I infer the following from Paul’s imperative to “Be angry and do not sin…”.
- Anger has a legitimate place in the Christian community. Achieving a disposition of unruffled-ness, a Buddha-like tranquility is not a Christian aim. Yes, there’s nothing smart in being given to anger: Anger lodges in the bosom of fools. There’s certainly wisdom in being slow to anger. And there’s probably wisdom in being extremely slow to anger for perceived injustices against oneself. But still, after these caveats, be angry. In the world and even the church you will encounter injustices and cruelty and stupidity that rightly infuriate.
- Anger is one of several dangerous goods. The state of anger leaves one susceptible to being overtaken by sin. Examples: Righteous anger can easily slip into a loathing for other image bearers. Or lead us to forget that at the heart of the gospel is God in Christ RECONCILING the world. Or provide the material to become a platform of self-righteousness, scorn, haughtiness; in anger we can forget our own frame. Or harden into bitterness that has long since forgotten the point of the original anger. And so on…
- While angry, one should maintain control, even and especially control of the anger. Actually, you are in control of your anger, otherwise “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” is a pointless exhortation. Don’t pretend that you’ve become a victim of anger, that you can’t help but be subdued by it, that it has taken your will into its thrall. So be angry… and then stop being angry. Allow the injustice to rile you up, and then later take steps for that fury to seep away.
- How to eject the anger before bedtime is a good question. I imagine this would involve prayer, casting the care of this injustice upon your Heavenly Father. Also, corralling your thoughts and deliberately setting this injustice into the story of redemption that reached its climax in an unjust crucifixion and will resolve into “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” Also, (in the spirit of Ecclesiastes 7: 21, 22), recalling instances when you yourself have partaken of similar injustices and stupidity. Also, weightlifting. Finally, spending some time outside and letting the creation do its thing and serve one of its lords by mollifying.
- And give no opportunity to the devil sets the mind racing. In sleep we are not inevitably exposed to the machinations of the devil. The God who never sleeps gives his beloved sleep. But our phrase might imply that we can open ourselves to evil in the land of Nod. If we carry unresolved anger into our slumber, our heart grows hard as ice. We might very well awake with one of the devil’s carabiners anchored into the now icy part of our heart; all unaware to us he’s gained some purchase on us that he can explore at leisure down the road.
Anger: good and dangerous. So be careful out there and in there.