Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, – Ephesians 4:26 (ESV)
This verse is one of the shorter Fighter Verse we have memorized, but it’s pretty loaded. In fact, I don’t think it’s wise for us to examine this verse without at least looking at the immediate context. I left the ESV translators’ comma at the end for just this reason. Let’s look at Ephesians 4:25-32 to give us a better foundation.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
This devotional would be long if I highlighted all the truth Paul is proclaiming here. But there is one thread that is tying these verses and commands together – they are about relationships, the kind of relationships we should seek to build with those around us.These verses call us to honesty, hard work, generosity, encouragement, tender hearts, and forgiveness.
Anger would seem to be out of place in such a list. But in this context, it’s an important part of good relationships. At some point, your neighbors in the church (myself included) are going to fail you, offend you, or treat you horribly. Paul doesn’t expect followers of Jesus to stomach it and not react. That’s incredibly unhealthy. We should be angry when that occurs. But how does the follower of Jesus express that anger in a way consistent with Christ?
- Be angry and do not sin – if we wonder how exactly we are supposed to do this, I believe the context tells us. If my desire is a good relationship built on trust, generosity, encouragement, and tender heart toward my neighbor, those will also guide my anger in such a way that seeks the healing of that relationship, not the destruction of it.
- Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath – we need to let our anger guide us into a biblical confrontation with the offending neighbor. Even if our anger is justified, it won’t be if we do not seek the healing of that relationship before the day is finished. Paul says in the next verse that when we sit on our anger, we open the door to the devil to destroy us and our relationships.
The final two verses complete the teaching. Paul essentially says that anger and other characteristics that do not match this approach need to go. Put them far away from you. Instead, pursue kindness with tender hearts. Be ready to forgive quickly and fully. Why? Because we all deserve the just wrath of God for our sins and offenses against him. Yet God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us completely. We can do no less as his followers.
This Fighter Verse and all these verses in context are challenging us with a choice this week:
- Will we be people of the world who sit in our anger, lash out in our anger, and destroy relationships with our anger?
- Will we be followers of Jesus who allow him to channel our anger into gentle confrontation toward the offender, seeking a healed relationship with the tenderness and forgiveness of Jesus so that he is glorified?