“Be angry and do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)
I’ve often prided myself on how I rarely become angry. Others have praised my gentleness, how I rarely lose my temper. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never really understood this verse. Somehow, my mind automatically translated the verse into saying, “If you ever have the misfortune of being angry, make sure you do not sin.” However, this verse is actually an imperative statement; a command, pure, but by no means simple: “BE ANGRY.” Was Paul mistaken in telling us this? Or was it a translation error? After all, isn’t it a sin to be angry?
In some ways, it is helpful to think of anger as being similar to physical pain. Just like our body experiences pain when it is hurt, we experience anger when something – or someone – we love is hurt or destroyed.
So what does “do not sin” mean? Just as we should take steps to treat the reasons for physical pain, we should “…not let the sun go down not on [our] anger” and instead, take quick action to resolve it. Of course, anger is complicated, but the following are a few of the main reasons and ways to respond to it.
- Your love is misplaced.
When we love something we shouldn’t, or we love something MORE than we should, we will become wrongfully angry. It is a sign our priorities need to be adjusted, and that we need to love what God wants us to love.
- Something you love is in pain.
When other people get hurt, do we ignore it? Or do we allow ourselves to become invested in their situation? Do we weep with those who weep?
- Something you love has hurt you.
Love makes us vulnerable. When loved ones hurt us, we should not shut them out, but speak the truth in love.
The problem is, doing this is emotionally draining. I often avoid the inconvenience of anger and confrontation by choosing to not care as much as I should. This is a dangerous attitude: just like lepers will accidentally mutilate themselves without realizing it, people who try to protect themselves from pain can end up allowing terrible things to happen around them.
Contrast this attitude with how God responded to us. He loved mankind with an all consuming love. When we rejected God, God burned with a terrible anger against us. If God had not loved us as much as he did, he could have avoided much pain and anguish. What did he do instead? He took drastic measures to reconcile with us. He sent Jesus to die for our sins, so that we could be reconciled with him again.
In the same way, we shouldn’t wallow in our anger, but should “…be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
This resurrection Sunday, let us remember God’s great love, and thus great anger, and thus great forgiveness.
“And on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied.
For every sin on him was laid.
Here in the death of Christ I’ll live.”
(In Christ Alone, Stuart Townend)