“I’m angry.” “What are you angry about?” “I’m angry about life, about the world, about politics, and my helplessness in the world.” It is not at all unusual to find yourself in the company of an angry person. Anywhere you go, can put you in a situation where you must deal with an angry person. It certainly happens a lot if you are in the car. One day last week I pulled into a parking spot in front of a local business and got too close to the person next to me. Before I could pull out and get into the parking space correctly the driver in the car next to me was already mad, yelling at me and offering gestures to demonstrate her anger. As she walked away to enter the business she continued to pour out her wrath with language that would have embarrassed a sailor. I wondered as she demonstrated her frustrations if my mistake had really brought on that amount of anger or was she already upset about something when I sent her into orbit?
Paul’s words to the Ephesians fit well in such circumstances. “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) Anger alone isn’t sinful. There are things in life that ought to make everyone angry. Anytime we see or hear of someone abusing a child or an elderly person who can’t defend themselves it should make us angry and determined to make it different. Anger doesn’t have to lead to sin. I know we often try to excuse our sinful action by saying, “I was just angry and didn’t mean what I said.” Often in talking with couples about marriage challenges one or the other will talk about how anger in the marriage is destroying their love for the other person. Usually the one who is angry often and whose anger turns ugly as a rule, will excuse what they said or did by pointing to the anger. Most of the time they won’t even take responsibility for the anger but will blame it on the other one and thus the actions that followed are the fault of the other person. Anger doesn’t have to lead to sin. You can get upset and still do what is right toward other people.
It is when anger is allowed to get out of control that it has the results of such horrible crimes as murder. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You have heard it said by those of old times, ‘Do not murder.’ But I say to you don’t be angry with your brother. Don’t call him names such as ‘Raca’ or ‘Fool”. To call someone raca was to call them empty headed, dumb or stupid. To call them a fool was to say they were “Empty hearted” or they had no heart. Jesus noted that such anger led to murder.
If you control your own anger to the degree you don’t allow it to turn into rage or into sinful words and deeds toward the ones around you, you will have gone a long way in self-control or even better in God-control.
Paul continued though to say that even in the anger that doesn’t lead to sin, we must be careful not to allow it to fester in life. “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” When we hold anger tight refusing to let it go it will take over our whole lives and destroy every relationship with people who aren’t angry. The only people in the world that want to be around other angry people are people who are also angry. They usually turn into a mob. Whatever you need to do to get rid of the anger quickly should be done. Repent of any wrong, and make it right with others around you. Don’t try to justify wrong actions or attitudes. No matter what others have done it doesn’t give us a right to sin or mistreat anyone else.
It intrigues me that Paul would add the statement, “And don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Satan is looking for angry people all the time. He knows if we are angry we are wonderful prospects for him. He can lead us to become even more angry and to make the angry decision to get revenge. We will even feel justified as we mistreat someone else because Satan convinces us that we are the ones who are right and the other person is at fault. Every kind of misdeed you can imagine can come from an angry person.
A few verses later Paul will add this statement, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Look at the company anger keeps. It’s part of a horrible gang that runs rampant in every city and town in the world. An angry person soon turns bitter. Bitter, anger turns to wrath which leads to clamor and slander. So solve the problem before it takes over your life and turns you into something no one would want to be.
No wonder Solomon challenged us not to make friends with an angry person. Instead we need to both be kind, considerate, tenderhearted and forgiving, but also seek to be around and make friends of those who are.