The other day we said in this age where everyone seems to think they can have their own “truth”, we are called to shine the light of Jesus in this dark world. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).
In prior verses (Eph 4:17-19), Paul has described sin as both corrupting and deceptive. Since Christians are called to live lives distinctly different than we did prior to our salvation, Paul concludes that “the new self” includes putting away falsehood. This means not being self-deceptive, dishonest, or scheming in our Christian lives, which allows His light to shine through us.
“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” (Eph 4:25) Satan, who is the Father of lies, has deceived us into thinking that little lies don’t matter. A little bending of the truth. A little twisting of the facts. But these little, insignificant “half-truths” lead us deeper into greater and bigger lies, and ultimately, away the God, the Father and source of all truth.
Today we’re looking at the following two verses, which deals with the sin of anger: “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Eph 4:26-27) We know that the Lord gets angry at the damage and destruction caused by sin, which is righteous anger. But as sinful humans, when we get angry, even if we feel that our anger is righteous anger, our anger usually turns into unrighteous anger. This unrighteous, sinful anger is the kind of anger that Paul wants us to get rid of.
It’s nearly impossible for humans to have righteous anger. In fact Scriptures tell us that “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:20) Instead Paul says we should give place for God’s wrath, leaving all anger, vengeance, and retaliation up to God (Rom 12:19-21).
Yes, we will get angry, which is why Paul says “Be angry”. And yes, when the Holy Spirit is in us, we recognize that bad and terrible things happen in this world, and when we see these things, we will get angry. But if we are not careful, this anger will quickly turn in to sin, which is why Paul tells us “don’t sin by letting anger control you”.
When we are angry, we must make sure we do not allow it to turn into sin. Anger is one of those things that easily burns out of control, and when that happens, we fall into sin. It is this sin of giving vent to our anger that we need to avoid. For sin resulting from anger is devastating to the family of God, so devastating that Jesus equated anger with murder because God looks at the attitude of the heart (Matt 5:21-22). Instead of letting our feelings out, we’d be wise to follow this biblical advice: “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” (Prov 29:11) Venting stirs up more anger, or at least it does in my experience.
When Paul says, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry”, he is saying that we should get rid of our anger as soon as possible. Don’t nurse it, don’t brood over it, don’t hold a grudge. Anger can be good, but only if we get rid of it quickly, and turn our anger into loving action to fix the problem that made us angry. Anger isn’t an end in itself. If you are angry, you need to either be reconciled to the one with whom you are angry, or you do something about the situation which made you angry.
Either way, you are to get rid of the anger quickly. Move on with whatever action is necessary to keep you from brooding in the anger. First deal with your anger, and second let your anger spur you to action. If you fail to do this, if you allow anger to go unchecked, then anger becomes a sinful condition. Unfortunately, sometimes that means walking away and loving the person from afar.
If we allow anger to go unchecked, it becomes an opportunity for the devil to change righteous anger into sinful anger “for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Eph 4:27). When anger is not dealt with, it festers. It builds up until it breaks loose. When we do not deal with our anger, it gives Satan a foothold in our life to make anger become sinful. He knows how fine the line is between righteous and unrighteous anger, and he loves to get us to cross it.
In hand to hand combat, giving good footing or surrendering ground to him gives your enemy the upper hand. Be mindful that our battle isn’t with your friend, relative or boss. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12) So refusing to deal with your anger gives Satan a handle on you, something to grab on to and control you with. It gives him a beachhead from which to organize further attacks.
As soon as an angry, jealous, vindictive, vengeful thought is conceived in the mind, it should be taken captive and given to Christ, so that it is not allowed to produce the fruit of unrighteousness, while righteous anger should not be permitted to develop into some sort of self-righteous attitude, which also gives the enemy a foothold in our life. “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5)
When the devil gets a foothold and anger becomes a sin, it gains control over the Christian, rather than the Christian maintaining control over it. Letting your anger build causes more damage in the long run. Unchecked anger and wrath can destroy a church. This is why it is so important to get rid of our anger by forgiving and being forgiven, and by seeking to become a solution to the problem that made us angry in the first place.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Paul’s simple, but important teaching on anger issues. I pray that I may be ready and willing to express anger against sin, and the things that grieve Your heart, in a godly and righteous way, that honors Your name. I also pray that I would recognize any fleshly emotions, which motivate me toward unrighteous anger. Help me not to let the sun go down on my wrath and may I never give the enemy a foothold in my life, either directly – through fleshly anger, or indirectly – by allowing legitimate, righteous anger to deteriorate into a self-righteous attitude. Give me wisdom and a discerning heart to know when to be angry, without sinning even if it means walking away, so that the testimony I present may be for Your honor and glory, this I ask in Jesus’ name, amen.