And “don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Anger is something we all experience and we all deal with it in different ways. Some are screamers, yet others while they present a stoic face on the outside are seething on the inside. Some get in your face. Some give you the silent treatment, but one thing we all have in common is that we all get angry. The truth is that when you let anger get the best of you, it brings out the worst in you because it gives the enemy a foothold. Right now there are a lot of angry people in this country and we are giving the enemy a foothold. John 10:10 reveals his goal, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Is it any wonder that what we have seen in most of the protests is theft, death, and destruction! So what do we do with this strong emotion called anger? Is it possible to be a Christian and still get angry? How can we honor Jesus in our anger? Paul gives us answers to these questions in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. First:
- Use your anger for good
Maybe this point sounds strange to you. Some folks believe that anger by nature is sinful, so how could you ever use your anger for good? Verse 26 tells us that anger is not a sin. It says, “In your anger, do not sin…” So, by that statement alone, you can be in a state of anger and not be sinning. After all, Jesus got angry. The biblical writers had the same hang-ups about anger that we do today. Only one of the gospel writers was courageous enough to say that Jesus got angry. Do you remember the occasion? Most people think of the time he knocked over the tables of the money changers in the Temple and drove out the animals. People were being cheated and swindled in the very act of worship. Jesus certainly could have been angry there yet the scripture describes him as full of “zeal.” But the writers never called it anger. The only time scripture records that Jesus got angry was when he was staring down the prideful Pharisees who preferred keeping their manmade rules about the Sabbath over seeing a man healed of his withered hand. Mark calls it like it is in Mark 3:4-5, “Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” The truth is that some things ought to make you angry. You should be angry when someone is discriminated against. You should be angry that your Christian brothers and sisters are being imprisoned and tortured and murdered around the globe. You should be angry whenever someone gets raped or murdered. You should be angry when a Veteran commits suicide. Some things ought to make you angry. If you never get angry you might want to check your pulse! The key is that in your anger, do not sin. At its core anger is a protest and we need to ask the question is my protest constructive or destructive? Use your anger for good, not for evil. We need to explain our anger not express it, when we do we will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments. James urges us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” James 1:19-20. Choose to build constructively with your anger, not to tear down. Look for a solution, make the world a better place. Speak the truth in love, not in hate. Take a stand when you ought to, but do it with careful humility, not careless pride. Not only should we use our anger for good but we should:
- Deal with your anger quickly.
The last part of verse 26 and verse 27 read, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” If you nurse that anger past sunset, you’re likely to move into the kinds of things verse 31 talks about like bitterness and rage. And guess what? Your body was not designed for that! God did not create us to carry bitterness, resentment and rage. Ever heard of psychosomatic illness? Your rage will show up in other ways, like ulcers and migraines and insomnia. Or we displace our unresolved anger on innocent others like a spouse or friend. Our anger will grow out of control consuming us because we’ve given the devil a foothold. Our body houses the Holy Spirit, but when we let anger last longer than a night, we’re opening up opportunities for the devil to work through us. Unresolved anger is undoubtedly what Jesus had in mind when he said, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). Jesus spoke of strong language that betrayed an unforgiving heart. And he disturbingly portrayed unresolved anger as mental murder. Now you won’t always be able to resolve everything literally before sunset. But what you can do is to resolve to resolve it. If you’re angry with your spouse, you can at least admit it and plan together to talk it through the next day when you’re both at your best. Some of us think we’re great because we hold our anger in. Use your anger for good, deal with it quickly, and lastly:
- Learn to let it go
Is it time to cut the line and let that person off your hook. Maybe it’s time to release the offender to God. That’s one area where our faith gives us a distinct advantage over unbelievers. We don’t have to settle every account, because God will. Of course, what we’re talking about here is the dreaded “F word”: forgiveness. When it comes to living as the church, verse 32 is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. It reads, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We need to show each other some kindness and some compassion, the kind of kindness and compassion we would like to receive. And we need to forgive each other. Why? Because in Christ, God forgave us! Christians of all people should lead the way in forgiveness. Yet when it comes to forgiveness it often doesn’t feel like it’s the right thing to do. Even though it doesn’t match what you’re feeling on the inside it is still the right thing to do. We live in a world where there’s a lot of pain and heartache, a world into which we are to bring love and forgiveness, and break the cycle of hatred. Are you protesting with anger and projecting hurt or promoting love? Christian singer and songwriter Matthew West wrote a song entitled, “Forgiveness.” And there is a line in the song that says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” How about you? Are you a hothead? Or are you the silent type that stews forever on the inside? Neither one is good, because both are damaging. Both grieve the Holy Spirit. Both give the devil a foothold. How about yielding your anger to God? Next time your angermometer is about to blow a gasket, how about slowing yourself down by talking to God: “God, you know I’m hot right now. Why am I so upset? And how can I use this strong emotion to honor your name and grow your kingdom? How can I use my anger for your righteous purposes?” That’s a prayer worth praying, as we seek to put the brakes on our anger. I am thankful that God in His wisdom wired us with such strong emotions that help us to know something is not right. But we need to monitor our emotions not multiply them.