A Time for Anger

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The verse “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) is often used to justify our indignation, though, too often, our indignation is anything and everything but righteous. Nevertheless, there are times when anger—holy indignation—iscalled for. And Jesus is our example.

The shortest verse in the Bible—“Jesus wept” (John 11:35)—comes in the context of Lazarus’s death. Those words doubtless reveal tears of sympathy but they were also mingled with indignation. The Bible tells us so.

In the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, as Jesus saw Mary “weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit.” A few moments later, we are told that “Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb” (John 11:38). The words translated “deeply moved” can be translated, “was indignant.” That is, Jesus was angry.

The late theologian, Benjamin Warfield, wrote,

Inextinguishable fury seizes him…. It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy, the devil. Tears of sympathy may fill Jesus’ eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, ‘as a champion who prepares for conflict.’… What John does for us in this particular statement is to uncover the heart of Jesus, as he wins for us our salvation. Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. He has not only saved us from the evils which oppress us; he has felt for and with us in our oppression, and under the impulse of these feelings has wrought our redemption.

In other words, when confronting death, it was a time for anger. Jesus was angry at sin and its destructive consequences. He was angry at the devil, who held mankind in bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).

Christian, the COVID-19 death count reminds us that, like Jesus at Lazarus’s death, it is a time for anger. It is a time for righteous anger. The pandemic serves as a providential opportunity to grow in our hatred of sin and of Satan. All the sickness, suffering, and sadness in this world is the fruit of sin. Sin which entered the world by one man who listened to the lying voice of Satan (Romans 5:12; Genesis 3:1–7). His rebellious response represents what would have been our response.

Before Adam’s fall, viruses may have existed, but they were good (Genesis 1:31). That all changed with Adam’s rebellion. The coronavirus that has wreaked, and continues to wreak, havoc is another reminder that life is not as God created it to be. Sin indeed has cursed the world and inflicted much misery. Like Mary and her friends, our broken hearts weep in response to the sorrow of a sinful world. Therefore, it is a time for anger, but a rightly directed anger.

Jesus’ anger was not wrongly directed at his Father. Too many people, including Christians, are guilty of anger against God. Despite popular psychobabble, there is no justification for being “angry at God.” Such an attitude is to be condemned, along with the blasphemous idea that we must learn to “forgive God” for the suffering we experience. God forbid! No, as Warfield points out, Jesus came “with flaming wrath against our foe,” the devil, sin, and death. His anger was rightly directed. It was also constructive anger.

Most of our anger is destructive. We blow up and tear down. But Jesus’ anger led him to conquer our foe. His anger led to self-sacrifice rather than to self-vindication. His anger was a means of grace rather than a means of disgrace. His anger against sin and Satan empowered him to save sinners who otherwise deserved to be on the receiving end of his wrath. His anger brought joy to Mary and Martha as they were reunited with their resurrected brother Lazarus. Because it was a time for anger, they could enjoy a time of joy.

Fellow Christian, this is a time for righteous anger—at sin and Satan. And, like Jesus, this anger drives us to those who are “entombed” in their sin. As we proclaim the words of life, the gospel, many will “come forth” with joy to Jesus Christ, who is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

Proclaiming with you,

Doug