Back to the original question in this thread: I posted the question also in Steve Gregg’s forum, “The Narrow Path.” Steve is a well-known Bible teacher. He also has a call-in program in which he answers peoples’ questions about Bible passages. Here is his answer (Please comment):
Even though “without a cause” does not appear in the oldest manuscripts, and may have been added as a scribal gloss, it seems necessary for us to assume some such qualification in Jesus’ absolute-sounding statement.
First, because hyperbole is very common in the Sermon on the Mount, and must have been expected to be recognized by the hearers. If taken literally, the sermon would dictate many strange practices, including: that one must never pray outside a locked closet; one must give to every person who asks for something (even one’s children?); one must always go two miles when the one compelling him may wish only to go one mile; one must never say anything more than “yay” or “nay;” when sued at law, one must give the plaintiff double what he is suing for; one should check regularly to see if there is a plank in his eye that needs removing; one should never make moral judgments; etc. Hyperbole is very common in scripture—and especially in the teachings of Jesus (e.g., Matt.11:23; 12:32; 13:57; 16:4; 17:20; 18:8-9, 22; 19:24, 29; 21:21; 23:24; Luke 13:33; 14:26; 17:4; etc.)
Second, Jesus Himself got angry. I am not referring to the cleansing of the temple, where one might well deduce that Jesus was experiencing anger, but in Mark’s direct statement that Jesus had anger: “when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said…” (Mark 3:5).
Third, Jesus and Paul both seem to speak on anger as if the subject requires nuance. Paul also said to “let all…anger…be put away from you” (Ephesians.4:31). This was only five verses after his earlier statement, where he quoted Psalm 4:4 as to the need to “be angry and do not sin.”
I do not believe that Jesus was intending to condemn every instance of anger (including His own). The context (Matt.5:21-22) suggests that He was referring to the anger that is the mental counterpart of murder, just as He later forbad the lust that is the mental counterpart of adultery (vv.27-28). John probably had the same teaching in mind when he wrote “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Not all anger is hateful.
I believe that anger and fear are both emotions that we are repeatedly told to control and expel from our lives. They are both God-given visceral responses to certain stimuli—and appropriate in certain instances. Both are intended to motivate to appropriate action. We would be very unloving if we were not angry at certain situations requiring our courageous intervention (e.g., abortion or the kidnapping and selling of girls into sex-slavery). We would rarely speak out for justice if we were never vexed by injustices (as Jesus was).
Similarly, fear is an important motivator to action—like the action of getting off the railroad tracks when the train is coming. Anger and fear are both emotions felt even by animals—meaning that are amoral, in themselves. The problems with such emotions (concerning which we are often warned in scripture) is that both of them may lead us to sin. Anger may prevent us from loving our enemy. Fear, also, when joined with cowardice, may tempt us to disregard intimidating duties.