Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Ephesians 4:26-27

I had always heard the verse above taught as an axiom for conflict resolution. As if the message was “don’t stay in an argument with someone”. They would pair the passage with the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about conflicts that rise to the level of being taken to court (Matthew 5:23-26). But I think that the passage in Paul’s letter and in context of the the quoted Psalm give a different meaning.

Where Jesus teaching was about someone being mad us for sinning against them and resolving that conflict, the Ephesians passage is about what we do with our own anger. Paul was instructing the Church in Ephesus (former pagans, recently converted) that they are to be on guard because they were responsible for what they say and do as a part of their Spiritual practice of faith. They were to be behaving properly, even when they were right to be angry!

For the music director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.
You sons of man, how long will my honor be treated as an insult?
How long will you love what is worthless and strive for a lie? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly person for Himself;
The Lord hears when I call to Him.
Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. 
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And trust in the Lord.
Many are saying, “Who will show us anything good?”
Lift up the light of Your face upon us, Lord!
You have put joy in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine are abundant.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, Lord, have me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4

The Psalm makes this even more clear. David was in distress because he was being insulted and the people who were around him were doing foolish, sinful things. But his own connection with God was stronger and more powerful! Prayer, meditation and an understanding of personal holiness were things that put him in a right state, spiritually.

This helps us understand Paul a little better as well; “do not grieve the Spirit” means don’t neglect your relationship with God. Let Him guide your words and actions and put away the sin that is associated with anger, letting your honest emotion be soothed by God’s peace.

Ethan Kirl