Truth and Anger
“…let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour…” (Ephesians 4:25)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:25-27
Paul doesn’t content himself with generalities when it comes to talking about putting off the old self and putting on the new. It has been important to state the general principle, as he has done in the preceding verses (Ephesians 4:22-24), but it is equally important to show what this looks like in practice.
So it is that in verses 25 and following he begins to give several cases, or illustrations, of what this life-change is to look like. One way in which the “new self” is to differ from the old has respect to speaking truthfully with each other. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of us speak the truth with his neighbour” (v. 25).
Falsehood is one of the marks of the “old self” that we leave behind when we become Christians. It is a characteristic of the devil (John 8:44) and something that inevitably rubs off on us when we live in his kingdom. By nature, none of us is perfectly truthful with one another.
But that sort of thing is to stop when we become Christians. There is no place for deceiving and misleading one another, whether by outright lies, half-truths, or exaggeration. Instead, we are to “speak the truth” to our neighbours, and that, Paul says, “because we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).
We know only too well what happens in our bodies when one part of them becomes septic. Soon the infection spreads through the entire body. One diseased organ can corrupt the whole. Just as we shrink from intentionally making that happen in our physical bodies, so we should shrink from “poisoning” our fellow members in the body of Christ through falsehood.
Anger is another characteristic of the old self that we have to deal with when we become Christians. It caused the first murder (Genesis 4:5) and has been at the root of untold evils since then. When we become angry, heated and antagonistic passions can easily spill over into wrong actions. This is what we are warned against here.
While there may be a case for “righteous anger” (God himself, after all, is said to get angry), we need to be particularly careful that it does not lead us to sin. Feeling righteous (or justified) indignation is one thing; controlling it, and channelling it into the right responses, is another. Too easily anger overflows its banks and causes damage.
Where anger does arise, says the apostle, we are to be careful that it is short-lived. We are “not to let the sun go down” on our wrath (v. 26). Put things right that need to be put right – don’t harbour a vengeful or angry spirit. It will only “give opportunity to the devil”. He knows only too well how to take a heated and hurting spirit and turn it to evil purposes!
What a different world ours would be if even only these two admonitions were heeded.
- Do you find it hard to be perfectly truthful with others?
- How would you respond to someone who says righteous anger is good?
– Andrew Young