“He made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple area.” (John 2:15)

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was angry. But just a little more than a week ago, we read how Jesus told us not to get angry. So, did Jesus commit a sin here? Did he lose his temper? Or is there a place for anger?

Maybe St. Paul can help out here. “Be angry,” he wrote, “but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). So there is a type of anger that isn’t sinful. In fact, there are times when anger is the only appropriate response. For instance, we have the right to be angry at sins like abortion, racism, sexual abuse, or child trafficking. But at the same time, and no matter how offensive these sins are, we are not justified in sinning ourselves. It comes down to our motivations. As St. Thomas Aquinas taught: “He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral.” Why? Because “anger looks to the good of justice.”

So anger toward injustice is not sinful; it’s even appropriate! It sim­ply needs to be controlled by reason and compassion. Expressions of anger are acceptable if they arise from a desire to restore justice and order—for instance if we are trying to reprove sin or set things right in our family. We just have to be care­ful not to let our anger overpower us or overshadow the call to love and forgive.

In Jesus’ case, his anger was in response to the unjust way the peo­ple were treating the Temple. It was a controlled anger also, for imme­diately afterward, he continued his ministry of preaching and teach­ing with calmness, conviction, and clarity.

It’s okay to get angry—so long as we are vigilant and can keep our emotions in good control. So if you find yourself about to get angry, try your best to link your reaction to good reason, love, and humility. And once you have said your piece, make sure to resolve the situation by restoring love and trust if at all possible.

“Jesus, teach me how to be angry without sinning.”