“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph. 4:26-27).
Among the list of imperatives that show how one is to no longer walk as the rest of the world does, there are four in the above two verses. One of them, “Be angry,” seems to contract one that says to “put away” among other things “anger” (v.31). However, a little examination clears up the supposed contradiction, and gives a great lesson on how to deal with anger.
First, The Command: “Be Angry.” Is the way Christians are to be different from the world is by being angry people? Paul is quoting Psalm 4:4. There David is asking God how so many could see what He has done and still reject Him through sin. David is angry (tremble, NASB) at their sin! Sin was what caused Jesus to be angry (Jn. 2:13-22; Mk. 3:5). Repeatedly, sin is what makes God angry in scripture. Anger at sin is the only anger that is spoken of in a positive light in the Bible. Rather than laugh at sin, or dismiss sin around us, we should be angry about sin!
Second, The Warning: “Do Not Sin.” How could anger at sin cause us to sin? We can become puffed up because, “At least I am not as bad as ______ is.” We can deal harshly with one who is in sin and drive them away from the truth. We are never justified in displaying a sinful attitude even when combatting sin!
Third, The Solution: “Be Quick.” When we allow anger to fester and boil, it only makes things worse. Deal with it before the sun goes down! When you see someone in sin, or there is a problem, go to them (Mt. 5:23-24; James 5:19-20). Don’t put it off! Why? He tells us with the next point:
Fourth, The Importance: “Do Not Give The Devil An Opportunity.” An opportunity to do what? Peter tells us Satan is a roaring lion seeking those he can devour (I Pet. 5:8). When we do not handle these situations properly, we give him the opportunity he wants. Ill feelings, grudges, revenge, strife and division can soon happen. Ultimately, Satan wins souls.
It is said that Julius Caesar would recite the alphabet when he became angry. Whatever it takes, we need to make sure we control out anger. Be angry at sin, but do not allow it to control you to the point that you sin. Make sure you deal with it promptly. And always remember souls are on the line. If we do not control our anger, it will control us!