“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27
Living in grace keeps me from all expectations. It keeps me from looking at my kids and saying, “Hey, you know what, you shouldn’t be like that,” or, “You shouldn’t act like that.” In fact, I’m learning to understand grace just by trying to teach my kids how to live an awesome life!
Handling anger is a great example. When my oldest son gets angry, I’m learning to not get mad at him for being angry. I don’t say to him, “Hey, you shouldn’t be angry.” Instead, I acknowledge that he’s angry. I know that he’s angry because he doesn’t want to do something, or because he didn’t get his way. So I try to look at him and say, “I realize you’re angry. You know what? It’s okay to be angry.”
I say this because I know that his anger is not a sin. I truly don’t believe that it is. We see in the Bible that not all anger is sin. God gets angry with sin, Moses gets angry with sin, and Jesus gets angry with sin. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul quotes the Psalms: “Be angry, and do not sin.”
So you can be angry, as long as you don’t sin in your anger.
Ephesians also tells fathers, “Do not cause your children to be angry.” What Paul means is that dads should not cause their children to sin in anger. We have to be sure we don’t cause our children to “let the sun go down on their anger,” that is, internalize their anger until it boils over. If we tell our kids, “Don’t get angry,” or if we tell them, “You’re not allowed to get angry,” then we’ve told them that anger is not okay. If they get in trouble for getting angry, then they will hide their anger. They’ll internalize it, and then act out on it. They might even develop rage, which can cause a lot of problems.
Grace, I think, allows our kids to be angry. I think grace says, “It’s okay to be angry. So now let’s talk about why you’re angry.” If I say this to my sons, then they can say, “Well, I’m angry Dad, because I don’t get to do what I want to do.” And then I can say, “Okay. That’s okay! I understand you’re angry. Now, here’s why you don’t get to do what you want to do. And I know you’re going to be angry for a little while. But you’re still not going to be allowed to do it. You can be angry about it. You can be frustrated about it. But you still need to do what I ask you to do.”
If you think about it, accepting anger brings freedom. What if someone were to tell you that it’s okay to be angry, and then let you talk about it? How good would that feel? That’s how good your kids will feel. And they will feel free to express themselves. And as you can imagine, this works just as well for parents as it does for kids!
More on grace next time. See you Thursday.