I am grateful for the work that Ed Welch and others at CCEF has put into the subject of anger. Their counsel is quite possibly the best teaching on this difficult but real emotion that is both a godly reflection of a Holy God, and ungodly in its self-righteousness. May the Lord help you today, and all your days to have some good anger.
There are literally hundreds of passages that show God filled with good anger at sin, the ungodly, those who slander his name, and those who reject his Son. But there are hundreds more that show God is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and mercy. Here is a text that is helpful for us – Ephesians 4:25-32:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
Keep in mind that the general admonition is “put off the old self/nature” (v. 22). That is, stop acting out what you are not. Put on the new and start acting out what you are. When you are born again you are given a new nature, you become a new creature and Paul says here that your newness will show itself in the way you experience anger.
Verse 26 makes at least two assertions about anger:
1) There is a time to get angry
2) The time to stay angry is short-lived
Paul is saying that there are good grounds for getting angry but no grounds for holding grudges.
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger” means,
“Let the day of your anger be the day of your reconciliation”.
And if reconciliation is impossible, even so, do not stroke your wound, or cherish revenge or hold a grudge for Satan seeks a foothold into your heart, and if he finds it, he will enter and ruin your life with all kinds of prideful bitterness.
Let’s take these two points one at a time:
1) There is a time to get angry!
Clearly, not all anger is sinful for man. Good Anger is:
A. aimed at sin.
What kind of sin is in the immediate context? Deception, lying, deceitful desires of the flesh.
B. rises slowly.
James 1:19-20 says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” We are to be slow to anger because the anger which rises quickly is very likely to be sinful anger which will not accomplish God’s righteousness. But if we are slow to anger, if we rule our spirit and consider the matter carefully, then our anger, if it comes, may be the very anger of God. That is, our anger may be owing to the fact that God’s character is dishonored. Good anger is based on God not just ourselves. Its target is sin against God, not just assaults on us.
Here is where we fail so often; our tenderness gets burned up in the zeal of our anger against the sin. A person does something wrong and we get angry, but there is no tenderness with the person’s hardness. We express our indignation for his sin, but we show no longing for his softening or reconciliation. Good anger should not only be directed against sin but also be mingled with tenderness for the transgressor.
2) The time to stay angry is short-lived.
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This does not mean that believers in Alaska may hold a grudge for six months while the sun is up or that husbands and wives should hurry up and get to the bottom of the argument before night falls. It means that anger, even legitimate, is a dangerous emotion and should not be nurtured into a grudge that holds on and on. Anger is the moral equivalent of biological adrenaline. It is good and healthy to experience periodic secretions of adrenaline in reaction to dangerous, hostile situations. But a steady flow would damage the physical body. As with anger, not only does it take its toll on the physical body, it has also damaged many lives because it was not put away, but nurtured again and again into a life-destroying grudge.
WARNING!! According to verse 27 this is what Satan is watching for — the extended gap, the opening, the opportunity to destroy. If there is any way that Satan can assist you to hold a grudge, to keep you in a prideful persistent mode of anger he will do it.
What should you do then? Repent of not being more angry at sin against God. Repent of being angry of things that are not sinful, yes – dumb, but not necessarily willful sin against you. Repent of making yourself the highest reason for addressing wrongs. Repent of holding on too long to wounds and not handing over the trespass to God – for him to settle the score with your assailant. Repent over the lack of gentleness in your right to be angry at real offenses.
What else? Close the door on the Devil’s foot until he flees. Call out to Christ, the Doorkeeper to rescue you from yourself. He’ll gladly forgive and sit down with you in your home and comfort your broken spirit. Now, “Be Angry” – it’s a command!