“Be angry, but do not sin.” – Ephesians 4:26
Kindness is in short supply these days. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear or read of some new outburst or conflict. The ongoing dispute over masks—should we wear them or should we not? Recently, a flight attendant lost two teeth after allegedly being punched by a passenger who “repeatedly ignored standard in-flight instructions” according to an airline spokesman. The altercation was caught on video and later went viral. We all watched in dismay and the incident sparked widespread outrage.
Common courtesy, like common sense, is something we used to take for granted, but no longer. The milk of human kindness seems to have dried up or at least curdled.
Now I admit, there are moments when I get irate and lose my temper. But when we indulge in this behavior and even try to justify ourselves, beware! Such outbursts too easily become a habit, a trait, a character. We need to stop and ask ourselves if the issues that enrage us are coming from the outside, or if the real issue is inside our own heart.
We need to grow up.
For those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, we need to grow up. Let’s all look closely at our own lives and do a bit of “fruit inspecting.” What do our words, our social media posts, our daily encounters with family, friends, and others reflect? Are we reflecting kindness? If our life is frequently marked by taking (or giving) offense, harsh words or always a bone to pick with others, it may be something other than passion for God that is fueling our responses.
Anxieties and fears stoke the flames of anger, and this world is full of snares to catch us when we’re emotionally fragile or excitable. The apostle Paul’s world was this way too. That’s why, in Ephesians 4, Paul says that we must all grow up in how we think and behave. No one likes to be told, “Grow up!” But without maturity, Christians are just as vulnerable to deception that may well take them a long way from where they ought to be.
Let’s learn to identify what sets us off—and consider whether our response is taking us in the right direction, or in the wrong direction. We must learn to consciously choose to follow the first and reject the second. Anger, which has its place, must be dealt with in the right way. Otherwise, we are leaving an open door for Satan to come in.
In this passage of Ephesians, Paul was quoting from the Old Testament (Psalm 4:4). It doesn’t say you shouldn’t be angry. Anger is a natural human emotion and to pretend it isn’t there is a form of denial. But Paul insists that you mustn’t let it lead you into sin. Find the right way to channel it. We need to begin by processing it the way the psalmist did, in lament and prayer!
Everything that follows from anger—the raised voices, harsh words, a bitter spirit that fills the air and leaves a sour taste in your mouth—would you rather live day by day with these or without them?
The outcome of outrage.
Take a moment to analyze the outcome of all this outrage. Is it bearing good fruit in your life? In the lives of those you encounter every day? Is the gospel being adorned, made more attractive to outsiders? Or is the gospel being sullied, made repugnant by your behavior?
We really must learn to deal with anger before it destroys us and those around us. Let’s learn to recognize the traps we are falling into and resist them. This passage is chock-full of practical advice on how to deal with anger, and not least in warning how not to.
Would you take some personal time to read through these verses? Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate their meaning and spotlight ways in which you need to repent.
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“Don’t be babies any longer! We won’t be thrown this way and that on a stormy sea, blown about by every gust of teaching, by human tricksters, by their cunning and deceitful scheming. Instead, we must speak the truth in love, and so grow up in everything into Him – that is, into the king, who is the head.
“‘Be angry, but don’t sin’; don’t let the sun go down on you while you’re angry, and don’t leave any loophole for the devil.
“Don’t let any unwholesome words escape your lips. Instead, say whatever is good and will be useful in building people up, so that you will give grace to those who listen.
“And don’t disappoint God’s Holy Spirit – the Spirit who put God’s mark on you to identify you on the day of freedom. All bitterness and rage, all anger and yelling, and all blasphemy – put it all away from you, with all wickedness.”
Ephesians 4:14-15, 26-27, 29-31 (NTE)