Be Angry, Do Not Sin
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (v. 26).- Ephesians 4:25–32
Jesus’ perfect example proves that being angry, in itself, is not sinful (John 2:13–17). Even though it may be difficult for fallen people like us to remain righteous in our anger, it is possible to be angry without transgressing God’s law. In fact, the New Testament tells us not only that it is possible to be angry without sinning, but that we must get angry at times. This is Paul’s point in Ephesians 4:25–32.
Scripture’s ethical teaching helps us understand why the Apostle would command us to be angry. Paul writes in Ephesians that our chief aim in life is to be “imitators of God” (5:1). Because He is altogether holy, God must get angry whenever people violate His commandments (Deut. 32:4; Isa. 6:3). Consequently, we can be imitators of our Father only if we also get angry at those things that make God mad. The exploitation of the weak and helpless should arouse our ire, for the Lord’s anger is directed at oppressors (Ex. 22:21–24). Since Jesus’ wrath was directed at hypocrites, we must also be angry with ourselves and with others when it is clear that our words do not match our deeds (Matt. 15:8; 23).
Due to our fallenness, we are prone to combine sin with our anger, so we must be encouraged repeatedly not to break God’s law in our ire (Eph. 4:26). We are not necessarily upset at the things that our Lord hates just because we are mad, so we must always check our hearts to make sure our anger is an expression of righteousness. If we are angry without just cause, we give Satan an opportunity to destroy lives and reputations (v. 27). Human beings can abuse any legitimate emotion, especially anger, so we must also set it aside as soon as we can (v. 31). Our anger may be godly and righteous at the start, but it can be easily warped into a grudge and malicious designs instead of hoping for the offender to repent. When we no longer hope for the sinner’s repentance, we are letting the destructive root of bitterness take root (Heb. 12:15).
Evil should make us angry, but not everyone is deserving of our wrath. Like Jesus, we may rightly direct our ire towards the hard-hearted (Matt. 23), but we must likewise be kind to those who express true sorrow for what they have done (John 7:53–8:11). Our first inclination should be to seek repentance and restoration whenever possible, not to display the fullness of our wrath.
It is easy for us to think we are being righteously angry when we are really just manifesting unjust ire. It is also easy for us to get so wrapped up in a righteous cause that we forget to pray for the repentance of the sinner and the restoration of relationships. When we find that we are angry, we must take precautions to ensure that our ire does not spin out of control. May we be honest with ourselves when we are mad so that we might discern whether our anger is truly righteous.
Passages for Further Study