Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV
God makes no exception here to letting go of our negative feelings – He says Let ALL bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you. ALL means ALL. In our marriages, we tend to defend or justify some of our negative feelings or lack of forgiveness because of what our spouses have done. We’ve been hurt deeply or repeatedly by their words or their actions, so we hang on to the wound. We take it to our friends and they justify our right to keep it, so we bury it deep in our hearts. But God leaves no room for excuses. It all needs to be put away.
Some will argue their anger is righteous because of the offense, or their anger is justified because the other person was clearly biblically wrong. But digging deeper into scripture reveals this isn’t the case at all. Just a few short verses earlier, we are told:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV
Clearly, we are not to sin in our anger, and we are not to hold on to our anger. Brief, momentary anger at being wronged isn’t necessarily sin, but we are instructed to let it go quickly. In those brief moments we do experience anger, we are to not sin. We are not to use harsh words or slander, then we are to let it go.
Righteous anger is the justified kind of anger that motivates you to do the work of the kingdom. It’s the kind of anger you feel at discovering child exploitation or the injustices launched at people in poverty. When you see those kind of wrongs in our world, the anger that wells up inside of you should motivate you to make a change, to contribute to fixing the problem. It’s not the same kind of anger we feel when our spouse is having a grumpy day and takes it out on us. It’s not even the same anger we feel when we hold on to a great sin committed in our marriage.
Yesterday, I mentioned the fact that we cannot accomplish these things in our own power. We need to allow God’s Spirit to move in us in order to overcome the list of sin issues in these verses, but at the same time, we have an active role to play in changing our behavior. We have to make the conscious choice to own our behavior and ask for forgiveness when we have failed—not only vertically, but horizontally as well. If we are caught in the same angry hurt cycle with a difficult someone in our lives, we need to stop looking at what they’re doing, and begin to take ownership of our own sinful angry response. If our response to the hurt caused by our spouses has been angry, if we have used harsh words or silently turned our back and refused to speak, of we have taken our anger to a friend and slandered our spouse, we need to own it and ask for forgiveness.
One of the greatest challenges is asking for forgiveness in marriage when you have been sinned against. It’s painful to say I’m sorry when your sin was in response to their sin—we want to tack on the reason why we sinned as justification. Resist the urge and simply apologize for your angry response, and forgive them for their offense—not because they earn it or deserve it, but because God calls you to do it. Though it is challenging, He will bless your marriage for those steps of obedience.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