Anger and rage are two of the things Paul teaches us to take off and get rid of in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3. Extremes seem to be the way we humans look at life and the way we manage things. We either deny being angry or we express our anger in disrespectful, hurtful or harmful behaviors. Neither extreme is helpful. one harms our health and the other harms our relationships.
In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul teaches: ” In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
It seems to me that Paul assumes we will get angry. First of all, we must be in touch with our own anger, rather than denying and repressing it. Then we must confess our anger and quickly move to resolve its source and to let go of it. Paul instructs us to do this before the day ends.
Sometimes we are unselfishly angry over an injustice. Perhaps the Lord is calling us to do our part to make sure that injustice is righted. This kind of anger presents the temptation to sin by omission, by failing to do the good we might do.
Most often, I think, we experience the kind of anger which tempts us to sins of commission, Perhaps our pride is injured. Perhaps we feel frustrated because our need to control has been thwarted. Perhaps all we need is to ask the Lord Jesus to give us power to let go of these feelings and to wash us clean of our pride and our need to control. Instead we express our anger in passive-aggressive behaviors that make the problem arousing our anger even worse. Or we explode in an angry outburst, saying and doing things that are destructive, making the problem arousing the anger worse. Nothing is resolved. Situations escalate and relationships deteriorate.
Perhaps we are in a set of circumstances where issues truly need to be addressed and resolved. We need to address these issues with calmness and respect, seeking solutions and understanding, rather than attacking and blaming others. Yelling, swearing and name calling are never helpful, and are never justified for a child of God.
As I have aged as a woman and as a child of God, I have begun to see how Paul is warning us about a very real and present danger to our souls. I am not just preaching to the choir; I am preaching to myself. Anger can become habitual; it can become a way of life. This kind of anger grieves the Holy Spirit who lives in a believer. (Ephesians 4:30) When we are angry and sin because of that anger, we give the Devil a foothold and grieve the Holy Spirit. Footholds can become strongholds. We can be tied up by the enemy, while the Holy Spirit, who was meant to be our powerful ally, is instead grieving over our sin.
Oh, Lord God, forgive me and forgive Your church for our extremes – for either repressing our anger or for using it as an excuse to sin. Teach us to get serious about taking anger off and putting on compassion and forgiveness before the sun goes down each day. Keep us from grieving the Holy Spirit. Deliver us and keep us from the footholds and strongholds of Satan. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.