Be angry and don’t sin. What does that mean, and how do we do that?
I can think of two basic reasons why we sinfully get angry (there are probably more reasons than these two). First is an anger which stems from idol worship, and second is an anger that stems from unforgiveness.
If you love something, or someone, more than God, and something, or someone, comes along and threatens to take your idol away from you, you will get very angry. This is a sinful anger.
If someone has hurt you in the past, and you are holding a grudge against them, you will always be angry for it–even if you think you have a righteous anger. You may think, “So and so did such and such against me in the past, and now my mission is to not let that happen to me again, or anyone else in a similar situation as me! My anger is justified! My anger fuels my passion!” But, because your anger is really driven by unforgiveness it is sinful.
Righteous anger, or sinless anger, is then something which is never fueled by idol worship or unforgiveness.
For example, if I see children on the street, wearing dirty scraps of clothing, begging for money, I get angry. But my anger is not because I’m refusing to forgive someone, nor is it because something is being threatened to be taken away from me–something I love more than God. In fact just the opposite. My anger is fueled by forgiveness–Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, so that the curse of sin is lifted off of people. There’s no good reason for these kids to be begging on the streets. Who’s sins are they paying for? Also, my anger is fueled by true worship–loving God more than all else. I want what God wants. There is an injustice being done when kids are begging on the streets. Because I see God as more valuable than all things, I am motivated to bring all things up to Him in order to receive His justice.
So, be angry and do not sin. Forgive and don’t worship idols.