"Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph 4:26b).
Ah, silly Paul. He clearly didn't understand life in our world today. There are so many things to be angry about! Politics are a mess. Racial tensions have flared up again. Immigration. Terrorism. Guns. Flag protests. And I haven't even gotten to taxes, road rage, or the fact that the Kardashians keep turning up everywhere. There's so much to be angry about!
It's one thing to recognize the presence of anger. It's another to normalize it. I remember the story of an American preacher who went to a Caribbean island. He preached that if wives caused their husbands to become angry—perhaps by not adequately preparing food or failing to meet other such "standard expectations"—then the husband was within his right to divorce his wife. That's a strange twist on anger! Blaming others for your anger isn't kosher.
So what's the deal with anger? Why is wrath one of the Seven Deadly Sins? The vice of wrath isn't just something dreamed up by desert monks in order to burden us with unrealistic standards. It's a real problem for those who want to grow into the image of Jesus Christ.
On the one hand, anger is a natural emotion. There's even such a thing as righteous anger. A little wrath can actually be healthy. The problem with anger, however, isn't its existence. The problem is what wrath does to us when it lingers.
Paul's point in Eph 4:26 is that anger will cause you to sin if you don't take care of it quickly. If you don't find a way to flush it out of your system, wrath can destroy your relationships. Unchecked anger can destroy your sense of peace and well-being. It can even do serious damage to your physical and emotional health. "See to it . . . that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled" (Heb 12:15). If you harbor angry thoughts and feelings, it is like having a wrecking ball in your life that slowly demolishes you and those around you.
The opposing virtue of wrath isn't peace. It's patience. Learning to take the high road requires great patience. Playing the long game necessitates patience. The ability to successfully deal with troublesome people, issues and situations comes best to those who have learned how to be patient.
This Sunday, I'll talk about the vice of wrath and its contrasting virtue of patience. How do we grow more and more into the image of Jesus? That's the goal of this series, and I hope you'll join me as we ponder this fifth installment.