Stop the Sun
by John UpChurch
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).
When I got married, the friend my wife and I roped into making the wedding video for us added a few surprises to the tape before he gave it to us. During our rehearsal dinner (which didn’t actually follow a rehearsal), he’d grabbed guests, whisked them outside, poked the camera in their faces, and asked them for their best tips on keeping a marriage strong.
The advice is decidedly mixed. It ranges from the serious (“Make time for your relationship”) to the Scriptural (“Love is kind”) to the funny (“Just let her win, John”) to the ludicrous (“Beat him when you need to”). It’s the stuff you’d expect from those who are on the spot with only moments to think up something that would be forever stamped on our video.
But one piece of advice has always stuck out to me, and even as I write this, I see it and wince. One of our friends told us that we should just “forget about that whole sun-not-going-down-on-your-anger thing. You will go to bed mad.”
It’s just really bad advice.
Now, admittedly, when Paul wrote Ephesians 4:26, he wasn’t talking to married couples directly. He meant it for the believers at Ephesus in general. But he slips that passage in among his admonitions about how our lives should be different now that we follow Christ. He says those who don’t know Christ live one way, but when they start to follow Him, their lives show it. Before, we let our anger seethe, but now, we fix the problem. Before, we didn’t seek forgiveness and restitution, but now we do.
In marriage, the status quo is always safer. We get into routines, and we like how comfortable the ordinary feels. When something disrupts the normal flow, guys especially want to just move it out of the way and get back to flowing again. Meanwhile, our wives are still upset, and nothing has been dealt with.
You see, there’s another part to that going-to-bed-angry thing that our well-wisher left out. When we do that, the Bible says we give the devil a foothold, a place to cling on. The anger burns deeper and deeper. One angry night becomes dozens. That’s the place where relationships stop growing—and even die.
But there’s no need for any angry sleeping, not when we’ve got something as crazy-good as the gospel. As Paul says, the good news is that we’ve chucked off our old selves and gotten brand-spanking-new selves. This new-self sets us apart in the world as children of light. In other words, when we don’t do what people expect, we suddenly blaze into the darkness. When we don’t let the sun go down on our anger, but forgive as we’re forgiven, it’s like setting off a flare. You’re saying, “Look. This is God’s love made manifest through us. Dig it.”
Intersecting Faith and Life: Paul doesn't leave us a way out. Boiling anger has no room in our relationships, and it’s this readiness to forgive and willingness to work out our problems that make us light up the world. No matter what conventional wisdom may be, don’t let the sun go down before you work to put things right.
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."