With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. – Ephesians 4:17-27 [NLT]
Years ago I was a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) chaplain. CPE is as the name implies a continuing education opportunity for pastors who wish to gain experience in a clinical setting – often a hospital. A group of pastors will meet regularly, learn about certain pastoral care issues, hospital policies, and counseling skills under the direction of a trained CPE Supervisor.
My CPE Supervisor had one-on-one conversations with each of us and during her time with me said, “You’re an angry young man.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I was oblivious to the degree of seething anger was just below the surface of my soul. But she was at least partly correct. I was angry. And I was a young man at that time.
Thankfully, I have been able to work through much of my anger, although it seems to lurk just beneath the surface of my being all too often. Because of that, I will sometimes let things go too long until I explode. The antidote to that is offered here in these words: And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Anger is pain borne alone. Therefore, keeping anger from controlling you is a matter of acknowledging the pain, lamenting before God the burden and hurt that you feel, and giving it to God. It is also a matter of sharing the pain and struggle with others, having people pray for you and showing you support and love. These are vital needs when someone is hurting, and having those needs met will blunt the anger and bring peace of heart and soul.
And do it now. Don’t stew and fuss. Don’t carry it around and give yourself an ulcer. Don’t let the devil get his foot in the door with seeds of doubt, hopelessness, and guilt. In any human experience there is sin in every corner. That means we seek God’s mercy and comfort even when we are hurting, realizing that even our worst enemy may not be totally to blame when we are cross with one another.
The devil has plenty of footholds in most of our lives. Let’s not give him another. Rather let’s ground our anger in Jesus’ grace, mercy, and kindness, and seek the solace of his love.