Be Angry But Sin Not!

We are instructed in Ephesians, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26).  The previous instructions on anger are easier said, than done.  Anger seems easy to feel, but hard to control.  For instance we often use language like, “His anger boiled over in violent rage,” “Or his anger got the best of him.”  Scripture warns us about the emotion of anger, saying, Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” and  “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Ecclesiastes 7:9; Proverbs 29:11).

Scripture also reveals anger is an emotion expressed and even promoted by God:  “They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding” (Deuteronomy 32:21). 

Anger appears to be a negative emotion prompted by some form of sin, wrong-doing, and/or injustice. Does this mean that anger is an emotion that only exists because of sin?  I wonder, “In a world without sin, would there be any anger?”  Without the presence of sin, what is there to be angry about?  In a perfect world would there never be any mistakes that might frustrate us to the point of anger?  The Garden of Eden was a perfect world in regard to human sin, but not necessarily a perfect world in regard to human errors.  In other words, we could live in a perfect world in regard to love and human relationships, but still mis-measure a piece of wood for a project, or fail in our initial attempts to create a particular technology.  To think about this in another way, God’s gift to us is the joy in figuring things out by trial and error.  Otherwise, if everything we set our minds to works the first time, life then would be rather boring, no?

Anger could be a motivating emotion to get things done, or to concentrate better, and to strive to do and be better.  Anger, in other words, can be a necessary emotion in our spiritual development as human beings made in the image of God! (even in a perfect world).

However, we do not live in a perfect world without sin.  So what happens to the emotion of anger in a sin-fallen world?  Though anger is a Godly emotion gifted to us by our Maker, Satan through the power of sin seizes what is good and uses it for evil purposes (See, Romans 7:7-12). In other words, anger is a moral emotion than can be expressed morally or immorally.  For instance, not to be angry at a child suffering abuse would be sin.  Or not to feel angry over those who lead God’s people astray would be sinful (See, Matthew 18:1ff).  We also should be angry at ourselves when we fall short of God’s will and way.  We do not want to fall into compliancy with sin and thus grow cold in our walk with God.  Anger can rekindle our desires to pursue God with more urgency and sincerity.

Anger strikes me as a kind of “stepping stone” emotion.  What I mean is, anger seems to be an emotion that leads to the next step in dealing with a situation.  I am angry over an injustice, so I take the step to rectify the problem.  I see I am falling short of God’s will, so in my anger, I take the step to focus on spiritual discipline.  Anger, to put it another way, is a necessary emotion to feel.  The real issue is what we do with our anger.  Do you give the devil a foothold to use anger in evil ways, or does anger prompt you t0 take the right step toward God?  So, “Be angry, but sin not.”

–Terry


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