Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Danger of Anger

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." (Ephesians 4:31)

When Paul writes in Ephesians 5:26, “Be angry, but do not sin,” it seems that he refers to righteous anger. In the psalms, especially the imprecatory psalms (the psalms of cursing), we see examples of righteous anger. But in these psalms, the psalmist turns his anger over to God, not letting the sun go down on it.

In Ephesians 5:29–32, Paul returns to the subject of anger, but this time deals with sinful anger. Verse 31 lists six manifestations of anger. When things don’t go the way we want them to, we get mad at God. Often we don’t face the fact that we are mad at God, and so we take it out on the images of God. We harbor internal attitudes of bitterness, rage, and anger. These will in time spill over into outward acts of slander, contentiousness, and malice. Instead of viewing the person who did wrong to us as a mere tool in God’s hand to sanctify us, we seek to get even by slandering him.

These kinds of attitudes and behavior grieve the Holy Spirit and cut us off from the blessings and power He seeks to give us. In particular, they cut us off from the community of the saints, which is one of the main channels through which the Spirit sends His gifts. If we become estranged from the body of Christ, we will shrivel and die.

Paul supplies the corrective. Verse 29 says that instead of bad-mouthing other people, we need to seek ways to build them up. We should build them up to others and seek to help them when we speak with them. This may be painful and disagreeable to us at first, but as we actively contradict our sinful instincts, we will come to know the peace of God.

In verse 32, Paul says that the way to be rid of bitterness and malice is to cultivate kindness and compassion. Ultimately, he says, we have to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. The more we realize how deeply we have hurt and offended Christ, the easier it should be to forgive other people who have hurt and offended us. Paul does not mention it, but Jesus gave us a warning: “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).

Do you spend a lot of time turning over in your mind all the bad things other people have done to you? Most of us fall into this trap, and that is why Paul spends so much time addressing it. Make this a matter of serious prayer today, and ask God to check you when you start to drift into bitter thoughts.