THE BIG QUESTION
Q: In one place, the Bible said to be angry, and in another it said to put away anger. Isn’t that a contradiction?
You refer to a couple different verses in Ephesians and another in Colossians that repeats the same command.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (ESV).
This is short-term anger. The Greek verb “be angry” is passive, meaning “allow yourself to get angry.” However, in the middle of that sudden anger, you must choose not to sin. That’s huge.
For example, if you witness a drunk person bashing into your car in the parking lot, you experience righteous indignation. Laws in the Old Testament protect your person and your property, so God would be angry at the injustice too. That anger produces a rush of energy, and you don’t want to misuse that by calling the driver names or even hurting him.
Notice the last part of the Ephesians verse. God commanded us not to stay angry overnight. Let’s face it. To maintain anger, you must fuel the fire by rethinking the car collision or devising ugly names for the person who whacked your car.
If you allow those thoughts to replay in your head, you’ll stay angry. Instead, we should be “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB). Now let’s consider the command in Ephesians 4:31.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 ESV)
In contrast to Ephesians 4:26, I believe this passage addresses long-term anger.
If you allow anger to simmer, it grows and turns into bitterness, producing slander and malice.
For example, imagine after the driver dents your car, you must get a rental while yours gets fixed. Unfortunately, you have to accept a vehicle you hate. Your fury expands as if you blew air into a balloon, and you wish you could throw darts at that man who had the audacity to drink and drive.
Mulling over the wasted time, you devise ugly names that you hurl at the driver under your breath. After your car is fixed, you feel it doesn’t drive the same, even though the mechanics did their best.
You can see that man’s face while seething over your loss. You start worrying about keeping your car safe and losing your temper with anyone who drives fast. You might even yell at people on the highway who appear too tense.
In that situation, God commands you to put aside the anger and all the problems it produces.
In summary, if you feel rising anger, you must not let that anger boil over into sin. As for long-term anger, let’s do spring cleaning in our hearts. I often pray for God to pry open the filing cabinets in my soul and find evil I’ve forgotten. Ask God to remove the smoldering bitterness and allow fresh air into your soul.