“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….Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32
“I cannot take this one moment longer!” These were the words that whirled through my head on the morning of October 18, 2016, shortly after spending 15 minutes on Facebook. There I sat, flabbergasted and astonished at the words that were being exchanged by dear, wonderful people who, for some reason, seemed to have lost all composure due to political disagreements. Accusations were flying fast and furious- lobbed like grenades over an internet fence, blowing up friendships, familial relationships, cordial relationships between colleagues and classmates. What on earth happened to our kindness and civility?
The 2016 election was a difficult one, in fact, most media sources are billing it as the most contentious political campaign in American history, and for good reason. There were important issues on the table-issues that deeply affected a broad cross section of people which make up our very diverse United States of America. As a result, people were angry, offended, and worried that our president –elect did not see them as important or valuable members of society. Let’s be clear, I am not making a statement as to whether any president can be used of God nor am I making any judgement as to how individuals chose to vote. Voting is a right that we have been given. The people have spoken. We now must move forward thoughtfully and prayerfully.
My point in using the 2016 election as the opening to this blog post is to bring to the surface what we have all seen in ourselves and in others around many issues and in many moments of our lives. There is within every human soul the potential to display a kind of anger which burns hot and wild, the kind of anger, that if fanned and fed, will result in wounding the people that we love and that God loves. In the midst of this very broken, confused and weary world-a world full of violence, hatred, injustice, hunger, darkness and sorrow, there is an urgent need for the body of Christ to outshine and outlast the darkness. No matter how ugly things become in our country or in our world, not matter how painful our realities may be, as believers in Christ we must live differently, speak differently and love differently so that the world may know Christ.
A call to civility and to love one another does not mean that there will never be a reason or a justification for anger. Anger is an emotion that we have been given, just like love, joy, or sadness. It is not that we have anger, rather it is how our anger is displayed and for what purposes-holy or unholy, that matters to the Lord. Scripture is replete with examples of times when the Lord or His people became angry and justifiably so (Exodus 11:8; 32:1-20, 1 Samuel 17, Galatians 2). God’s anger is always just as He is just. Our anger is not always so, therefore we must be mindful to seek the Lord daily through His Word so that He might cleanse and heal us when we have acted wrongly.
In our opening scripture coming from Ephesians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul offers us one example of how to address anger properly and humbly.
1. When you are angry, do not sin– It is possible to be angry about things that matter-injustice, corruption and the like without operating in sin. Take those things which you are most angry about to the Lord in prayer. Offer him your grief and lament and let him carry your burden because he cares for you (1 Peter5:7).. He sent His son to address that very injustice by shedding His own blood for the sins of the whole world.
2. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry-if you are harboring resentment against someone- be it a friend, or your spouse, do not let the day end with you resting your head on your pillow in anger. Instead, go and seek healing and forgiveness. Without that, the devil can gain a foothold in your life that opens the door to other conflicts.
3. Get rid of unhealthy anger– Is your anger another kind of wound in disguise? Are you picking fights, harboring hatred? Does your anger overwhelm you and overshadow other emotions? Seek the Lord in prayer. He is able to help.
4. Be kind and compassionate and forgive-There is such healing in forgiveness. It is not always easy or what we may want to do, but it does release us from the heavy burden of carrying unnecessary pain by ourselves. So forgive and show Christ like love and compassion to others in need. Take food to an elderly person who is shut in, volunteer at a shelter, sponsor a child or an immigrant family, volunteer at a school, be a mentor. God will use you in new ways and turn unnecessary anger and sorry into joy and peace.