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The sun going down on your anger is the least of your problems

I am honestly sick of having people quote that verse about not letting the sun go down on their anger (obviously when they are frustrated at me) only to have them then tear a strip off me about how I have offended them.   So why is a person quoting that verse about anger and the sunset so incredibly frustrating to me?  It’s frustrating because it was never about reconciliation or to call me out in Godly manner about a sinful behaviour- it was about hurting me back.  It was about revenge.  Now realize that if I have done something to offend someone I am very quick to sincerely apologize and make it right.  However when a person comes at me rage and anger in their heart- they don’t want to reconcile or even hear my apology.  My belief is that we often miss the true context of that verse about not letting the sun go down on our anger.  Off the top of your head can you recall the context?  I couldn’t and so I went and re-examined Ephesians 4 and I was again wowed by the Word of God. The whole chapter is about relationships within in the body, but with application outside of the body as well.

Some translators have injected the title “Unity in the Spirit” to Ephesians 4.  At the end of chapter 3, Paul has just prayed one of the most incredible prayers for the saints in Ephesus.  It is perhaps one of the most important prayers in all of scripture.  Its message:  that the unmeasurable dimensions of the love of Christ become known to the saints and that they would be filled to all the fullness of God.  Then Paul’s topic changes… or does it? I would argue “not at all”.  Even though he is no longer praying his focus remains the love Christ; only what he now explains is how that answered prayer looks in the context of the body of Christ.  If we were to pose an inductive question about the text at this point it might be “What does understanding the love of Christ and being filled to all the fullness of God look like?   Paul answers by calling the Ephesians to walk in a manner according to their calling:  Humility, gentleness and patience- showing tolerance in love (note that the Greek word for love here is the word used most often of God- the charitable, unconditional type).  Part way through the passage he seems to make a detour when he talks of spiritual gifts, but here he appears to be pointing out that the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed upon on the church are for the building up of the saints.  In a similar manner the revelation of the love Christ and being filled to all the fullness of God result in the building up of the saints.  As I write this I am reminded that in 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul waxes eloquently about spiritual gifts then says: “And I show you a still more excellent way.” (1 Cor 12: 31b NASB)  He then clearly demonstrates how the love of God when put into practice is the most excellent way to build the body of Christ.  Unity and love in the body of Christ were the things that Paul was looking to see- the answer to his prayer at the end of Ephesians 3.

Paul then comments on what it doesn’t look like.  The unbeliever walks in a futility of mind, being of a darkened understanding.    Neat contrast:  He prays for an outpouring of the understanding of Christ’s love and for a fullness of God in the lives of the Ephesians and then contrasts this to the short sightedness and darkness of non-regenerated mind of the unbeliever.  The unbeliever is ignorant, calloused and hard hearted which prevents the unbeliever from walking in the way of love and unity.  So Paul instructs them to turn away- no to leave behind or lay aside that which corrupts and is corrupted.  Put on the new self that has been created in the likeness of God (the self that has been enlightened with the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ).

Now I have said all this to bring context to my initially stated observation.  Often people who are frustrated with another person because of some offense will use the second part of Ephesians 4:26 as a justification to blast the offending individual for the offense.  Simply put, they are hurt and want to hurt another in an attempt relieve their own pain (a very irrational thought I might add- and I have been guilty of this on many occasions).  My experience is such that most often the “offendee “  has missed the first part vs. 26 and their attitude is anything but the attitude that Paul has championed up to vs. 26.  What is the first part of vs. 26 you might ask?  “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph 4:26a NASB).  This is the part that people either don’t know or completely miss.  Paul realized that conflicts and offenses would be a reality in the church community and that reality continues today.  Reconciling hurts and offenses is a necessity within the church- the only other option is a church that is ripped apart by bitterness, hatred and anger-  A church that is without reputation or ability to influence the world for Christ.  Paul did not want the Ephesians to not go to bed angry knowing that this would sows the seeds of bitterness and hatred.  At the same time this command was not a license to go and destroy another person while the anger is raging.  Yet this is what so often happens.  So I have a couple questions:  Are we able to deal with our anger before we sleep without talking to the individual that offended us?  More importantly are we able to have a conversation with them and have the elements of humility, gentleness and patience (tolerance showing love) present as we do so?  If not then we are most definitely going to be angry and we most definitely will sin.  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger yes- but check your motivation before picking up the phone, texting, or meeting with a person to reconcile.  If you are not walking in the manner of the calling, if you are not filled with all the fullness of God and your heart is not in a place of unconditional love towards them, the sun going down on your anger is the least of your problems.  Food for thought.  Blessings.

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