“Be angry and do not sin . . . ” (Ephesians 4:26a)
Six simple words. So easy to set as a standard for others, yet, so difficult to follow in our own lives. The perfect “do as I say, not as I do” scripture that we really wish everyone else would live by. All day yesterday, I turned these words over in my mind. These six words that are neither particularly complex nor hard to understand. And this morning, after asking God to speak through me and use my words to speak both truth and healing, I opened my bible and read the entire passage of scripture surrounding these words because I find that context is always important for complete understanding.
“25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
My first question, is always, “Who is the intended audience of this scripture?”
We learn and glean from every word of the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible, in its entirety, is the instruction manual for Christians, but in this particular case, Paul is writing to the church of Ephesus. These were followers of Christ working out their salvation, learning to walk as Jesus walked. I can assume, by extension, that what was good for the early church is just as relevant today. And this entire passage very much applies to the modern church as well.
My second question is, “What can I learn from this?”
As I read this passage in Ephesians, I took it verse by verse and word by word. Because I wanted to not only know but fully understand what it means to be angry and not sin, and the only way to really grasp that is to know both what leads into those words and what comes after those words.
Paul tells us in vs. 25 to put away lying. Y’all if we are not telling the truth then we are lying. That seems incredibly obvious, and yet, I wonder how often we lie to ourselves and others. Maybe it’s not blatant lying, but refusal to acknowledge reality is, in fact, lying. Living in denial, with our heads buried in the proverbial sand, is nothing more than a fancy, dressed up lie. The starting place is always truth. Without truth there’s no moving forward.
The passage then goes on to tell us to “be angry and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” So many of us are confused. We’ve been taught to see anger in and of itself as the sin, but it’s not. Anger is a God given emotion that has a valid time and place and justification in our lives. In verse 26 anger is an action . . . something done with a beginning and an end. It is not a thing (a noun) that takes root in our lives and hearts. And that’s an important distinction. We have every right to righteous anger, but we must use it to further the kingdom of God and to effect change. We may never use it as an excuse to sin, to cause pain and destruction whether that be with our words or our actions, and if we allow anger to take root, to allow the sun to set on our anger, it will give the devil a foothold in our lives (vs. 27). It will turn us into angry, bitter, and unforgiving people who don’t seek to further the kingdom in any way, who don’t attempt to change the world around us, but instead seek to point fingers at everything everyone else does wrong. It will turn us into jaded, cynical people that no longer see the beauty in God’s creation.
But this passage doesn’t stop with these words. Paul goes on to tell us in verse 29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
Corrupt – unwholesome – rotten, worthless
Edification – the act of building
Are my words building others up? Are they edifying and imparting grace or are they unwholesome? Are they tearing others down? I can’t have it both ways.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” vs. 30-32
I can be very good with words. I can also be very good at using my words badly. And this is something that the Holy Spirit is constantly working on in me. Because when I use my words, in a moment of anger, even the most righteous, justified anger, to harm others, I am grieving the Holy Spirit. But I cannot let “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (shrieking), and evil speaking” become part of who I am. As a follower of Christ, I must be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. That does not mean I do not stand up for justice and stand against injustice. That does not mean I do not stand up for right. Not for a second. Not even close. But it means the motives of my heart come from a place of knowing that God created every single human being in His image. Every. Single. One. And I am responsible for every word I speak and every act I commit. That’s a heavy weight to carry on my own, but thankfully, Jesus does the heavy lifting for me. Thankfully, He died and rose again for every single one of us.
As I write this, my heart is heavy with the turmoil in our nation. My heart is heavy because in the year 2020 we are still fighting against racism, hatred, and division on so many fronts. My heart is heavy with Christians that continue to sow discord with their words and refuse to acknowledge truth even when it is blatant and obvious. My heart is heavy with the hatred, violence, and destruction that is running deep in our country. My heart is heavy because there are those that see some lives as having more value and relevance than others. But God created every single life, from conception, with equal value and purpose, and He desires a personal relationship with each and every person.
I often hear people say, “Our country needs Jesus.” And I could not agree more. But it needs to start in the church. The people of God have to start standing up for truth in every arena. And we cannot tolerate hatred or discord within our ranks. We have to speak truth in love, and we have to walk it out in such a way that others see Jesus in us.
“Until we become kingdom-minded and not denominationally, class or racially-minded, we will not be Christ- minded, we will not be socially-minded to address divisions between us.” Dr. Tony Evans
“13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them” Psalm 139:13-16
Copyright 2020, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.