Jump Start # 2079
Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Anger is an emotion that can erupt like a volcano. Our day can be going smoothly and just like that, very suddenly, something happens and we are angry. We can get angry with ourselves. We forget to do something very important and we know it was our fault. But most times, we get angry with other things and other people. When you get two angry people together, you’ll probably witness a lot of yelling and possibly even a fight. When two nations get angry, troops and ships are positioned for a possible war. Our best work isn’t accomplished when we are angry.
In these verses, Paul lays down a series of three “do nots.” These are stop signs. Don’t do these things. Lets take a look at these red lights on the anger highway.
First, we are to be in control. The very idea of telling us what not to do implies that we can stop. Anger is not at the wheel, we are. We may be upset, mad, even angry, but we remain under control. These next actions are choices. You decide how far your anger is going to take you. Fans of Law and Order and other courtroom shows recognize that a common defense for criminal activity is “heat of passion.” A person declares, “I wasn’t my self.” Or, “I just lost control.” God’s words remind us that you must take control.
Second, DO NOT SIN. One of the great questions folks like to kick around is whether or not anger is a sin. Our verses begin with “Be angry.” You’d think if all anger was wrong then the Holy Spirit wouldn’t say, “Be angry.” Better words would be, “Don’t be angry.” There were times when Jesus was upset. I doubt He was smiling when He turned over the tables in the temple. However, anger moves quickly. It’s like cars on the highway. In just a moment, anger takes us to sin. Violence. Saying offensive, cruel and mean words. Character assassination. Cursing. Wrath. Slander. Strife. The words associated with the works of the flesh, are born out of anger if we are not careful. Be angry, but do not sin. Hit the brakes. Don’t go to far with your mouth, thoughts or actions. Remain under control. Don’t sin. Don’t think for a moment that your anger gives you the right to sin. Don’t do things that you’ll regret later. Don’t ruin your influence, nor shut the door on someone spiritually because you are angry. Don’t sin.
Third, DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR ANGER. Get over it. Get over it quickly. The more you let it simmer in your heart, the worse things become. Deal with your anger. Pray to God. Find positive solutions. Anger can turn to revenge quickly. The angry person isn’t thinking about forgiveness. He’s thinking about settling the score. Later in the same Ephesians chapter, we find, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” You cannot control what happens to you, but you do control what those things do to you. When we are really upset with someone else, we feel compelled to share that with a sympathizing ear. Now, we have several who are upset along with us. We’ve formed a mob of angry people. Anger will keep you up at night. You’ll replay the events that upset you over and over. The more times you think about it, the worse things become. The next day, you’re still talking about it. You take those emotions with you to work. You complain to people you barely know, telling them how terrible you were treated. You blast your feelings on Twitter and Facebook. Get over your anger. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Fourth, DO NOT GIVE THE DEVIL AN OPPORTUNITY. Don’t invite the devil to this situation and into your heart. Anger can give the devil a key to roam through our mind and heart and come up with all kinds of evil thoughts and wicked things to do. If you and I were having a get together, a birthday party, an anniversary celebration, and we were sending out invitations for family and friends to attend, we certainly wouldn’t invite Satan. He’d never be on our list. Yet, anger puts him on every list, usually near the top. Anger gives the devil a green light to do whatever he wants. And once the devil is behind the wheel, things always go south. He’ll lead us to making things much worse than what they are. Things will get very ugly and very messy when Satan is around. Paul’s words are: DON’T GIVE THE DEVIL AN OPPORTUNITY. How? Ditch the anger. Get over it. Forgive. Move on. The last verse of Ephesians 4 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Can’t do that? Hurting too much? Thinking you’ll never forgive? I’d recommend you read yesterday’s Jump Start. If you won’t forgive, God may take back His forgiveness of you.
When angry, walk away from a situation for a moment. Collect yourself. Calm down. Pray. Gather your thoughts. Deal with the issue. Shouting doesn’t help, nor does it strengthen your argument. Slamming doors, punching walls, making threats, just makes your blood boil. It’s at those moments, if you peek outside your window, you’ll find Satan standing at the door, ready to come in. You are running through stop signs. You are forgetting these three Do Nots. You are losing control. You are not acting as God wants you to.
I know these things. I’ve run through several of these stop signs in the past. So angry that one doesn’t think clearly. Words come out of your mouth that shocks even you. Take hold of your emotions. Grab the wheel. Tap the brakes. Slow down. Remember Jesus. See the big picture.
There is an old story that takes place right after the Civil War. Robert E. Lee was passing through an area where there once was a beautiful plantation that had been lined with massive trees. The aftermath of the war ruined most of those trees. It was ugly. The woman who lived there came out and complained about what the war did to her trees. Lee said to her, “Madam, cut them down and forget it.” Good advice then and good advice for today.
We bump and bruise one another. We can point fingers. We can get angry. We can be helpful and forgive. Maybe it’s time to cut things down and forget it.
Three Do Nots. Stop signs on the road of life. We do well to pay attention to them. Running through them is dangerous—for others, as well as for ourselves.