Be Angry and Do Not Sin

We in our base have been thinking about Ephesians 4.  I spent time the other morning, listening to it over and over via esv.org.  I have heard enough sermons on Ephesians 4:26 which seem to acknowledge it’s presence, and then confusingly negate it, suggesting that anger inherently leads to sin, so if you are angry you haven’t sinned yet, but be careful, because anger is a foothold of the devil.

Paul does not actually say this.  Unresolved anger is a foothold to the devil, and even still we believe that it is the anger that is the problem…but what if we read verses 25-26, laying down our fear of anger and pairing down the descriptive words so that all we have is the verbs and their direct objects.  “…speak the truth…be angry…do not sin…”  What if anger is a warning sign of injustice and denying anger is a form of the falsehood we are exhorted to put away?  What if Paul really meant to say “be angry”?  Surely the anger itself can seethe and fester into bitterness, pride, and rage, but if we are somehow able to successfully conquer our anger without resolution, then the injustice goes on without confrontation, still giving the devil plenty of opportunity to work with everyone else.

In the context of “speak the truth…be angry…do not sin” I believe that not letting the sun go down on my anger has more to do with denial than it does with anger.  If I am provoked, I am to find resolution, and I am to make it a priority, resolving that day if at all possible.  (I always wondered what happened if I got angry after the sun went down.)  And what sort of resolution are we talking here?  Paul gives us a few ideas regarding thieves and talkers.  Those prone to a certain character flaw should not engage as they once did, but use their energy and strength to build up the people of Christ.  In fact we should “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Now I understand the propensity for confusing sermons on this passage.  “Be angry…do not sin…let anger be put away from you.”  I looked up the original language.  Angry verse 26 refers to being provoked.  Anger in verse 31 refers to a state of constant anger.  Although one word comes from the other, one has a sense of direction (vs 26) and the other has a sense of stagnancy (vs 31).  I would even argue, from other Biblical uses of the word in verse 26, that the word implies action.  And that action can be found in the exhortations to be transformed in mind and deed.  Finally, as we are working toward results, toward change provoked by anger, we are to release offense.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Anger itself does not produce results.  It may initiate change or keep it moving, but it is not intended as a place to reside.  Falsehood and denial rob anger of it’s potency for change while trapping it within the heart of a person.  Anger has a purpose, but only in the context of forgiveness and truth.

“Speak the truth…be angry…do not sin…”

For we are all members of one another.

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