Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26 NASB)
Have you ever blown a gasket? Flipped your lid? Gone medieval? Read someone the riot act? If you answered “no” to all those questions, please study the previous verse in Ephesians Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor…
We all get angry. It is part of our design. Just like being happy, sad or afraid, getting angry is simply experiencing an emotion, which is how God designed us. Notice it doesn’t say to, “Be NOT angry” but to “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” It is not a sin to be angry; that will happen. However, it is important that we respond the way that our Designer desires.
Why Did God Design Anger?
Have you ever wondered why God created anger? What positive purpose could anger serve? Let’s consider the kind of stuff that makes us angry:
- Getting cut off in traffic.
- Not getting a raise you think you deserve.
- Watching the person behind you in line at the grocery store rush to the front of a newly-opened line.
Here are a couple of my personal peeves:
- Waiting around while somebody carefully backs into a parking space (it takes more time than you save, people!).
- Following drivers into a parking lot who then slow down to consider their next move, leaving me vulnerable with my vehicle still in the road. (GRRR! Are you trying to kill me?) I guess driving is my Achilles heel.
Now, all of the above bullet point examples of anger-generating situations have one thing in common: each of these are responses to a perceived injustice. We think “I deserve…” or “that person has no right…” And anger takes hold. Anger is a response to a perceived injustice. And since we are created in God’s image, why would He not plant a response to injustice in us? Our God is a just God. It is part of who He is. Justice is one of the attributes God cannot violate in anything that He does. As His creation, we feel stirred to action in response to injustice. It’s called anger.
Anger is from God, so Respond in a Godly Way
Anger begins in our hearts. But we can decide how our “flesh” will respond. Our flesh–our sinful nature–usually wants to deal with the anger of the heart by arriving at a judgment and levying a punishment. If the injustice has hurt you, you may lash out in an attempt to hurt the other person. If you have been insulted, then you might return an insult. If someone has not paid back a loan, you might try to destroy their reputation. Responses such as these are often our initial instinct because we want to correct the wrong. But we can choose a better way, God’s way.
Life in God is about forgiveness and reconciling. So a godly approach to anger is one of mercy and grace. This doesn’t mean you become a doormat for people to walk on, but the best approach is one that is born from a desire to reconcile and from a heart ready to forgive. And it is important that this take place right away. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. When reconciliation is not possible (before sundown), get your own heart ready to reconcile and have forgiveness already there. We can do this. It is possible, but our mind needs to “listen” to God’s Spirit and not the flesh and receive its response from the Lord. Let’s get on board with our Creator’s plan for our design and ignore the flesh’s plan for immediate judgment and justice. Leave judgment to the one who is qualified to do so. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)