In preparing a recent sermon on Ephesians 4, I have been reflecting on the instruction, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
Invariably ‘anger’ is seen as an unhealthy and destructive behaviour. I agree that anger can indeed be very destructive, especially if fuelled by alcohol or bitterness or malice. However, the implicit assumption of this verse is that followers of Jesus will get angry and that this is not necessarily wrong. John Stott, in his commentary on Ephesians, argues that we should actually get angry more often than we do.
“Indeed, when we fail to do so, we deny God, damage ourselves and encourage the spread of evil… I go further and say that there is a great need in the contemporary world for more Christian anger. We human beings compromise with sin in a way in which God never does. In the face of blatant evil we should be indignant not tolerant, angry not apathetic. If God hates sin, his people should hate it too. If evil arouses his anger, it should arouse ours also. At the same time, we need to remember our fallenness, and our constant proneness to intemperance and vanity. Consequently, we always have to be on our guard and act as censors of our own anger. If we are wise, we shall be ‘slow to anger.’”
What are some of the things we should express our anger about more often? Personally I have a low tolerance of emotional as well as physical abuse against children and women. I was bullied at school and I cannot stand by when I see someone bullied.
Racism is also something I feel strongly about, and that includes antisemitism and islamophobia. We are each created in the image and likeness of God. Anything that denigrates, undermines, prejudices or targets a person because of their ethnic background, gender, colour, religion or values, is worth getting angry about.
So what anger are you suppressing that you would be better expressing today?
Here are some infographics that might help to channel your anger constructively.