August 5, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.
We are well aware of the human power of anger. Anger can move people to do things or say things they would never otherwise do or say. Expressions of anger often lead to deeper division and greater pain. Ephesians 4:27 reveals that anger has more than just human power, however. It can be used by the spiritual forces that oppose God to hurt people, foster injustice, and oppose the good work of God in the world. Thus, we need to deal with our anger in a healthy, holy way so that the spiritual power of anger doesn’t break free.
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 talk it through.
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 simmering 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 make room for the devil” (4:27). Unresolved anger opens up a “space” for the devil to dwell in us and in our relationships. Smoldering anger provides a secure foothold for Satan to do his work of dividing, distressing, and distracting us.
It’s important for us to know that festering anger has the 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. God will help us by the power of the Holy Spirit to express our anger so as to build up rather than to tear down, to foster reconciliation rather than deeper division.
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?
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.
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Who Are the Rulers and Authorities in the Heavenly Places and Why Do They Matter?
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.