Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
We’ve all heard this verse. I usually hear it when people are talking about relationships. The idea is that you should never let your anger settle overnight. That you ought to deal with whatever relational problem you have before you say goodnight. Good advice, eh?
But, wait. Read the verse again. Be angry.
Let’s pretend I’m a writer for a moment. And let’s say that I am writing a love letter or something and I say:
Let not the sun set on your love.
What will you take that to mean? Will you assume that I’m saying that you should make sure you deal with your feelings of love before the sun sets and not harbor any feelings of love overnight?
No. You’ll assume (rightly) that I mean you should never let your love fade away. That you should keep it high in the sky like the sun. That it should be an obvious thing to everyone and it should, at least in some measure, guide you.
Hold that thought.
This verse is in Ephesians 4. What does that chapter talk about? It talks about how the Gentiles are blinded by the shadow. How they are hard in their hearts and how the shadow darkens them and (possibly) us.
Be angry and do not sin.
I don’t think Paul is telling us to be careful not to sin when we happen to get angry. I think he’s telling us to get angry! To get seriously angry about the shadow and the effects the shadow has over us and our fellow man! Be angry! And as you feed that anger, stay away from the sin that ought to be the object of the anger! And never let that anger go!
Now, you will point me to James 1:20 and say that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. And you’d be right to do that. Man’s anger is generally a pretty shallow, spiteful thing. Which is why the only anger we should be looking at here is godly anger. Spirit-led anger. Anger that has sin and its effects as its only object. Not anger directed toward people.
No revolution can be successful without anger. There is no such thing as a passive rebellion. No tyrant lost his crown to an indifferent crowd. And unless we are angry at the homicidal taint on our hearts we’ll never throw it off.
Are you angry at sin? Are you angry at how sin is poisoning your friends and neighbors? Are you angry at the scores of injustices in the world? Don’t let the sun set on that anger! Hold on to it! Stoke it! Made it burn and use its energy to watch out for the snares of the flesh and the devil. Use it to fight against sin in the world and in your heart. Be angry and stop sinning!
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