Anger is not sin, it’s an emotion. God’s Word says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin….” (Eph. 4:26)
In our pictured Mark 3 passage, we are told that Jesus was angry because of the hardheartedness of the Pharisees he was dealing with. He was angry because they held of higher value the keeping of the tradition of doing nothing they counted as work on the Sabbath, above the need of the people around them. He was angry at the distortion of God’s law for personal gain by those lording it over those they were called to minister to as servants in His name.
In other accounts of this work of Christ, He chides them for willingly helping one of their farm animals in need, while ignoring the need of the people they were to serve. They were hypocrites about the type of good work done on the sabbath and would condemn others for doing what they, themselves did when it was important to them. They were good about requiring others to do what they would not do. Their hypocrisy, hardheartedness, and ungodly arrogance toward others made Jesus angry.
Two things from this passage point to what changes anger from godly, to ungodly (sinful). One is the why of our anger. Selfish, self-centered anger does not please God. The Pharisees were angry with Jesus because He usurped their authority, taking away their power and influence over the people. They were jealous. Selfish anger, anger based on getting ones own way in a situation, or one showing carelessness for the need or problems of others, makes that anger sinful.
The second thing is what we do with that anger. Jesus chose to do what was pleasing to God and set a godly example for those watching in making the care of others a priority. He did not let the opinion of the leaders of that day keep Him from doing the good set before Him. And He spoke truth to them.
The full Ephesians verse says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (4:26-27) We are to do what is right, take care of the issue in a godly manner out of loving care for God and man, and take care of it quickly. When we let anger hang around, coursing through our heart and soul, the devil uses it to get a stronghold in our lives as bitterness takes hold, rising with hate close behind it.
And here’s another thing to note. Jesus did not concern Himself with the Pharisees’ attitude toward Him, whether they liked him or accepted his instruction. He spoke truth to all, desiring that truth to influence their lives for good. But what they did with it was their responsibility. He dealt with it, and left it in their lap. He didn’t cling to the anger or carry it to the next encounter.
We are to do the same: speak truth out of love, desiring to influence the ones dealt with in ways that lead them closer to godliness; do what is right in God’s eyes, despite what others think; then release the outcome to God, not letting anger take hold in destructive ways, but trusting God to deal with the hearts of all involved.
“… If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the WRATH OF GOD, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”