We can see what nonsinful anger looks like when we consider God. God is slow to anger (Ex. 34:6), but there are plenty of examples in Scripture where He vents His anger. Romans 1:18 tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” This anger is a just, righteous anger, directed at people who have set themselves against their Creator. For this transgression, God gives them over to their sin, ultimately resulting in their eternal punishment.
I recently made a mistake. It wasn’t the first time, of course, but this instance in particular was painful because it was public. Several people became alerted to my error and were forced to step in and help deal with the fallout. And I was angry.
I was angry because I was embarrassed. I had messed up, and other people saw it. I wanted to blame someone or something else. I wanted something to be angry at. But the truth is, I had made a mistake, and it was hard to be angry at myself or to apologize and confess to those who were affected. Sadness is hard. Guilt is hard. Embarrassment is hard. Anger oftentimes is easier.
One of the most well-known passages in the Bible on anger comes from the Sermon on the Mount:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matt. 5:21–26)
Christ here expands on the sixth commandment against murder (Ex. 20:13), noting that it encompasses sins beyond mere murder but prohibits anger and insults as well. The Westminster Larger Catechism spells out these implications, including “sinful anger” among the sins forbidden by the sixth commandment (WLC 136). Note first that it is not anger in general that is forbidden but sinful anger. The implication is that anger in itself is not sinful. Paul indicates this as well when he writes, “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).