Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin . . .
When a patient in the ER once made a thinly veiled threat against my family, I exploded with a rage I had not previously felt. Before I knew it, I was out of my chair, lunging towards the offender. I regained control before I got to him, but in my anger, I spent much of the next week obsessing about what I wanted to do to him. My anger derailed my thought life for days.
Though I was justified in my anger, my response was less than constructive. I may have been right to be offended, but I was wrong in my response. This is often the case with my anger. My offense may be warranted, but as with many of my defects, it is in my response that I go wrong.
Not all my anger is righteous though. When I snap at my kids out of some frustration of my own, I am wrong from the start. The problem is, that in my anger, I lose all objectivity. In my anger, I am always right. Like a drug, anger intoxicates, clouding my mind.
In anger, I have made phone calls and sent emails that I later wished I could have back. In my fury, I felt my response to be justified but my thinking was impaired. It usually takes me a day or two to sober up to the point where I can think clearly enough to reply appropriately.
This is usually the right response to my anger, to bite my tongue and hold off on responding until I cool down. In my anger, I rarely act constructively. It only takes a second of uncontrolled rage to do a spectacular amount of damage.
Like any other defect, the more I feed my anger, the greater its power over me. The opposite is true as well. As I learn to control my response, its influence over me diminishes. Like my appetite for pills, with discipline and maturity, I can learn to have fewer destructive impulses.
Make no mistake, anger, when indulged in, intoxicates and twists our minds, making it almost impossible to act rightly. We may use Jesus overturning the tables in the temple as justification for anger but the truth is, anger is a weapon that few of us are mature enough to wield without sinning. Paul’s point in today’s passage, was that most of us should not even try. We must learn to kill our natural responses. We are not to be slaves to our defective impulses.
The I can’t help it, of my anger sounds a lot like the I can’t help it, of my drug addiction. I may not responsible for the initial defect, but only I am responsible for how I respond to it. I can behave badly, growing the defect, or I can learn to kill each destructive impulse, diminishing its control over me.