Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry.
Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
Ephesians 4: 26-27 The Message
I continue to be puzzled and saddened by so many people in our society who seem to be addicted to anger. So often, this results in angry and hurtful words, which make those they disagree with even angrier. A vicious cycle of anger then builds: each side digs in, becoming angrier, and angrier. Sometimes, it seems like there is no end in sight! There are numerous examples of this on the national and international stage. Those with the hottest heads tend to garner the most attention, as we are given to glorifying the most extreme views…
Yet here, the Apostle Paul counsels a balanced approach to anger. He recognizes that anger has its place. It can be used to motivate, and to encourage positive change. One example of this came from Rev. Francis Horner, who hailed from South Africa. He talked about the pride of the nation, noting that at one point in its development, a large, well-engineered bridge was needed. Unfortunately, the expertise to build such a bridge was not to be found within the country. Therefore, the young nation’s leaders reluctantly agreed to let a foreign company build the necessary bridge. However, their anger at having to be beholden to another nation made South African leaders vow that from that point on, every bridge in South Africa would be built by South Africans, using South African companies and expertise. And it was! That is an example of anger being used for positive motivation. I am certain that many of us can think of such examples in our own lives.
Paul understood that anger was a part of life, but he also set strict limits on anger. It was not to be misused as fuel for revenge. (How I wish so many of those who “dox” those who disagree with them would hear these words!) Nor is anger to be our constant state of emotion. Jesus himself modeled this in his own life. He was angry when he entered the temple and saw that moneychangers had taken it over, transforming it from a house of prayer into a place of business. However, when Jesus appeared before Pilate, or even when he was on the cross, one finds in his character only forgiveness. No anger.
Paul even suggests a “time limit” of sorts on being angry, stating that if we go to bed angry, we have been angry too long. Better to give to the Lord the emotional burdens we are carrying as we unload our pockets at the end of each day..
Finally, Paul has a warning for those people for whom anger becomes their most defining characteristic: they may be giving a foothold to the evil one. This is so sad, and tragic! We Christians are to be characterized by our love, not our anger. Remember the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love…?” Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that love, rather than anger, should always be our most essential characteristic. Why? At the most basic level, it is because God is love. To follow the guidance given to us, we must become more loving. Not angrier, but more loving. May it be so…
Heavenly Father, what a powerful lesson you taught us by the death and resurrection of Your son. Rather than spew justifiable rage at what was done to Him, You showed compassion. Motivated by immense and unconditional love, You gave the model of how I should live my life. Help me to walk towards peace and forgiveness. May I show towards others the same grace You have given me.
With a grateful heart, I pray this prayer in the name of Your son, the Prince of Peace. Amen