“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).
Whenever we think of anger, we think of things like fits of rage, temper tantrums, loss of self-control, and a tailspin born out of selfish desires. When we think of being angry, we measure our understanding of anger against the standard that we know the best: humanity. This is where our fault lies. We have so many human examples of how anger brings forth sin that we cannot comprehend how anger could be handled righteously. Verbal abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse, murder, road rage… all flow out of anger in our culture.
As we read Ephesians 4:26-27, we must set our standard much higher than just on our fellow human examples. We must see God as the standard for anger. Throughout Scripture, we hear of God’s holy (pure) and righteous (fair and right) anger. His holy wrath is seen time and time again as he judges and condemns rebellious humanity. The best example of holy, righteous anger seen from God that gives us perspective is when Jesus overthrew the money changers. The robbers in the temple knew the people needed to offer animals as their sacrifice, so they sold the animals at a ridiculously high price because they knew that the people had to buy the animals. It’s kind of like the high price of food at a sports game or the movie theater. Why do they charge higher? Because they can. These money changers were profiting off of people’s money that was to be used for worship. They were stealing money for themselves and calling it honorable because it was used for God. It was precisely that last point that drove Jesus to holy, righteous anger.
See, when we consider God as the standard of our anger, and we then honestly read Ephesians 4:26-27, something should immediately stand out to us. Many of us have understood this passage wrongly and have even misquoted it. I have misquoted it. Paul uses an imperative; he commands us to BE ANGRY. This is God’s Word commanding us to be angry.
I want to stop on that point for one second. Be angry. Don’t be too quick to go to the next point because sometimes the next point causes us to water down the first point. Be angry. When you hear of things that you know grieve God’s heart, be angry! When you hear of travesties in this world, be angry. When you hear about your brother or sister in Christ falling into sin, be angry. Get a fire lit underneath you and be passionate for the things that have eternal significance. We are such a passive people at times. We hear Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek, or to be meek, or to be careful to not sin in our anger, and so we default to becoming passionless zombies who care for little else other than our own self-interest.
Of course it says do not sin in your anger. And of course it says to resolve your anger with your brother before you go to sleep for the night. Of course we need to be wise in what we are angry about. Of course there are things that are not godly, honorable things to be angry over. But when you look at the world around you and you see sin abound, be angry. Let your anger turn you to action. Let your anger bring you boldness and passion and confidence. Do it wisely. Do it to make the name of Jesus cherished and loved in this world!