Q: What is "righteous anger"? How can I know whether I'm feeling that or just being a hothead?
A. I grew up believing anger was a "bad" emotion. So I've needed several years of Christian counseling even to admit I get angry, much less to learn I can express those feelings righteously! Thankfully, God's Word sets clear parameters for getting peeved.
What does God say about this?
The bad news for hotheads is that Scripture contains many more verses warning believers against blowing their cool than verses advocating such behavior. The writer of Proverbs connects anger with foolishness: "Fools quickly show that they are upset, but the wise ignore insults" (Proverbs 12:16, NCV). And the apostle Paul recommends letting our heavenly Father fight our battles: "My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: 'I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19, NCV).
Sometimes, however, God allows his people to fuss and remain faithful. Such is the case when King David furrows his brow and huffs:
God, I wish you would kill the wicked!
Get away from me, you murderers!
They say evil things about you.
Your enemies use your name thoughtlessly.
Lord, I hate those who hate you;
I hate those who rise up against you.
I feel only hate for them;
they are my enemies (Psalm 139:19-22, NCV).
Or when Nehemiah gets upset after learning about the wealthy Israelites' exploitation of the poor: "Then I was very angry when I had heard … these words" (Nehemiah 5:6, NASB).1