Usually in seeking to understand this biblical phrase we skip directly to examples. Most often we begin with an example where we (or someone else) displayed righteous anger (in our opinion). To take a fresh approach, but hopefully not a novel one, let’s begin with the passages. However, this post will assume the “trigger” for your anger is legitimate.
In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul says:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
And he is quoting from Psalm 4:2-5
O men, how long shall my honor be
turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words
and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart
the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on
your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
The first thing we notice is that the psalmist’s primary reference point is not how late a married couple is willing to stay up to reconcile an argument. The psalmist reference point is the sleepless believer who is troubled by the folly of lost people.
The primary application is not self-control (i.e., biting his tongue), but to recognize that God is both active (setting apart the godly) and aware (listening). Sinful anger, by implication, is anger that assumes that God is neither active nor aware.
The secondary application is reflection (ponder). The folly of sinful culture reveals the lies that our culture believes. Sinful anger focuses our attention on the deceived sinner rather than on unmasking the lie used by the Deceiver to keep them in bondage.
Strangely, the psalmist advises the reader to be silent and to live rightly. The culture (and every individual in that culture) needs conviction before they will assimilate any new information. Our living in God’s freedom spotlights the bondage of Satan’s lies. Notice how Hebrews 11:7 speaks of the life of Noah.
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
The cure of sinful anger is remembering (1) God is aware and active; and (2) our missional purpose in each relationship. We should only be angered by sin. Sin reveals the activity of Satan—the Deceiver. Our goal is to consider the situation until we understand and can unmask the lie, so as to rescue not merely “prove wrong” the sinner.
This is hard (under-statement). As you prepare for this challenge consider I Peter 3:14-17
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.