Sunday, 25 September 2016
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, Ephesians 4:26
Paul now reaches back to the psalms for a necessary thought concerning his discourse. This is a citation from the Greek translation of Psalm 4:4. Here he uses two different words to describe the emotions. The first is “angry” and conveys the sense of showing “settled opposition.” It “is positive when inspired by God – and always negative when arising from the flesh” (HELPS Word Studies). The second is “wrath,” and it conveys the sense of “irritation (exasperation, bitterness) which is provoked, i.e. by someone causing a personal (‘up-close’) sense of anger” (HELPS Word Studies).
Paul says that we are to in fact be angry when it is right and proper to be angry. If we have a godly anger towards something, we are showing a correct attitude, not a negative one. Our anger at the sinful nature is not only anticipated, but it is expected and approved of. It is not sinful to be filled with righteous indignation. However, in our anger we are told “do not sin.” We should not let our anger at the sinfulness of another cause us to sin.
A good example of this is that we are to be angered at the vile conduct of those who oppose God through such things as the support of abortion. As this is a tenet expressly stated, for example, in the platform of the Democrat party of the US, we are to be angry at all democrats for supporting the murder of the unborn. And yet, we are not to allow our anger at them to turn into sin through violence or vulgarity.
Paul then tells us to “not let the sun go down on your wrath.” As noted, this indicates irritation which is provoked. When we allow ourselves to become exasperated to the point where it consumes us, we lose our direction and our focus. Instead of thinking on the things of God, we think on the things of the fallen world. If we continue in this state, it will eventually push out everything else. And so, in order to keep that from happening, we are to put our irritation aside and not dwell on it.
Paul uses a known custom of the times to demonstrate how to do this. The Pythagoreans bound themselves to find reconciliation to their differences before the sun set. They would shake hands, or find some other token which would bring about peace. Thus, the bitterness that could well up in the night would be quieted before it could get out of control. This is a sentiment not unlike the second half of Psalm 4:4 –
“Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah”
In meditating on what is good, pleasing, holy, and pure, the things which caused us to get riled up will fade away.
Life application: Carrying around bitterness for an extended period of time will inevitably cause harm to the one carrying it. It may also result in physical acts which will later be regretted. The more we carry such anger, the more rash and impulsive we are likely to become.
Lord God, help us to fulfill Your word which tells us to not let the sun go down on our wrath. Surely carrying around bitter thoughts of those who offend us can only poison our souls. And more, this could cause us to do something which You would regard as sin. Let us not be so consumed in this way. Let our anger be righteous and godly, but never sinful. This is not an easy command to fulfill, so be with us at such times we pray. Amen.