DEAL WITH YOUR ANGER
Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, 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. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need (Eph. 4:25-28).
Members of one body! Here is the motivation for living a new life. Of whose body are we members? We are members of Christ’s body. We no longer belong to ourselves, and we no longer live in isolation from one another in the body. We are not only joined to Jesus, our head – we are also joined to one another. Paul described it in this way:
From Him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work (Eph. 4:16).
The church is not like an organisation or a club where people are loosely connected by their affiliation to that group. Paul described the church as a body, where its members are inseparably joined to its head and to one another, as closely as the systems in a human body are joined and work together. This means that we make choices and decisions and act in unity and harmony with one another, considering how our actions will affect others in the body.
We have a defence mechanism, as human beings, to protect ourselves in our vulnerability from the attitudes and opinions of others. We put on masks of pseudo-holiness to cover our failings. Paul urged his readers to be transparent with each other because we belong to one another. The cells in a body must work together for the systems to function efficiently. So we, too, must be honest and open with each other if we are to live as a true body.
In the body of Christ, we are supposed to ‘bear with one another in love’ which means that we are not to criticise or judge one another. Within the body, we should be safe to fail and we should be open to correction when we stray from the path. Unfortunately, believers are often so defensive that they are offended when someone corrects them instead of humbly accepting the rebuke and coming back to the path of obedience to God’s Word.
Gentleness and humility are the hallmarks of Jesus. We are to follow Him and not to allow ego and pride to alienate us from one another. ‘Lying’ to one another implies more than telling lies. It includes living lies in our relationships within the body.
Paul deals with another common and confusing problem with which believers wrestle – anger. Many of us mistakenly believe that anger is sinful. If that were true, then Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees would have disqualified Him from being our Saviour. We feel guilty when we get angry because we do not realise the purpose of anger.
Much of our anger has to do with unresolved emotional pain. There is no such thing as an ‘angry’ person. People are not angry by nature. People use anger to protect themselves from the hurts they have not resolved. Many carry the pain of abuse from early childhood which they cannot face. They explode and lash out at everyone over minor and often irrelevant issues (called ‘emotional overload’) to protect themselves from being vulnerable to the same hurts again.
This kind of anger is sinful because it destroys relationships and isolates the individual from other people. The way to deal with this kind of anger is not to have counselling on ‘anger management’ which is completely ineffective, but to expose and deal with the cause of the emotional pain. Healing comes from facing the memories, acknowledging the source of the pain and forgiving the person or persons who caused it.
There is another reason for anger, called ‘righteous’ anger, which is a legitimate and important response to injustice. Jesus was angry with the merchants and money changers who turned the outer court of the temple into a market. His anger produced action which sent a clear message to the offenders, including the religious hierarchy who no doubt benefitted from the profits. He drove the offenders out of the temple with the rebuke from God’s Word,
Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers (Mark 11:17)
This anger is not a volatile emotional explosion but a sustained attitude of displeasure which moves a person to take action against abuse or injustice. This was the attitude that drove William Wilberforce, for example, to persevere in his purpose to rid England of slavery. In this understanding of anger, Paul counsels his readers “not to let the sun go down on their anger”. In other words, he encourages them not to let the matter rest until they bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
Our responsibility, as members of Christ’s body, is to deal with our anger in the appropriate way. If we are bearing grudges and carrying old offences which cause us to hide behind anger, it is time to bring them out of the closet and to own our reactions and forgive the offender.
If we are angry about the harm caused to others, we should not give up on our efforts to change what needs to be changed so that those around us will receive the respect and dignity they deserve as members of the human race. God needs this kind of ‘angry’ people to change society wherever they can and to bring about harmony, not rebellion and conflict between its members.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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