"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,
by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption."
Ephesians 4:30--Part 2
Verses 26 and 27 say, "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun set while you are angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Sometimes we believe the lie that anger is sin and believe we are bad if we experience angry. That is not true. Anger is a God-given emotion aroused by something that displeases us. It is like a barometer saying something is not right and needs to be addressed. Anger is not sin, because God gets angry. (Look in Deuteronomy 9:8 20, Psalm 2:12, Numbers 25:4, Jeremiah 4:8, 12:13). The Bible talks about anger being kindled, which would indicate it is like fire and begins with a little spark and grows from there. Smoldering anger is something we call malice, which can burst forth like a wild fire and it becomes wrath. Today's passage is telling us to be angry, but not to sin. We need to understand that because our perceptions and emotions can be tainted by sin, it is really hard for us to do this. If we realize misusing our anger or sinning in anger grieves the Lord we might be a little more motivated to manage it in a healthy way. So, what are we supposed to do with our anger?
There are several things that we can do. Psalm 97:10 says, "You that love the Lord, hate Evil." In the New Testament we are told to love our neighbor, bless those who persecute us, pray for those who despitefully use us. So, we should hate evil, even be enraged by it, while at the same time loving the person behind the sin. Matthew 5:25 tells us when we have a disagreement we should settle it quickly. Matthew 18:15 tells us that when we have a problem with someone we should go to them in private. Let's stop and think a moment about what these verses are telling us. First, there are times we should be angry. Second, being angry and not sinning does not mean we are not to express the anger. However, it does mean we are to learn to express it in an appropriate way in a timely manner. It means we do that in private and in love. When someone hurts us, at first the anger will reflect a boundary that has been crossed in an inappropriate way. But if we stop and pray about that, before we address the problem, we will see that the anger becomes anger at the sin and the desire is to help that person deal with the sin that hurt us. Confrontation needs to be done in love with the hope of reconciliation…that takes time and effort and is not a hit and run thing.
We also need to realize that under the anger are usually more vulnerable emotions like fear, hurt, or frustration. The fear may be triggered when we are threatened emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Sometimes we want the anger to help us stay safe, but at other times we may need to face the fear and share our heart with someone who would benefit from our fear. Hurt may be caused by someone’s careless thoughts or actions and they may be more prone to change if we share our hurt rather than the anger covering it. If our anger is covering frustration it could be due to blocked goals and if we look at the frustration rather than the anger we may be able to discern how to approach the blocked goals to get what we need. If we look at what these emotions are and express them rather than the anger covering them, we may be more successful at achieving the changes we need. This is because we will understand better what we have been angry about, can help another understand the pain they have caused if we allow ourselves to go there, and sharing our pain may get us further in changing a relationship than sharing our anger.
Why is this important? First, in Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus says anger is the first step toward murder because it gives the devil a foothold into our lives. Because he seeks to destroy, he fuels it by the lies he plants in our heads. I wonder if we will ever know how many times Satan destroys communication among families, friends and churches. Anger, when it is not dealt with, smolders like a fire and is fanned by Satan and explodes on others or it becomes self-destructive. The way to quench it is to deal with the situations and relationships causing it. Anger that isn’t dealt with leads to things like bitterness, gossip, backbiting, slander, and even overreacting to other events. Godly confrontation, restoration of relationship and forgiveness puts out smoldering resentments that turn simple anger into bitterness that erupts into rage. Aristotle wrote, "Anyone can be angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way is not easy." I agree with him. Sometimes we think it is powerful to aggressively express anger. However, to express anger by confronting friends in private in a loving manner that seeks invites God's work in their lives takes more strength and more faith than erupting at someone.
It is important for us to ask ourselves what makes it to deal with anger in the right way? Is it because we thought it was sin so we didn’t admit we were angry? Do we feel really vulnerable when we let someone know they’ve hurt us? Have we ever even seen anger handled incorrectly? If we’ve seen it mishandled, we may fear trying to express it. If we set our hearts on honoring and obeying the Lord and leave the results to Him, we can do what is right. To be honest, sometimes the results will be what we hope they will be and sometimes they will not, but it is in the obedience that we keep from grieving HIM!
Prayer: Lord, we thank You for the way you have made us! That includes emotionally. We confess to you that sin has distorted what makes us angry and how we respond to that. Help us to be angry at sin and to love the sinner. Help us to be angry at things like divorce, injustice and not caring for the helpless…your word says those things make you angry. Help us to use anger to reconcile relationships and restore a sinning brother. Help us to ask for forgiveness and to give forgiveness quickly. Amen.