“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 4:26)
What a strange verse. First it tells us to “be angry.” Then it tells us not to let the sun go down–on our anger, that is.
Actually, there are deeper implications. One is that anger itself is not a sin. An angry Jesus healed a man with a withered hand to defy the hard-hearted hypocrites ready to condemn him. In anger, he cleansed the temple from thieves, money-changers and vendors preventing authentic worship. Paul seemed angry when he wrote his letter to the Galatians. Closer to home, what father or mother would not get angry at someone hurting or corrupting their children?
Nevertheless, anger is dangerous—so dangerous that it can lead to sin. Don’t let it do that! Remember, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).
As for the sun going down, you can’t stop that. The deeper implication is that anger should not be ignored. Deal with it without delay! After all, anger is dangerous.
Largely ignoring its danger, American culture glorifies anger. Turn on a TV, radio or the internet and get ready to get mad. The sights and sounds of rage are pervasive. Our news and entertainment media are filled with celebrities, politicians, pundits and activists saying, in effect, “Look at me; I’m angry!”
- The news has become an anger industry. If it bleeds, it leads. Angry score-keepers control the narrative.
- Politicians work to keep their supporters furious at their opponents. Many accuse the other side of conducting wars on women, minorities, the poor, the Constitution and so on. Political fund-raisers apply advanced techniques to keep their donors mad enough to keep writing checks.
- If there is insufficient vulgarity, violence and anger in a movie, song or work of art, modern critics often presume it lacks realism. For most rappers, “keeping it real” means that anger must remain front and center as a badge of authenticity.
- If a major city has a sports team in a championship game, the local police routinely prepare for riots in the streets after the game, win or lose.
Sometimes, implications are hard to see. But that does not mean they are not real. We often learn too late how real they are. In a classic case of road rage, a NASCAR driver recently jumped out of his car to confront another driver, failing to consider the fatal implications. When angry mobs riot and loot, they are too busy grabbing stuff to grasp the implications of their anger on themselves, others and their community.
Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player to break into the majors, achieved greatness by holding his anger back and translating it into stellar play on the field. He understood the implications. Had he exploded in righteous anger at every grievance, he might have strengthened the color line instead of breaking it. He had a right to his anger but he chose to repress it for reasons beyond himself. Don’t ignore the implications!
Annoyances and injustices are everywhere, but so are blessings. Our media and intelligentsia teach us to fall in love with our outrage while ignoring our blessings. Thus, grudges and grievances have overgrown the American soul, undermining our gratitude for our country and heritage.
Even if your anger feels righteous, it’s still dangerous. The Bible warns, “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20). It carries deadly implications, especially when it drags us into sin. So, as the sun heads for the horizon, guide your heart toward peace and pardon.