses from the New Living Translation.

Anger is described as “fierce” and “cruel” in Genesis 49:7. It’s “burning” in Exodus 11:8. In the same book, it’s also described as a “blazing fury,” and if you’re not careful, it can “blaze against you” (Exodus 15:7; Exodus 22:24). 

In Leviticus 26, anger is something given “full vent” and equated with “hostility” (v. 28). In Deuteronomy 7, it is associated with the words “burn” and “destroy” (v. 4). In 1 Samuel 20, we see an anger that “boil[s] with rage” (v. 30). Anger “will not be quenched,” according to 2 Kings 22:17. In 2 Samuel 6, it “bursts out” (v. 8); in Job 4, it “blasts” (v. 9); and in Job 16, God Himself, in anger, “tears” and “pierces” (v. 9).

Anger is terrifying and fierce in Psalm 2:5. It’s burning and consuming in Psalm 69:24, then smoldering intensely in Psalm 74.

In Isaiah 9:12, it’s associated with a fist poised to strike. In chapter 30, it’s demonstrated with flames, cloudbursts, thunderstorms, and hailstones (v. 30). In Isaiah 63:3, it tramples.

It doesn’t exactly chill out in Lamentations. The words “engulfed” and “slaughtered” are used in chapter 3 (v. 43).

We’re also told we should be aroused to anger when we see one of God’s commands being broken. Really? Then we’re going to be busy... really, really busy. We’re also going to be really, really angry, all the time — and that’s just at ourselves, for starters.

If this is, in fact, what we’re supposed to do — experience “righteous anger” whenever we’re made aware of one of God’s commands being broken — we’ll be precisely what the world doesn’t need and largely believes we already are: a bunch of uptight, seething hypocrites.

The Bible directs us to get rid of anger (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8), but our idea of “righteous anger” turns that directive on its head: we can actually pat ourselves on the back for being offended and embracing anger.

And all that boiling, piercing, corrosive power becomes part of our lives—and destroys us.

We cling to our self-righteousness and can’t possibly imagine giving it up. We think it’s how we’re supposed to live.

But our Father is holding out another way of living, entirely. He’s saying it’s far more valuable. He knows. He made us. He knows we can live better this way. We’ll be under less stress. We’ll be able to live in the moment. We won’t be constantly offended, perpetually nursing hurts. He’s telling us to hand over the idea that we know things we don’t about ourselves and others, and simply be humble.

I’ve found myself thinking — even if I don’t say it out loud — that part of my job as a Christian is assessing where people stand. Therefore, if I didn’t try to make this assessment about others, I wasn’t taking Christianity seriously enough, or something. I don’t know what I was thinking. 

What a sweet, sweet relief to not have to do this. 

Jesus had to point out to seemingly upstanding religious leaders that some prostitutes were closer to the Kingdom of God than they were. Would you or I have known that?

Last night, I talked with a new friend of mine who shared that he’s always seemingly been angry. “I spend half of my life with anger,” he said. “I’ve always lost a tremendous amount of sleep because of it.”

As I sat at his kitchen table, with his two adorable toddler daughters running around us, he told me that because he’s now in recovery from drug addiction, he’s had to make amends with people with whom he’s been angry. So he called a guy who once beat him up and told him he was forgiving him.

“The guy was amazed, but it really wasn’t for him. It was for me,” he said.

“And did you sleep soundly that night?”

He laughed. “Yes! Finally! It’s amazing how that happens. And you know what? I’ve found that when I’m not angry, I can finally be in the moment with my wife and kids. Finally. I can just be here. I’m not thinking about what other people did to me.”

  • God knows how we’re wired. He tells us to forgive and to get rid of anger.

People made in His image would do well to listen. It means everything, not just for us, but for those around us.

Like two sweet little girls, who can now have their daddy in full.

Life is better this way.

  • It’s better when we admit what we don’t know, realize our own moral status before God, and give up our made-up Right to Be Offended.

We think we want a right to “righteous anger.” It takes a tremendous amount of humility, an extraordinary “dying to self” to hand over this desire, this job, this obsession, to God. But He made us, and He knows how we operate best. He says to hand it over.

And He’s promising something of value that no one else — and literally, no other religion —  promises. He’s promising a release from the constant evaluation, never-ending striving, and relentless assessment of where we, and everyone else, stand.

He’s promising a better way of life. He’s holding it out to us, saying, “Hand over the garbage;” and He means it, because He loves us, and He has something better to offer.

He’s offering peace.


Share a time when you were forgiven.

Describe a circumstance when you have shown forgiveness to another.


Beloved Jesus, lead me to someone today who needs to hear Your story of love and forgiveness.

Adapted with permission from Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better, by Brant Hansen.

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Your Turn

Aren't you tired of holding onto anger, evaluating other people, holding grudges, and being offended? We’re not built to carry those heavy burdens. We’re supposed to walk in peace and be free! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you about being unoffended! ~ Devotionals Daily