Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger,”
I love football. There are a few ways I like to spend a Saturday afternoon more than watching a Manchester United match. I love the roaring sound of the fans coming through the TV, the reliable analysis of the commentators and the fidgeting of the club coaches as they watch their teams play. However, all starts going downhill when the team I’m supporting starts losing. It starts with the breaking of sweat, followed by clenched fists and before long I’m joining the rest of the fans in angrily calling for a player to be benched for this reason or the other.
A short reflection on what transpires during such moments of anger leads me to conclude that we get angry when something we love is threatened or violated. Our anger reveals to us what we love, what is precious to us.
The apostle Paul urges in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger,” How is this even possible? How am I to have righteous anger rather than the more common sinful anger?
- Assess the base of your anger
At the basis of our anger is love. When I get angry at the person that cuts me off in traffic, it is because they have threatened my life which is rightfully precious to me. When I hear of insecurity in the country I get angry at the people responsible because I love and value peace. This is rightful anger because it is based on a love for the right things; preservation of life and peace respectively.
On the other hand, when I get angry at my boss because I missed a promotion at work, this shows me how highly I value the praises and recognition from men. This shows me that my love is for the wrong thing, my ego and pride. In our anger, we sin because our love is misplaced.
Therefore, when Paul implores us to be angry and to not sin, he is urging us to assess the thoughts and affections of our heart to see that they are for the right things, things that God loves too.
Sinful anger is based on love for the wrong things. Righteous anger is based on love for the right things; the things that God loves.
2. Reflect on the cross of Christ
“…forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32
Righteous anger is not ambiguous and aimless but rather zealously directed towards the violation of what is right. It is meant to get us to our knees in prayer for what we see going wrong, employing our gifts to the good of all men. Righteous anger is meant to do something else in Christians; to remind us how much we have violated that which God loves, His righteousness.
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
It reminds us of our need for forgiveness and rescue from God’s rightful wrath. It reminds us of the cross of Christ. This is the place that Christ took upon himself the hammer of God’s wrath in our place thus procuring our salvation.
This calls us to reflect on this great act of forgiveness when we are angered and find it in our hearts to forgive. We know that no one could ever wrong us more than we have wronged God. Righteous anger seeks forgiveness and reconciliation and these are only possible when we reflect on the cross of Christ.