Is It Possible to Be Angry and Not Sin?
From Gospel Translations
By John Piper About Sanctification & Growth
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
Scripture exhorts us, "Be angry and do not sin." How is this possible, and what sort of things should we become angry about?
Not only does the Scripture say, "Be angry and do not sin," it also says, "Be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God." And the Bible says, "Put away anger and malice." And it says that Jesus—at one point when he was in the synagogue and they were bent out of shape because he was healing someone on the Sabbath—it says he looked around upon them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.
Now, maybe that's a clue as to how to be angry and not sin. Because Jesus didn't sin. He never sinned. The Bible says clearly, "He was without sin," in Hebrews 4, for example.
He looked around at them with anger—which wasn't sin—grieved. So it seems to me that perhaps, if we're angry, what we should be angry at is sin.
We shouldn't be angry at clutches that don't work in our car. Jonathan Edwards made a resolution never to get angry at an inanimate object, because ultimately it would be anger against God who is in control in inanimate objects, and they don't have any will to commit an immorality with which to get angry.
So we should get angry with sin, but that anger should be so mingled with heart-sorrows for the people sinning.
I assume the reason Jesus was grieved was because he felt, "These are my people! These are Jewish kinsmen of mine who knew their Old Testament, and they didn't know God! They don't know grace. They don't understand that I don't want sacrifice: I want mercy! They don't get their Bibles. They're on their way to hell. And they're complaining that I'm healing somebody!" And it's breaking his heart and making him angry.
What I'm looking for when I get angry at somebody on the street or whoever is whether or not I am also broken. Am I hurting and longing for them? Do I want them saved? Do I want them changed? Can I be merciful toward them?
And then I think the anger should not be cherished. "Don't go to bed on your anger," the Bible says. Don't take it to bed at night. Do whatever you can to lay it down.
And the way you lay it down is either, if the person is a Christian, you thank God that he died for that, and he takes that sin that they just committed. If the person is not a Christian, it says in Romans 12, "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord' ... If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink." I lay down vengeance that way by saying, "I don't need to be the judge here. God is going to take care of this."
So every night before you go to bed, you either are putting your anger on the cross over there, or you're putting your anger in hell over there. And you're saying, "I'm not going to bear this. I'm not going to become a bitter, ugly, angry person. I want people to be saved. I don't want them to see me as mean-spirited and vengeful."