The world is filled with anger and outrage. And for good reason. There is so much to be angry about in this miserable, fallen, and sinful world. If there were no sin, there would be no anger. Anger exists because sin exists. As Christians, we know that there is a time and place for anger against sin, yet it is difficult for us to be angry without sinning ourselves. At times we feel angry with no just cause, and at times we are not angry when we ought to be. God’s anger is perfect, and Jesus always displayed His righteous anger against those who justly deserved it. But as Christians, we are simul justus et peccator (at the same time just and sinful), declared righteous by God yet still sinful in our hearts, thoughts, words, and actions. That is why we struggle to display righteous anger and to not sin, and it is why we so often fall short in doing so in imitation of our Savior.
Anger can sometimes be complicated because our emotions are often complicated. Our hearts are complex. There is a war waging within us between the flesh and the spirit, and it is a war that only Christians experience. Yet in the midst of the war within us, God calls us to put away unrighteous anger and wrath, to be slow to anger, to be slow to speak, and to be angry yet without sin (see Ps. 4:4; Eph. 4:26; Col. 3:8; James 1:19–20). Because our feelings can sometimes be the greatest liars, we must always strive to make our feelings conform to our doctrine and not let our feelings define our doctrine. What we believe about God, the world, and ourselves ought to be the foundation for our anger.
Too often, however, our emotions get the better of us, and we allow ourselves to erupt in unrighteous anger because we have disregarded what we believe. What we believe must shape our emotions and inform our anger so that our anger is always shrouded by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). For it is only when we have the Holy Spirit and are walking by the Spirit that we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit even when we are appropriately and righteously angry. Then, and only then, does our anger imitate the anger of our Savior and glorify God as we live coram Deo, before His face, as we await the return of our Savior, when there will be an end to all anger and all need for anger.