Grace For The Journey
Ever get so angry you put your fist through a wall? That is definitely a time when anger got the best of you. Ever kick something over in anger? Moses once lost his cool and struck a rock and it cost him entrance into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:10-12). My mother used to talk about getting so mad that she would “blow a gasket.” I was sixteen years old and driving before I knew what a gasket was – but I knew before then that it was never good to blow one.
If we don’t control our anger,
It will control us and we’ll
Do things we later regret.
I heard about a guy who was so angry with his father that he decided to sit down and vent his frustrations in a really long letter. And the guy just poured out a string of invectiveness and anger; just wrote down all kinds of insults and hatred. The son then gave it to a friend to mail. But his friend thought to himself: “I don’t know, he’s pretty angry; I think I’ll just hold onto this for a day or two.” The next day, the son felt terrible about what he had written and he said to his friend, “I’d give a hundred dollars to get that letter back.” His friend smiled inwardly and said, “I believe I can do about that!”
Unlike that situation, we can’t usually get back the anger once we’ve let it out. For that reason the Bible frequently warns us about the need to not be angry. Consider Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, and do not sin;” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” This verse has four verbs and all of them in the imperative mood; the mood of command. From these four verbs, we learn how to deal with our anger. Let’s look at it:
1) Deal with it Realistically.
The verse begins with in what seems to be an unusual way with, “be angry.” Some translations soften these words with something like, “In your anger do not sin.” But this word in the original Greek is a word in the imperative mood, a command. It literally reads, “Be angry.” Now I happen to like that! I mean, that’s dealing with anger realistically, isn’t it? Be angry. It’s biblical. It’s okay to be angry.
God gets angry and Jesus got angry, but neither of them sinned in their anger. There is a righteous anger. Anger, in and of itself, is not a sin. You can’t control how you feel, did you know that? You can’t. God created you as a feeling, human being. You are supposed to feel. That’s why one minute you’re watching television, minding your own business, and a touchy, sentimental commercial comes on. A minute later you’re sobbing and blowing your nose. You are just being yourself. You feel.
It’s okay to be angry,
But it’s not okay to sin
So when we’re talking about anger, we need to deal with it realistically. Someone might say, “Well, I never get angry.” That’s just not being realistic. We all get angry. We are emotional, feeling, beings. You can’t control how you feel. I hope that’s liberating to some of you. Be angry! It’s a command. It’s biblical. This might lead you to say, “The Bible says it. I can do it! I can BE angry!” Okay, hang on. If we’re going to deal with our anger, not only must we deal with it realistically, but we must:
2) Deal with it Seriously.
The verse continues with, “and do not sin.” The New Living Translation has, “Don’t sin by letting your anger control you.”
It’s okay to be angry,
But it’s not okay to sin.
You can’t control how you feel,
But you can control
How you deal with how you feel.
Do not let your anger control you. You will do things that you will later regret. Someone said there’s only one letter difference between the word “anger” and the word “danger.” If you don’t deal with your anger seriously, it is dangerous. You will likely do something you later regret.
The Bible says in James 1:19, “Let every one be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
Patience is the virtue that often conquers anger. That’s why you’ll often find anger contrasted with patience in the book of Proverbs.
For instance Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”
I read where Thomas Edison spent only a few months in formal education. His teacher was often frustrated with Edison, believing him to be not very bright. Edison’s mother had great patience with him and home-schooled him, showing great interest in his experiments.
Remember Matthew 18:21-22 where we read about Peter’s asking Jesus how often he should forgive? Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” In Jesus response He taught that forgiveness should be limitless. We must be patient enough to continually forgive the one who has offended us.
A family was taking a trip and the little 4-year-old boy in the back seat was really testing his mother’s patience. He’d keep saying, “Are we there yet, are we there yet?” His mother finally said, “Look, stop asking. It’s going to be a long time before we’re there.” A few minutes later, the little boy asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”
It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to sin. You can’t control how you feel, but you can control how you deal with how you feel. Be angry and do not sin. Deal with your anger realistically and seriously.
3) Deal with it Immediately.
