The Limits of Anger

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Devotional for Wednesday, June 3

Ephesians 4:25-29 (NRSV)
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Anger is a common emotion, and as the Bible makes clear, it also is a dangerous emotion. In and of itself anger is not sin, but anger can carry us to the edge of sinning.

I won’t even bother to try to tie this Scripture to current events—if you don’t make the connection on your own, you just awoke from a very long nap.

Implicit in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is the notion of righteous anger, the emotion we feel when we witness or experience the violation of basic truths. In a biblical context, righteous anger arises when God’s holiness is disregarded (think of Jesus flipping tables in the Temple), or when God’s creation is not respected for what it is (think of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:4-6).

Like all of our emotions, anger has the potential to create good. It can spur action where there was apathy. The problem is when anger consumes us, causing us to lose focus and stray from behaving like the children of God we are.

Breathe! Remember the early breathing lesson in this devotional series, first inspired by the COVID-19 crisis? Breathe, and slow down enough to examine what you’re feeling and why.

From there, get back on mission. Note that Paul affirmed constructive behavior. For Christians, this is largely a matter of showing and sharing the biblical truth of who Jesus Christ is. He calls us to build up the world with love, not hate.

Let the fire inside propel you toward kingdom work!

Lord, slow us down a little today. Let us examine what we feel, what we have done, and what we plan to do, and help us to bring all of that into alignment with your will. Amen.