“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.”
Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT
Paul moves on to the problem of anger. He quotes Psalm 4:4, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent“. There were many circumstances in Paul’s world that caused anger, much as there are today. The Psalmist, David, knew the problems of being angry many years before Paul echoed his agreement. And we look around us and find how destructive anger can be. For example, in our days, so called “road rage” attacks frequently grab the news headlines. A driver getting angry with what he perceives as another driver’s bad driving. Words and actions can quickly get out of hand leading to terrible outcomes.
Unlike lies, though, which we considered in the previous verse, anger can lead to a right outcome in the right circumstances. But we have to channel our anger into righteous ways. I get angry when I see the current news reports of atrocities committed in Ukraine, but the feelings of anger drive me to prayer. Jesus became angry when He observed the lack of faith by the people and leaders in the synagogue – the story is in Mark 3. We read, “He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts…”. Jesus felt anger as do we, but He gave us a model to emulate. He channelled His anger into a healing.
Closer to home, a bad driver fails to make me respond. And I don’t react any more to a queue-jumper in a supermarket. I’m sure you, my readers, behave the same. But sometimes something happens that does make us angry, creating the opportunity for a negative reaction. Being wrongly accused of something we haven’t done. Having a row with a spouse. Experiencing an injustice committed by a neighbour or workmate. All these things can provide a basis for anger. And David’s advice in Psalm 4, echoed by Paul in our verses today, was to be careful we don’t react wrongly through anger, instead dealing with the issue before we go to bed and then overnight allowing the Holy Spirit to bring into play God’s perspective. The last thing we need or want is for the devil to gain a hold over us.
In our pilgrimage through life we will come across much that makes us angry. There will be situations we meet that seem tailor-made to press a button inside of us marked “Anger”. You know – it’s a red button that will set off a series of events or emotions seemingly beyond our control if it’s pressed. We all have one. And even if we don’t think we do, the devil will find it and press it, given the chance. So Paul’s advice was timely, relevant and appropriate. If anyone had an excuse to become angry it was Paul, imprisoned for his devotion and service to Christ. But he channelled his anger into prayer and writing letters. Recording for posterity life-truths for our benefit, even many years later. Thanks Paul.