Yelling at your kids will get them to quiet down, but it won’t help them to love you and love God. Anger “works,” it accomplishes something. Often it accomplishes a version of what we intend. So, yelling at our kids will get them to quiet down. But the “anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). In other words, it does accomplish something but it doesn’t accomplish anything good, it is not righteous. Righteous anger has the right effect.
God’s anger aims to be restorative not primarily retributive. His goal is the salvation of sinners, and so His anger is poured out on Jesus as the payment of our sin. God has reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ and the wrath that He absorbed in our place (Rom. 3:24-25). God has expressed His anger to the end that we might be saved from His wrath. Paul speaks of this in terms of God’s reconciliation of us, and adds that we too have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We read:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:18-21)
God’s anger has an intent to restore us to proper relationship with Himself, to call us to repentance and renewal. Our anger, then, ought to have a primary goal of addressing sin not of punishment.
Righteous anger makes restoration its goal. It is not primarily concerned with payment and revenge. While those who refuse to pay may suffer greater consequences of anger, and there may be some form of payment that required for demonstration of repentance (Luke 19:1-10), but that is not the goal. The goal is restoration. Evaluate your own anger and the effect your anger has on those around you. Does your anger impact others in a way that causes them to repent and move towards reconciliation with you and God? Does your anger “work” in some superficial sense? Does your anger model God in its drawing of sinners to repentance? Evaluate your anger’s effect. Is it righteous anger?
Anger can be right, but have the wrong effect and therefore be sinful. Righteous anger seeks to have the right effect. What effect does your anger have?