26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
Reflection On This Scripture
On a daily basis, as I work among at-risk youth in an urban, public school setting, I see firsthand the havoc being wreaked by the cancer of anger. Fights, disrespect of authority, gossip, hatred, chaos, pain…and the list goes on. It’s overwhelming at times. But when I step back long enough, I see that the anger stems from very rational reasons: lack of a father’s love, lack of a mother’s nurturing, poverty, injustice, unfair treatment, abuse, neglect and abandonment (to name a few). Now that makes me feel angry! No child should endure the aforementioned experiences. This is not right. But what is the cure for the cancer of anger (my anger against these injustices and a youth or adult’s anger rooted in pain)?
In a simple yet complex manner, the answer is Jesus. Now, don’t write me off thinking that I am just presenting a “religious/churchy” answer and excusing the pain that gives way to anger. Nor am I devaluing anger management classes, counseling, support groups, etc. But without the base of knowing Jesus intimately, the cancer of anger will not be ultimately cured. What I mean by knowing Jesus intimately is journeying with Him to know His forgiveness, His life, His Spirit, His truth, His example, His deliverance, His peace, His love, His body…and the list can go on.
Once someone has been made a new creation in Christ, the Word of God gives specific direction on viewing and handling anger differently than the way the “old self/nature” did. Our minds need to be renewed and we need to take on how God views it if we are going to avoid contracting the cancer of anger or be healed from it.
We must see anger from God’s perspective. His word directs us in the context of addressing anger to “give no opportunity to the devil.” The original language of this verse provides no loophole to the “new man,” rather the verb tense is a present, active, imperative commanding (not suggesting) ‘never give opportunity to the devil.’ It’s that serious! Realize that the emotion of anger, if not addressed God’s way, becomes a tool in the hand of the enemy to bring about bondage in the person who is controlled by it. “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8) In our culture, anger seems to be a norm for men and even in a warped sense, a sign of manhood. But Jewish tradition was aware of anger’s divisive, satanic and corrupting power. It is the epitome of socially destructive sin that alienates people from one another and causes breakdown of relationship, which is characteristic of the “old man/nature,” working against the Holy Spirit’s work of reconciliation and unity through the “new man” created in Christ Jesus for good works.
While a believer in Jesus can experience the emotions of anger and find themselves feeling angry for legitimate reasons, such as dishonor done to God or wrong done to man (similar to Jesus’ anger in Mark 3:5 and John 2:13-16), the exhortation is for one not to sin. Oftentimes anger stems from pain or injustice, while at other times anger is rooted in pride, self-centeredness or insecurity. Discerning where anger is coming from is important. Anger stemming from pride, self-centeredness or insecurity is a deeper issue and the root sin needs to be repented of while receiving the “already-present” grace and forgiveness of the One who made us “new creations” in Christ. How can someone be angry and not sin? Keep short accounts and do not be controlled by the emotions/feelings of anger, rather take control over it. Psalm 4:4, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” Put away anger before a new day begins, which according to Jewish culture, starts at sunset. In other words, don’t sleep on your anger, without resolving it before God.
However, for some, anger has been slept on for many a night. There is danger in the settled mood of anger, and in many cases, prayer ministry and counseling is required to see someone healed from anger. Jesus is the deliverer of that healing! Jesus is radical! In Matthew 5:43-48, He actually commands His people to love their enemies. Love truly covers a multitude of sins. Love is part of the recipe to overcome anger. God never instructs His children to do anything that He will not empower or enable them to do. Therefore, “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21).
Brother and sister, do you trust that God is strong enough to take anger off your shoulders and from your soul? Are you willing to repent of your wrong thinking and live from a place of God’s forgiveness and Jesus’ freedom? Will you release those who have sinned against you to God’s hands, and walk in the freedom that is yours?
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