Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Ephesians 4:26 (KJV)
In my last blog post, I began to explore the above verse and what it means. As I said last time, I’ve usually heard this taught as a call not to go to bed on an argument. Good advice this may be, but not necessarily what Paul is getting at.
We considered how the first part – Be angry and sin not – isn’t just an instruction not to let your anger get the better of you, but could also be read as a command to be angry.
You may have read this verse a hundred times in the past, and perhaps each time you read it, your brain said “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…” But what does it actually say?
It says – don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Or to put it another way, don’t let your anger ever go out and grow dull.
I know this may seem like an odd idea, as surely the Bible teaches us to be loving and not to get angry. Can it really be a command to get and stay angry?
As we explored a little last time, anger is sometimes a right response. In the event of injustice or sin, we ought to be angry. Like God, we ought to hate sin and its effects on humanity. And while our sin may result in other people getting hurt, ultimately we are the ones who hurt the most as a result of sinfulness.
To truly love the good, we must also hate the bad. We must stand against sin in all of its forms. To do that, we need a holy anger, and one that does not go out.
Am I taking this verse out of context though? Is it correct to interpret it this way? I believe it is, but understand those who may disagree.
Context is always important when reading the Bible, and we ought never to take a single verse out of its proper context and form a doctrine out of it. Falsehood lies down that path.
Scripture should be interpreted in the light of other Scripture.
For some doctrines, we need to examine the entire Bible in order to see a complete picture. Of course we don’t have time or space to do this here, but lets look at this verse with it surrounding verses to get at least a small idea of context.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.
Ephesians 4:25-27 (KJV)
Verse 25 is a clear instruction to put away lying, and to speak truth to each other. This can actually be quite difficult at times. “Do you like my outfit?” or “What do you think of my new hairstyle?” More importantly, when it comes to questions of advice or big decisions, “Should I take this job?” or “Do you think I should marry them?” an honest answer is not always easy to give, and often not the answer the asker really wants to hear.
So often we seek validation from others to agree with what we have already in mind to do. To give an alternative view can be tough.
Similarly, Paul could well be talking about correcting each other in a loving way. Often we leave it to the pastor or minister to address such matters, but indeed there is a role for each of us as part of a church family.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not giving you permission to walk up to just anyone in church and give them a lecture about how they ought to live – we must earn that right through a trusting relationship or as a loving member of church leadership.
But we must tackle sin. We must not just get by with it. So in speaking truth to one another, there may be times when we need a little righteous anger to stir us up to confront an issue. Again, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we should get angry at people; rather we should be angry at sin.
Verse 27 is short and not so sweet. Don’t give the devil a foothold. Could it be that by not following the “command” to be angry, we somehow give the enemy a route into our lives?
It is a narrow path, with ditches on both sides. Err in either direction, and you’ll end up off the road!
What i mean is this. Anger which is uncontrolled or directed at people or things, can certainly give the devil a chance to wreck our lives. How many lives have been destroyed in one single moment of uncontrolled anger? How many men and women find themselves in prison for one slip of judgement allowing their temper to get the better of them?
I’m not giving anyone an excuse to be angry in an ungodly way here.
Equally though, when we reuse to be angry at sin or to have a righteous anger, we give the devil a foothold. If we co-operate with him, the enemy can destroy our lives. If you follow every temptation to do whatever you want, to commit adultery or murder or to steal or rob, your life will come to ruin.
We need to get angry at the devil
Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you.
James 4:7 (ISV)
James says that we must resist the devil. Often we ask God to do the resisting, but in reality it must be us who do so. We do that through prayer, our words and our actions. But notice, submission to God must come first. There is no sense in trying to resist the enemy if you are not submitting your life to Jesus.
Likewise, Jesus said:
From the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom from heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it,
Matthew 11:12 (ISV)
The kingdom from heaven is forcefully advancing…
Christians ought not to be passive, weak or downtrodden. We are children of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us. We should be advancing God’s kingdom with passion and determination. Not in our own strength, and certainly not without persecution but always pressing on.
So, Paul tells us to be angry and to never let the sun go down on our wrath. Are you advancing or just barely holding on? Do you need some righteous anger to take a stand against the enemy and resist his influence in your life?
Ask God to stir you up. Pray that He will help you to have a controlled anger that is pointed at the right things. Renew your mind in God’s Word and learn who you are in Christ. Don’t just put up with the enemy, resist him!
Don’t let the sun go down.