I had a sudden piece of inspiration smack me the other day in the middle of filling out an application (which you may or may not hear about later, depending on what happens with that). So this morning I had an hour of free time while waiting for Sunday School to start and I sat down to tear the idea apart. Or put it together. (Actually, I mostly wrote it down as fast as I could before I could forget any of it.) It turned into a four-point, three-page somethingabob in my journal, so I figured that was a good enough indicator that I should share it here. *Wink* [note]Since this was me picking through a verse, you can be assured I’m preaching to myself all the way. I ain’t trying to pick on anybody other than myself.[/note]
Let’s start with the verse that sparked it. (Well, the idea sparked the memory of the verse which in turn sparked the rest. Kind of a chain reaction thing going there.)
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. ~ Ephesians 4:26-27
(Just so you know, I’m chopping this up into four numbered sections for my sanity and easy reference’s sake.) Okiedokie, here we go.
1. Be angry. I found this rather intriguing. Most people you meet would rather write “don’t be angry” or maybe “if you get angry” or even “when you get angry”, but goodness I’ve not yet met anyone who would tell me to be angry. That Paul would write this tells me that he understood emotions come and it’s normal. He’s not interested in quelching them, rather, he practically tells us to have them. Even the dangerous ones like anger. Yipes. Sounds kind of weird, but that’s why he didn’t end the sentence there. (Thank goodness, or we might be in trouble!)
2. And do not sin. First key word in this one: and. That ‘and’ is there to say that this one goes hand in hand with number 1. (See, I told you the numbers were for easy reference’s sake.) This is not an either/or option here. Paul just said we’re going to have emotions and it’s normal, and now he tells us not to sin while in the midst of those emotions. I see it as a passive command – that is, he just wants us to not-do something here, not actually do anything yet. Just don’t sin. Your emotions are going to make you want to say or do hurtful, unhealthy things, and it is your responsibility to choose not to do them. “And do not sin.”
3. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Aha, now here is our active command! Paul realized that not letting negative emotions lead you into sin isn’t enough in the long run. You have also have to actively seek to resolve the emotions, or the cause thereof. (Can I just call it resolving conflict? Thank you.) The part about the sun indicates that not only must this be active, but it must also be prompt. I have a feeling Paul probably knew first-hand what leaving emotions to fester does to a person. For example, anger left unresolved becomes a putrid-smelling root of bitterness which, unchecked, burrows deep into the heart where it proceeds to rot it from the inside out. Disgusting, yes? The only way to keep emotions from rotting out the heart is to resolve them actively and promptly.
4. And give no opportunity to the devil. Once again notice the ‘and’ connecting this point to that under the number three. Not only do we need to resolve negative emotions, and we must do so without giving the devil a foothold at the same time. What this indicated to me this morning is that resolving conflict can very easily degrade into worse. Bringing up something that someone did (in order to resolve your hurt/anger) can (and this is a slightly extreme example) turn into another screaming match if you don’t do it right. That’s a big platform for the devil, not just a little foothold. In other words, how you choose to resolve the conflict once you decide to actively and quickly take care of it is just as vital as choosing to do it at all. Communicated with all the anger and hurt the situation caused in the first place, it’s no good. (Remember, be angry, and do not sin. Venting your anger on the person who hurt you is not going to resolve this.) Yet, if you communicate with love, respect, and a willingness to understand the other person’s side of things, you’ll have quite a bit more success. And guess what? You won’t have to fall back to quickly quelching that anger. You can be angry and not sin.