April 14, 2010

To Live is Christ — seeing anger’s place in spiritual warfare

Three days of studying two verses has amazing results. I knew about not letting the sun go down on anger, even though I have not been 100% obedient to that. I also knew that minor annoyances are just as much anger as a full-blown temper loss. However, the thoughts of these verses have given me a far greater sensitivity to anger than ever before.
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26–27)
I’ve not thought of myself as an angry person, yet when anger is defined as the Bible defines it, my irritation at not having things go the way I want them to go is anger. Recognizing these irritations as selfishness and confessing them as sin gives God the opportunity to forgive and cleanse me, not just from getting ticked about little things, but from the self-determination that so easily governs my life.

I often say that I need to get out more. It could be helpful. My husband and our new boarder are involved in a part of the world that is foreign to me. Between the two of them, I hear stories of engineering problems, employee interactions, desperately sick children, and problems with contracts. My world is withing the walls of my home with limited interaction with family, writers, artists, and my Sunday morning Bible class. Because of my lifestyle, rarely do I have to deal with major conflicts. When I do, I’ve so little experience with such things that I can easily go to God for solutions.

For that reason, and while I hate to admit it, more often the little things get me. Add some small stuff to my day, particularly things that pile on extra work or interfere with my schedule, and I can feel annoyed. These verses and the related things that God has shown me add up to a total condemnation of such annoyance. At the same time, God’s revelations about anger and its source have led to changes and to freedom, for which I am grateful.

The last part of this passage is the reason all of this is important. It says that sinful anger not promptly confessed and repented from is “giving place” to the devil. Another version translates this as “giving opportunity” to Satan — that he might use my anger to cause harm.

Jesus called Satan a liar and the father of lies, and a destroyer. Anger is a breeding ground for lies, starting with the one about, “you made me angry” instead of the truth that admits, “It was my choice to get mad.” Anger is also destructive. If not handled biblically, it can ruin health, inner peace, relationships and more. This destruction is Satan’s plan, not God’s. While God can use anger to teach humility, to make me aware of my selfishness, and on rare cases, make others aware of their offenses, He obviously offers better ways to deal with these things.

There is a righteous anger described in a previous post. It is from God and is my response to seeing myself or someone else violating His will. However, He does not give anyone a “righteous indignation” to harm or destroy, but to restore and heal, two things that Satan never wants.

Even these brief thoughts on anger from God’s perspective and from the perspective of how the devil can use it are making me aware how even my minor and often unspoken irritations are part of spiritual warfare. The enemy of souls can use my selfishness to have his way in my life and in the lives of those around me. On the other hand, the God of my life can use a proper response to anger to have His way in my life, even to affect those around me.

Also, these verses do not condemn anger — for anger is not the problem. My responsibility is to discern its source, and refuse to let any selfish anger motivate me to sin. Instead, God tells me to get over that kind of anger quickly, because there are bigger things at stake than me getting or not getting my own way.

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