August 4, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:25-27 (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.
If we’re experiencing strong, angry feelings, it’s often difficult for us to express these in a healthy way to the person who wronged us. It’s easy to let our anger lead to hurtful and sinful expressions. But sometimes what we need is the listening ear of a wise brother or sister in Christ, someone who can hear us well and help us sort out our feelings. Because we’re members of the body of Christ together, there is help available when our anger is powerful and we’re in danger of sinning when we deal with it.
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: “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.”
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 from 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. That’s a terrible way to put Ephesians 4:26 into practice.) 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. I was finally ready to express my feelings to the brother who had hurt me in a way that was healthy and honoring to God. The result was reconciliation with the brother and even a deeper and more committed relationship. I’m so thankful I got help before I shared my feelings with him.
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. We are here to help each other live faithfully as followers of Jesus.
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 the 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?
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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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Listening, Taking Action, and Avoiding Anger (James 1:19–21)
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.