April 3, 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.
Ephesians urges us not to sin when we are angry and not to let our anger smolder away without finding healthy ways to deal with it. Why? Why is anger such a problem? Why should we work to resolve our feelings of anger, especially when this process is often uncomfortable? Why not just let our anger dissipate without paying attention to it?
Certain feelings of anger can disappear in time more or less automatically. If somebody cuts you off on the highway and you feel angry, chances are your anger will go away in a few miles. You don’t generally need to track down the offending driver and seek reconciliation.
This can also seem to be the case with deeper feelings of anger, the pain that comes when you have been seriously hurt by another person. As time passes, you no longer feel upset. Perhaps you can even be with the one who hurt you without bringing up what happened in the past or remembering it. But in my experience as a pastor—and as a human being—anger that comes from major offenses doesn’t actually vanish as if by magic. Rather, it hides, smoldering away, corroding our souls. Then without warning our anger can explode from the embers. Often that anger blasts, not the one who hurt us originally, but rather someone else who doesn’t deserve the outburst we can’t control. Experience suggests that smoldering anger can cause great injury to relationships in family, church, work, and community.
I expect the Apostle Paul might agree with what I’ve just said, but that’s not the way he puts it in our text. Rather, in Ephesians 4:27 he writes, “Do not give the devil a foothold” (4:27). The word translated here as “foothold” can also mean “space, room, or opportunity.” Unresolved anger opens up a “space” for the devil to dwell in us and in our relationships. Smoldering anger provides a secure foundation for Satan to do his work of dividing, distressing, and distracting us.
If this picture of the devil seems odd to you, we’ll examine it in greater detail when we get to Ephesians 6. For now, it’s important for us to know that simmering anger has power to hurt, and not just human power. The spiritual forces that oppose God and his people can and will use anger to cripple us so that we are unable to experience the joy of God’s grace and to share this grace with the world. Therefore, we must be committed to dealing with our anger in a healthy, faithful, and God-honoring way.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of occasions in your life when anger, your anger or that of another person, gave the devil a foothold? What happened?
How does verse 27 make a difference in the way you think about anger?
Is there anger smoldering in your heart for which you need God’s help today?
Something to Do:
Again, today’s potential action step depends on your answer to the last question. If you have anger inside of you that is burning away at your insides, then talk to the Lord about it. Don’t ignore it or pretend it isn’t there. Plus, if possible, share your feelings with a wise Christian friend or your small group. Seek their prayer support and encouragement.
Gracious God, you know how easy it is for me to let anger burn away in my heart. Sometimes this happens because I avoid the discomfort of dealing with anger in a healthy way. Sometimes I like the self-righteousness that accompanies my anger. Sometimes I allow myself to assume that my anger will magically disappear.
Forgive me, Lord, for all the times I have let anger make its home within me, thus opening up an opportunity for diabolic infiltration. Whenever anger hides within me, I ask you to reveal it to me so that I might deal with it in a way that honors you and leads to greater health in my own life, in my relationships, and in the body of Christ. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
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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.