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Christian Conflict part 2: Be Angry And Do Not Sin

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.–Ephesians 4:25-27

While anger can be a negative, destructive consuming force, it can also be the transforming spark that moves us out of our apathy. Perhaps the tempering factor is how we channel that anger, and whether it is sincerely motivated by love.–Helen Steven

Sometimes we are ashamed of anger and we deny it. This is understandable; we’ve seen the harm that anger can do when it gets out of control. But when we suppress anger we often do harm. Maybe we don’t admit that anything is bothering us until we are so angry that we lose control.  Or maybe we let our anger leak out in subtle and manipulative ways.  Yet the Bible gives us permission to be angry, so long as we do not sin.

Sometimes our anger comes from egotism. Admitting that anger and examining its roots helps us to unmask our idolatries. Perhaps I am angry when someone else challenges me because I am resting my trust in my own righteousness rather than God’s. Perhaps I am hurt by someone else’s perceived slight because I am trying to depend ultimately on their love and understanding, not God’s.

Sometimes our anger comes from love. When we see people we love being hurt by injustice, when we see vulnerable people being manipulated by advertisers, when we see land and water being contaminated, anger is one natural response. Hating the people we blame for these things and denying that we are members one of another is destructive.  But there is another way of using anger.

St. Augustine wrote, “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.” Anger’s heat can break through our defenses and distractions and force us to confront the wrong that is being done. Anger’s energy can strengthen us to shake off despair and get on with the work that needs to be done.

Anger can provide power and driving force, but it cannot set our direction. If we are to use anger rightly we need humility, honesty, love for the other people in the situation—including those whose actions make us angry—and constant recourse to prayer so that God may direct the course of all our passions and our strivings.

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