Righteous indignation is typically a reactive emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult, or malice of another. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice. In some Christian doctrines, righteous anger is considered the only form of anger which is not sinful, e.g., when Jesus drove the money lenders out of the temple (Gospel of Matthew 21).
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"Righteous" means acting in accord with divine or moral law or free from guilt or sin. It may also refer to a morally right or justifiable decision or action or to an action which arises from an outraged sense of justice or morality. (See third paragraph below) "Indignation" is anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy. The Standard Dictionary describes indignation as a "feeling involving anger mingled with contempt or disgust".
New Testament Bible commentary
Daniel Whitby argues that "Anger is not always sinful", in that it is found among non-sinners. For example, Jesus was "angry with the Pharisees for the hardness of their hearts; yet He had no desire to revenge this sin upon them, but had a great compassion for them".
Old Testament Bible commentary
In Scott's comment on Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger", he notes that "...on many occasions, in the management of families, in reproving sin, and even in ordering their temporal concerns", anger is permitted of Christians. Nevertheless, Scott cautions that Christians should aim to "....be very circumspect and vigilant to restrain that dangerous passion within the bounds of reason, meekness, piety, and charity; not being angry without cause, or above cause, or in a proud, selfish, and peevish manner." Scott argues that Christians should not express anger in the "language of vehement indignation".
The Forerunner Commentary on Psalms 137:2 argues that these psalms are about the "bitterness of exile into which God forced Judah", purportedly with the goal of turning grief into zeal, so that the "anger can be used to scour away sin" by becoming "righteously indignant". In Richard T. Ritenbaugh's comments on Proverbs 15:18 in How to Survive Exile, he argues that it "is alright for us to be righteously indignant as long as we do not sin."
In James McCosh's book Motive Powers, he notes that "We may be angry and sin not; but this disposition may become sinful, and this in the highest degree. It is so when it is excessive, when it is rage, and makes us lose control of ourselves. It is so, and may become a vice, when it leads us to wish evil to those who have offended us. It is resentment when it prompts us to meet and repay evil by evil. It is vengeance when it impels us to crush those who have injured us. It is vindictiveness when it is seeking out ingeniously and laboriously means and instruments to give pain to those who have thwarted us. Already sin has entered."
St. Thomas Aquinas, in the question on anger of his Summa Theologiae, quotes the Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum, "he that is angry without cause, shall be in danger; but he that is angry with cause, shall not be in danger: for without anger, teaching will be useless, judgments unstable, crimes unchecked," and concludes saying that "to be angry is therefore not always an evil."
- Craig L. Adams. "Righteous Indignation". Homepage.mac.com. Archived from the original on 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
- Daniel Whitby, D.D. "A critical commentary and paraphrase on the Old and New Testament and the Apocrypha". www.archive.org. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- "Righteous Indignation (Forerunner Commentary) :: Bible Tools". webcache.googleusercontent.com. 2010-02-19. Archived from the original on February 28, 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
- ST, II-II, Q. 158, a. 1, sed contra.
- An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry and Social Psychology. David Brin, science fiction author: Brin encourages researchers to explore whether emotional states such as righteous indignation might be just as addictive as many illegal substances.