“So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” – Ephesians 4:25-27
This week we’ve seen what happens when anger festers, when we let the sun go down and come up again with our anger intact. As the violence in London and throughout England continues there is a combination of anger and mischievous criminality to be sure. Those who are robbing and looting have no excuse – they are thieves. Those who began these events by protesting the shooting of a young man in the Tottenham neighborhood started with anger but moved quickly to violence and rage.
In the letter to the Ephesians Paul tries to deal with anger. He acknowledges that anger cannot be completely snuffed out, that anger is an emotions and emotions simply are. But what we do with that anger and how long we hold on to that anger is a different story. “Be angry but do not sin,” Paul writes. If you see injustice or receive it yourself anger is an emotional response, but anger does not justify sinful actions. Control your actions, Paul says, and then deal with your emotions.
Paul sandwiches his statement about anger with two ways to face our emotions in a Godly way. Speak truth to our neighbors, and do not let the sun go down on your anger. How many times have I not said anything when I was angry, only to let that anger fester for much longer than it needed! Sometimes, in the name of peace, we remain silent even when we are angry. Yet we know from experience that the anger will just build and build until it explodes outward in sin.
By speaking the truth we can dissipate not only our own anger but other potential conflict as well. Then we can either avoid more anger or acknowledge the anger we have and move toward something more constructive rather than destructive. Imagine if the rioters and looters in England remembered that we are all members of one another, so that destroying their neighbor’s livelihoods destroys their own. How would they respond then? How will we?