Anger can come up in any situation in life. Sometimes we see it as passionate anger to make a change for the better, or bad anger that can cause harm to yourself and/or others.
Yet, in Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul talks about the importance of anger that doesn’t turn into sin, advising the church of Ephesus to “‘Be angry, and do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” A similar idea is also shared in Psalm 4:4, stating that we should be angry, but should not sin in the process.
Anger is something that will always be in us because we are made in the image of God, and He has His moments of anger. However, what this verse is conveying is that we shouldn’t let that anger turn into actions that are sinful. We should instead find ways that calm that anger or put it toward something beneficial for all, including ourselves.
As we read more about this verse in the book of Ephesians, we will see what Paul was advising the church, and subsequently us, to do when our blood boils because of the hurts and pains of this world.
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What Is Happening in This Two-Fold Letter to the Ephesians?
The apostle Paul discusses this notion of being angry but not sinning in a letter to the church of Ephesus, which he wrote while in a Roman prison. That alone can bring gravity to his belief on being angry but not sinning, as he was placed in prison for proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ to an audience that was not entirely receptive to his preaching.
The letter he writes has a two-fold purpose within it. The first half of the letter is to describe to readers a spiritual community made possible by Christ, where God’s people live in God’s grace and are cared for by Him. Paul goes into detail in the first three chapters about this community God has established, where spiritual wisdom abounds and believers are free through Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection.
This foundation at the start of Ephesians is to encourage those reading to see the truths within the second half of the letter: What they can do now to grow into mature Christians.
Ephesians 4 discusses how we become new people in Christ from the old, carnal people we were, renewed in the spirit of our minds by God (Eph. 4:23-24). But with this truth comes the understanding that there are actions and lifestyle changes we need to make in order to experience this gratifying change in our lives.
The segment of verses, from Ephesians 4:25-32, has Paul enlightening us with making better choices when it comes to stealing, lying, being angry, engaging in unhealthy talk, being bitter, and not grieving the Holy Spirit.
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What Does It Mean to Be Angry, but Not Sin?
Ephesians 4:26 is part of that sequences of biblical commands Paul offers the church of Ephesus in his letter, specifying that you can be angry about aspects of life, but to not sin and not let the sun go down on your wrath.
What Paul himself understood of the human nature is that when people tend to be angry about something, they usually lash out in some way, and sometimes in the harmful ways he describes in this passage. They may steal or lie to ease their anger, or even lash out physically against someone or even themselves.
Paul sums up what happens when we don’t handle our anger properly in Ephesians 4:27 by saying do not “give place to the devil.” This basically means that when we let anger fester inside of us without any means of handling it in a healthy way, it gives the devil the opportunity to move into our lives and control us through our mismanaged anger.
What Paul advises his readers in Ephesus, and us, to do instead is confront your anger, recognize what you are angry about and resolve it before it makes you do something you will regret. Paul of all people would know what unhealthy actions can come from anger, as before he encountered Christ in Damascus, his anger toward Christians led to many being arrested, abused, and killed. Who can forget him standing to the side as Stephen was stoned to death for preaching God’s Word?
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How Should We View Our Anger?
To many, anger is probably seen as a sin because of it can create in people the desire to do something harmful. However, if we were to read the words of King David in Psalm 4:4, we will see that, according to David, it is okay to be angry, but it shouldn’t lead to sin. He mentions instead to meditate in your heart about this anger, quietly in your bed, and be still.
David’s advice about what to do with anger is similar to Paul’s, which is to not let it get out of hand or to where you can’t control what words or actions you do next. Instead of moving swiftly into doing something to make you feel better (that could actually make the situation worse), you should take the time to come to terms with your anger and see what ways you can harness it.
Writer Meg Bucher describes human anger and righteous anger that God creates. Human anger always leads to sinful words and actions, things we will regret later on. Righteous anger is being angry about what makes God angry: unlawful acts against children, people manipulating others for personal gain, those who know God’s love doing the opposite to show it to others, etc.
So, when Paul and David instruct us to meditate or resolve our anger, they are encouraging believers to take the time to see if their anger is human or righteous. Is the anger something that personally is an affront to you or to your expectations of something, or is it something God has called you to stand up and do something about? Once you take the time to come to terms with your anger, you will be more inclined to listen to God through His Word, prayer, or even speaking with another Christian to determine what the next course of action might be.
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Think and Pray about Your Anger
Anger is a quality of our lives that some people are proud to have, while others aren’t so much. In the eyes of the apostle Paul, it is okay to be angry but to not accompany that anger with any sin.
His advice in Ephesians 4 is for us to assess what our anger is about and use this time to see if God is telling us something, or if we are giving the devil the opportunity to do something in us. It’s the determining of whether it is human anger or righteous anger that we need to calm and coolly handle.
There is so much in the world, especially right now, that we can be angry about. But how can we be angry, and not sin? What Paul, and even King David, encourages us to do is to think and pray about that anger. This will allow the Holy Spirit to move in us and show us what God wants us to do in the situation.
So, yes, be angry when injustice or what grieves God happens in our lives, but don’t do something you will regret. That won’t help anyone, especially yourself.
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Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com, and previously worked for eight years with Xulon Press. A graduate of Stetson University with a Bachelor's in Communications, Blair previously worked as a writer/editor for several local magazines in the Central Florida area, including Celebration Independent and Lake Magazine in Leesburg, Florida and currently freelances for the Southwest Orlando Bulletin.