Everybody these days is subject to stress. Whether you live in Manila, Tokyo, or Los Angeles, you live at a faster pace than at any time in history. It’s the traffic, the pressures and stress of life, along with family stress that can cause you to reach the boiling point, and when that happens, you explode. You can refine the expression and say that you are just “letting off steam,” but anyway you look at it, anger has the best of you. When your temper gets out of hand, you are embarrassed and feel disappointed with yourself because you know you have hurt others. Looking at it from a selfish viewpoint, you not only hurt others, but you hurt yourself and your future as well.
The Apostle Paul offered some sound advice to those of us struggling with strong emotional feelings. He counseled, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Phillips’s translation puts it like this, “If you are angry be sure it is not out of wounded pride and bad temper. Never go to bed angry–do not give the devil that sort of foothold.” Commenting on Paul’s advice, George Gardiner tells how he visited a gift shop. His attention was captivated by a large bottle-stopper-type cork, trimmed with sequins, nestled in tissue in a plastic box. The card that went with it read, “For the hole in your head when you blow your top.” It is a pretty clever reminder that when you “blow your top” you are the one who gets the headache.
But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:9
In his book, None of These Diseases, Dr. S. I. McMillen has a chapter on anger and how it affects you physically. In this chapter entitled, “The High Cost of Getting Even,” Dr. McMillen tells of a little lady, well into her eighties, who came in frequently to have her blood pressure checked. He said that it usually hovered around 200, but one day it soared to 230. Inwardly, Dr. McMillen was alarmed, but rather calmly said, “Your blood pressure is up today.” With a smile, the little lady answered, “I can easily account for that. I just had an argument with another patient in your waiting room.” Dr. McMillen says, “Think of it: that cultured, intelligent woman could well have blown a cerebral ‘fuse’ and suffered a fatal stroke, simply because she wanted to get even verbally with a man for his provocative chatter. Her diagnosis of the spectacular rise of her blood pressure was correct.”
How modern is Paul’s advice, “Be angry and sin not.” The Apostle is not saying that all anger is sin, but recognizing that anger is a poison to your soul and body, Paul advises you to get the anger out of your system—and he does not mean by telling so-and-so just what you think of him. Christ demonstrated by His own life that there is a place for anger—call it righteous indignation if you would. Christ was angry with hypocrisy, and selfishness, yes, no less than sin. Our problem is usually ourselves; we are afraid that someone will take advantage of us, or that someone else will get the praise we deserve.
Instead of letting anger and malice breed hatred and sin, Paul says that love can be a catalyst that removes misplaced and unjustified anger. Listen to his advice and make an application to your life: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
The Apostle Paul’s advice provides guidelines for right living, but the best counsel in the world is useless until you follow that advice. His words are a spiritual prescription, but only you can make an application. If you have a ferocious, unwieldy temper, admit it. Do not hesitate to ask God’s help in overcoming that temper and you can find God’s power to make your life worth living.
Resource reading: Ephesians 4:1-32
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