April 2, 2019 • Life for Leaders
“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.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I suggested that the “get your anger out on the table right away” approach is not supported by Ephesians 4:26. Yes, we are not to let the sun go down on our wrath in a metaphorical sense. We mustn’t let our anger putrefy within us for days, months, or even years. And, yes, we do need to confront directly someone who has wronged us. But the proper timing for such a conversation requires more than a legalistic sundial.
I also suggested that one of the best ways of dealing with anger, even in the midst of white-hot feelings, is telling God about it. With the Lord we find the safety to expose our souls without fear. We can trust God with what is hidden inside of us, even if it isn’t pretty. God is big enough, wise enough, and gracious enough to handle it.
But God has also given us something incarnational to help us when we’re angry. This something is easily missed when Ephesians is read by people from individualistic cultures—such as the American culture in which I was raised, for example. You see, Paul’s counsel in verse 26 comes on the heels of verse 25. Here’s how the whole passage from verse 25 through verse 27 reads: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘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.”
How does verse 25 help us when we are angry? It reminds us that we are part of the body of Christ. When I’m angry with someone, this is not just my business or that person’s business. Rather, it is the business of the body of Christ. Therefore, if I am feeling angry and need to find a way to tone down my angry feelings before I speak with one who has hurt me, I might turn to a fellow member of the body. I could speak truthfully to this person about what I’m feeling and why. To be sure, this person must be mature enough to avoid a gripe session or gossip fest. But a good listener not only allows me to calm down but also helps me see things in a fresh perspective and decide how best to seek reconciliation with the one who wronged me.
Not long ago I experienced this very thing. Someone close to me hurt me, or at least that’s how it felt to me. I was angry. By God’s grace, I avoided the temptation to dash off an email. (Rule of thumb: When angry, never use email.) Rather, I shared my feelings with my wife, who made sure I talked with a wise brother in Christ. He listened well. He helped me see things I had missed. By the time I got off the phone with him, I felt considerably calmer and, to be honest, more aware that the wrong I had experienced was not nearly as bad as I had felt it to be.
So, if you’re feeling anger toward someone so strongly that it would be hard for you not to sin if you confronted that person directly, let me encourage you to share what you’re feeling with the Lord and also with a mature, discreet brother or sister in Christ. After all, we are all members of one body.
Something to Think About:
Have you ever done the kind of thing I’m suggesting in this reflection, telling someone you trust about the situation when you’re angry?
What are potential dangers inherent in sharing your anger with an uninvolved person?
What are the potential benefits?
Are you harboring anger right now that needs to be shared with the Lord and/or a member of the body of Christ?
Something to Do:
If you answered the last question in the affirmative, then you probably know what you need to do. For sure, tell the Lord what you’re feeling. Be honest and don’t hold back. You may also want to talk with a brother or sister in Christ. Be sure to choose someone who is wise and who will keep things in confidence.
Gracious God, first of all, I thank you once again for being a safe place for me to pour out my soul. Thank you for hearing me, even when what I have to say isn’t pretty.
Thank you also, Lord, for making me a member of your body. Thank you for fellow members with whom I can speak truthfully. Thank you for giving me flesh-and-blood people with whom to share my feelings of hurt and anger. Thank you for so many people who have served in this role throughout my life.
Help me, Lord, to turn to you and to my brothers or sisters when I need help. Moreover, I pray that I might offer a wise listening ear to others when they need it. Amen.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.