The verse goes on to say, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” This is a picturesque, figurative expression, isn’t it? It does not mean that you can carry your anger around until the sun is getting ready to set and, just before sundown, you deal with your anger. If that were true you wouldn’t want to run into an angry person in Alaska, where in the summer the sun doesn’t set for some 80 days!
The expression simply means, “Deal with your anger immediately.” Don’t let your hot anger begin to boil into something dangerous.
Deal with it right away
Before it gets worse.
The longer you wait
To deal with it,
The worse it can become.
The old saying, “Don’t go to bed angry” is actually a pretty good paraphrase of this statement. That’s a good one for married couples. A married couple once had a fight that culminated in their each giving the other the silent treatment. They went an entire week without speaking to one another. One evening the husband realized he was going to need his wife’s help. He had to catch a flight to Chicago for a business meeting had to get up at 5:00 A.M. Not wanting to trust his cell phone to wake him – but also not wanting to be the first to break silence with his wife – he wrote on a piece of paper: “Please wake me at 5 AM.” Next morning the man woke up late – very late – and discovered his wife was already out of bed and gone for the day. His flight had long since departed. In anger, he sat up quickly in the bed and then noticed a solitary piece of paper next to his pillow that read: “It’s 5 AM. Wake up.” We must deal with our anger immediately.
A qualifier is in oder here. Sometimes you can’t deal with your anger the very second you become angry. Sometimes you’re so hurt that you are not in a position to respond immediately in a rational manner. You find out someone else stole your idea at work, or somebody said something hurtful to you, or did something mean to you; it’s hard for you to respond immediately in a rational manner.
You may need to cool off for a moment or two. Walk away. Keep your mouth closed and just walk away. Take some time to cool off. Get into a room and close the door for a few moments. Breathe deeply. The old adage of counting to ten is a good one. Sometimes you need to separate yourself from the situation. You are, as we said, a feeling being. You can’t control how you feel, but you can control how you deal with how you feel.
But remember, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.
After you’ve taken a moment or two,
Deal with that anger
Before it deals with you.
If we’re going to deal with our anger biblically, we must deal with it realistically; we must deal with it seriously; we must deal with it immediately; and we must . . .
4) Deal with it Completely.
The verse concludes by say, “nor give place to the devil.” The idea of this truth is, “Do not give the devil a foothold,” or, “Do not give the devil an opportunity.” The devil is real. He’s not just into demonic possession, he’s also into demonic oppression. He loves to look for a place in your life where he can gain a base of operation, oppress you, defeat you, and ultimately destroy you. If you don’t deal with your anger, he will. He’ll take the first opportunity you give him to make your life as miserable as possible.
So you’ve got to deal with your anger completely. That means you’ve got to deal with your past. Someone hurt you in the past, you’ve got to forgive that person or you will carry your anger around with you wherever you go.
Your anger toward that person will color everything you see and do. You’re carrying that anger around like extra weight. You don’t need it and it’s slowing you down. You get around other people and you often, unconsciously, project that anger on someone else.
When you look carefully at the context of this passage in chapter four, you note that Paul’s train of thought begins at verse 25 and runs through the end of the chapter. He’s talking about the behavior of the “new man,” the Christian, not the “old man,” the person he was before Christ, but the “new man” who has Jesus Christ living within him. And so he says, “be angry, and do not sin . . . let him who stole steal no longer . . . let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth . . . be kind to one another,” and then he ends it all in the last part of the last verse of the chapter, verse 32, last part of it he says, “Forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
The anger that does the most harm is the anger expressed in relationships. So the Bible says, “Forgive one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Who makes you angry? How do you usually deal with your anger? Is your way biblical and does it lead you to obey and please God? How can you help others deal with how they feel? The imperative commands of Ephesians 4 follow three chapters of Christian doctrine. Apart from faith in Christ, we’ll be trapped in sin and don’t respond as we should. Have you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ?
God says forgive that person, even as God in Christ forgave you. Deal with that person realistically, seriously, immediately, and completely. That’s how God dealt with you. Because of what Christ did on the cross, God turned away his anger from you and your sin. And God forgives you immediately and completely. You and I must do the same.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”