As a young woman, Sarah Sumner never allowed herself to be angry, until her parents divorced when she was 22. The experience was one inspiration behind her doctoral dissertation (at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on godly anger, which has blossomed into a book, Angry Like Jesus: Using His Example to Spark Your Moral Courage (Fortress Press). San Francisco–based Her.meneutics writer Dorcas Cheng-Tozun spoke with Sumner, former dean of A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, about bringing a healthy dose of righteous anger to today’s church.
Why is the topic of godly anger so significant to you?
Over the years, working in Christian organizations, I have seen fudging and compromise and blatant refusals to do things in a Christian way. And then people want to cover it up. That makes me angry. I don’t mean blustery anger, where I want to slam the door. It motivates me to try righting wrongs in a structured, strategic way.
What’s the difference between sinful and godly anger?
Sinful anger does not trust God, while godly anger does. Sinful anger is prideful, while godly anger flows from humility. Sinful anger participates in evil, while godly anger abhors evil. But the main difference is that godly anger is loving. It’s not about feeling self-righteous.
In the book, you connect godly anger with virtues such as faith, love, and hope. How can anger express such qualities?
You can’t have godly anger without faith, in part because it’s risky. Showing godly anger is bound to displease certain people. You need to have faith that God will sustain you through any backlash.
Godly anger is the guardian of love. Psalm 7:11 says that God is a righteous judge who “displays his wrath ...1