I heard this verse frequently recited growing up. A person in a wise, gentle tone would say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Ephesians 4:26 sounded like idyllic relational advice. You can imagine a couple of fifty years of marriage mentioning this verse as advice. Scripture passages like this make sense until you find yourself in the heat of the moment.
Anger rarely meets us at predictable times. We experience frustrations for a variety of reasons. Our plans get re-routed. People say hurtful words. You and I can get forgotten or overlooked. A simple gaze of the political banter on social media can inflict rage on us.
The question for us has less to do with, “Will we get angry?” but rather, “How we will respond to the anger?”
Paul in Ephesians communicates the realities of Christ with us. The Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, revolutionize our relationships. Through the grace He has offered us in forgiveness, we can extend the love He has offered to us to each other. The Gospel transforms our reaction to anger.
I sometimes think we make assumptions about verses like Ephesians 4:26 without unpacking what it means for our lives. Klyne Snodgrass in his Commentary on Ephesians makes this observation:
The text (Eph. 4:25-27) assumes that people will make us angry, but anger must not take up residence. If given a place, it infects and mutates into further resentment and hostility. If given the place, it becomes the avenue the devil uses to cause sin. For that reason, it must be shown the door rather quickly.
The passage does not deny our experience of anger; rather it calls us not to let anger fester. As one of my professors Dr. Ron Hall would say, “We deal with these issues as close to the occurrence as possible.”
Anger left unchecked in our lives can lead us to other sins:
Holding a grudge and remaining bitter towards another.
Gossiping about other people.
Lacking kindness in our response to other people.
Often, it can place our interests above others.
So what does it look like to not let anger fester? I used to make the assumption that I had to resolve conflicts right at the moment. Sometimes that makes sense to applying this verse.
Other times though not letting the sun go down on your anger means taking space in the heat of the argument. Instead of further escalation, we recognize that we cannot resolve the issue in our current situation. Both people realize that they need time to calm down and then continue the discussion on a resolution.
The wisdom of this verse requires us recognizing our pattern of anger. Christ’s grace helps us not give into our adverse reactions and passive aggressiveness. On the contrary, knowing the truth about ourselves especially what jolts us halts us from making poor decisions. We can ask Christ and trusted friends to help see the situation clearly as opposed to being swayed by our emotions.
What anger has festered in your life? How has Christ challenged you not to let the sun go down on your anger? You may want to take the time to read and reflect on Ephesians 4:25-26.
Photo credit by Kasper Bertelsen.