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
In the spring of 1894, the Baltimore Orioles came to Boston to play a routine baseball game. But what happened that day was anything but routine. The Orioles’ John McGraw got into a fight with the Boston third baseman. Within minutes all the players from both teams had joined in the brawl. The warfare quickly spread to the grandstands. Among the fans, the conflict went from bad to worse. Someone set fire to the stands and the entire ballpark burned to the ground. Not only that, but the fire spread to 107 other Boston buildings as well. Source: Daily Bread, August 13, 1992
Anger is a natural way of dealing with emotions like fear, loss, sadness, disappointment, or dejection. When something or someone makes us uncomfortable or vulnerable, we often respond in anger. Everyone gets angry at some point in life. Anger is a defense mechanism we often use for self-protection. It is a way of letting others know when their words or actions affect us negatively.
Anger is not necessarily bad. At times, anger is necessary and mandatory. For example, people should be angry about racism, classism, and sexism. We should be angry when others are mistreated, abused, or dehumanized. The fact that so many people are homeless, and others are dying of hunger should make us angry. That type of anger is righteous anger. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem by chasing out the money changers and the sellers of animals (John 2:14-17), He was righteously angry. What makes anger righteous is the purpose of that anger and how that anger is processed.
Unrighteous anger is spiritually unhealthy and can be hazardous to our Christian life. That is why Paul cautions the saints in the church at Ephesus, not to sin by letting anger control them. Righteous anger is not vindictive or punitive. Its goal is not to harm but to redeem the perpetrator. Jesus was not trying to punish the people He chased out of the temple. He wanted to redeem them from their greed.
Righteous anger is controlled and confident. It allows us to talk and listen while being open to help and being helped in dealing with the situation. Righteous anger is thoughtful, considerate, patient, and flexible. A person who is righteously angry is not necessarily loud and never becomes condescending or disrespectful. They do not lash out in rage, becoming verbally or physically abusive. Such a person can express their emotional dissatisfaction assertively while demonstrating mature emotional intelligence.
In today’s text, Paul exhorts the saints at Ephesus not to let the sun go down while they are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. He is challenging the church to practice righteous anger. This can only be done by having the mind of Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to influence our behaviors.
When we feel angry, we should meditate on the word of God and engage in a conversation with God through prayer so we can discern a godly way to deal with whatever has caused us to become angry. We should confess that we are angry expeditiously and ask the Holy Spirit to help us process that anger in the godliest way. Otherwise, our anger can get out of control and spread like a wildfire that can ruin our reputation, undermine our Christian testimony, and consume everything or everyone around us.
Questions for Personal Reflection
How do you manage your anger?
How do you know when your anger is righteous or not?
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please help me to process my anger righteously when I am hurt, disappointed, feeling vulnerable, or disrespected. May your Holy Spirit help me to respond with grace when I feel attacked. Please give me the emotional intelligence to express my anger against sin and injustice in a way that brings about restoration and redemption instead of condemnation.