25 Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor [Zechariah 8:16] because we are parts of each other in the same body. 26 Be angry without sinning [Psalm 4:4, from Greek translation of Old Testament—Septuagint]. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. 27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. 28 Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.
29 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. 30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
Anger is a human reality—some experts classify it as one of four basic human emotions. Ephesians 4:26 quoted Psalm 4:4 from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called Septuagint. Then, perhaps because “be angry without sinning” might feel a little vague for real life (“How do I do that?”), the letter added timeless personal advice (of special value in close relationships): “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.” Your words can hurt or heal, and you get to choose which words you speak: “Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say” (cf. also James 1:26-27). And since we’re not likely to always get that right, the passage reminded readers about how God treats us: “Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.”
Loving Jesus, help me to speak and live so that words like “peace,” “unity,” “humility” and “love” will be the main qualities I show others, especially those closest to me. Amen.
* Timothy Gombis, study note on Ephesians 4:26 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 369 NT. ** N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 56).
Wow. This is NOT the Scripture I wanted to write about. I wanted to fold high school graduation into today’s GPS because we are celebrating our graduates at all locations tomorrow AND my son, Bobby, is graduating on Wednesday. I have a lot of material and thoughts around the joy of completion and moving on to the next stage in life.
Instead, I am tasked to talk about anger, the emotion that prevents us from moving on. Anger is complex and has many forms like frustration, disappointment, jealousy, humiliation, annoyance, and embarrassment.
My highest value is honesty. Therefore, the good news is I am a terrible liar. The good and bad news is that I am an over-sharer because I always feel the other person should know everything. That can cut both ways for me. Sometimes that is beneficial, sometimes not. And the bad news is that I am highly judgmental of those that lie or stretch the truth or don’t divulge what I know they know. That is a continuing growing edge for me because it comes out as self-righteous, which isn’t pretty.
Ugh. You see. I really don’t want to write about this because this subject strikes so close to home for me! Speaking of home, I grew up in Overland Park (Go Vikings) and have enjoyed living back here since starting at Church of the Resurrection in August. I have loved reconnecting with family and life-long friends. But as you are reading this, I am spending ten days in the home I own with my family (wife, Carol, and three children) in Orlando, Florida, where they are living so that both of my sons can finish high school among friends they have known their entire lives.
Back to the subject of honesty and anger. The other day I was in a tense conversation with someone. I accused him of being angry (bad move). He said he wasn’t. And then, a few minutes later, he accused me of being angry. I immediately denied it (a second bad move). And then, I rethought my denial. I was angry. I admitted it to him and told him why I was angry. In my head, I thought that it was interesting that both of us didn’t initially admit to our anger, even though we were. Why is it so difficult for us to admit anger and other related feelings?
For me, sometimes, admitting anger feels like I am out of control of my emotions rather than owning the emotion I am feeling. Paul is pretty clear. Be angry. Do it without sinning. I can tell you that my conversation was tough, uncomfortable and I’m sure I didn’t use all of the correct words in expressing myself. But I continued to pray that God would create a healthy outcome for both of us. Thankfully, we were able to have an honest exchange and our conversation ended in a handshake and a hug. I’m hoping that expressed for both of us the compassion and forgiving nature of Jesus. Next weekend, after my son’s graduation on Wednesday, I will be watching my other son, Michael, compete in a water polo tournament in the intercoastal waterway on Clearwater Beach. So, try not to be angry at me when I post my beach pictures. If you are, be honest!
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