“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV
The memory verse for this week seems quite simple, doesn’t it? “Be angry and do not sin.” So, it’s okay to be angry, as long as I don’t hurt anyone? Well…there is more to it than that. Let’s look at this entire portion of Scripture.
“Testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Ephesians 4:17-20, ESV)
In my Bible version, this entire passage is entitled, “The New Life.” Do you see what is happening here? The new life Paul is reminding us of is about letting go of old ways of thinking and acting. This includes how you think about and act out of anger. “The Way” of Christ is compared to the “way” of everyday people (gentiles) by comparison of the “futility of their minds.” Paul says that people who live without Christ are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that in in them” (Ephesians 4:18, ESV). Another way to think about this is not that we are stupid, but we just don’t know any better when we live without Jesus as our Leader. Paul says they have become hard (callous) and have just given in to whatever they feel and want. This is not the way of Christ.
This new way of Christ applies to how we treat each other as well as our salvation and beliefs. Look at verses 25-27 now, in light of this new way. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:25-27, ESV).
Cove Church family, we are members of one another. We are united. Because of this, when you get angry with one another, do not act out in sin. Resolve your differences. Do not give evil, hatred, or division an opportunity to take root in us, the church body. This is the devotion for this entire week. Pray that God will teach you this week how to be angry, to feel anger, and yet not act sinfully to your neighbor.
How do we live this “new way” without anger? Can we even live without anger? I have had people in my life who have really hurt me. To this day, I don’t know if certain people intended to ruin my life or if they were ignorant to what they were doing. Regardless my “natural” tendency is to hold onto anger against them. My personal desire is to see “justice” or vengeance done to satisfy me. I think I see this almost daily in the media where someone is demanding “justice”. We should want justice enacted, but are we truly seeking truth and right...or revenge?
Let’s look further at what Paul says this same letter to the Ephesians about the “New Life” or “the Way.” “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV). Now we are talking about bitterness, hatred (wrath), and slander. You may think this has nothing to do with anger, but Paul is addressing what we hold in our hearts and in our minds against others. That is what we sometimes do with our anger.
I think we all know what it is like to hold onto anger against someone. Webster’s dictionary defines “malice” as a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another. Paul is really talking about a motivation to do harm. Instead, Paul teaches us to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV). This is not only saying to be kind to everyone, but specifically to someone who has hurt you and needs to be forgiven.
Cove family, this is really about choosing to let go of our right to want retaliation. We all have situations in which we want “justice” but instead, we can pray for kindness, tenderheartedness, and to let go…and to forgive.
Father, help me to continue to let go of the desire for vengeance. Help me to be tenderhearted toward those who have hurt me and wronged me.
“They ruined my life,” you say. “People need to know what a terrible person he or she is!” “This story needs to be told!” you think to yourself. This is the “way” we think, isn’t it? It is human instinct to want everyone else to know what someone else did to us and how they have wronged us. Don’t we all want to tell others what kind of person they are? We want to be heard.
Paul, the apostle who came to know Christ only after committing murderous killing of Christ followers, says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).
The “New Life” or “the Way”, the Jesus follower way, is to let nothing that is “corrupting” or inappropriate talk come out of our mouths. This checks us all, doesn’t it? We can surrender our anger to God in prayer and commit to let only things that build others up come out of our mouths. Yes, we are still going to be angry, and hurt, but we choose what we say about others. We can speak of others in ways that builds them up, even in light of the situation. Paul says when we do so, it demonstrates the same grace you and I have received from Christ to others. In other words, others who hear us may know we have the right to speak ill of another, but we are choosing to offer grace...because we have received grace from God in Christ.
Thank you, God, for the forgiveness You have given me in Jesus. Help me today to offer this same forgiveness, kindheartedness, and grace to those who have hurt me. Teach me, Holy Spirit, to speak of others, even in hurtful situations, in ways that shows grace.
Little league baseball taught me the value of constructive anger. I can remember my excitement and anxiety when I learned I was to finish the game as pitcher. I had been practicing as pitcher and was getting better. I was not a particularly strong 9-year-old and I didn’t have a fiery fastball, but I was getting more accurate in hitting the strike zone. I had been playing outfield and liked catching fly balls. I hadn’t pitched many games, maybe a few innings here and there.
Then, Coach told me I would finish the game as the pitcher, after the 6th inning. I was so excited during the first part of the game, as I sat the bench so as not to stress my arm too much. I remember the combination of excitement and fear as I warmed up. I hoped I didn’t walk too many batters. That was my worst fear.
As my turn came, we were slightly ahead or possibly even had a tied score; I can’t remember. What I do remember is running out to the pitcher’s mound and then it happened! As I ran, the cleat on the toe of my shoe hit the rubber on top of the mound and I went down. It is still a slow-motion memory in my mind. Argh! I learned to curse from my grandfather but kept it to myself. I stood to hear what sounded like every person at the baseball field laughing. I was crushed!
My coach rushed out to the pitcher’s mound and brushed me off. I remember him whispering in my ear: “You’re okay…use your anger to focus. You can do this.” I still feel the emotion when I remember it. I did use that anger. I seemed to have tunnel vision on the catcher’s glove. The next 3 or 4 innings of baseball are a blur, but I do remember the focus. I struck out almost every batter and I pitched a no hitter for the remaining of the game. We won!
Right then, I learned that anger can be used constrictively, and it wasn’t all bad. Later, the coach told me the embarrassment of tripping in front of everyone had given me a “fire in my belly.” This is a common idea in Scripture, when God’s anger is kindled like a fire in the belly. (See these verses for more study: Exodus 4:14, Numbers 11:1, 12:9, 22:27, 25:4, 32:13, Deuteronomy 6:15, 11:17, Joshua 23:16, and Judges 10:7.)
Yet, this anger is said to be “slow to kindle” (Exodus 34:6). “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Nu.14:18, ESV). God’s anger is described to be specific, focused, and bring redemptive correction each time. Even Jesus was moved by righteous anger to bring about change when He was roused against the money changers who took advantage of the people.
Lord, teach us to use our anger constructively, for the building up of others and as a corrective fire kindled in our bellies. May You use our moments of anger to focus redemptive action and keep us from malice.
The apostles John and Matthew both remembered and recorded it. Matthew says Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem with crowds cheering, “Hosanna in the highest!” “And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matthew 21:10-11, ESV). Matthew then says, “Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said, to them ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13, ESV).
The Apostle John adds, “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:14-17, ESV).
Jesus Christ was angry. Something had to be done. This is the spirit of constructive anger. You feel that fire in your belly and you know something must be done. Jesus used that “zeal” for focused and deliberate action. This is what God, in Jesus and in the Old Testament, models and demonstrates consistently throughout Scripture. Anger is part of our emotional makeup and a part of how we are made in HIS image. How it is used is critical to the Jesus Way.