Let not the sun go down upon your wrath
In his wonderful book on Ephesians, Watchman Nee observes that the letter can be divided into three movements: “Sit, Walk, Stand.”
We are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:6)
We then walk worthy of our calling in Christ. (Eph 4:1)
And we stand against the assaults of the evil one. (Eph 6:10-17)
The order is important. First we learn our true position in Christ – raised, forgiven, adopted, beloved and inheriting the cosmos. Then we learn how to walk out into the world on that basis. Finally we learn how to stand against Satan’s attacks, knowing that we already hold the high ground.
As far as Nee was concerned, all our problems in the Christian life stem from a failure to appreciate our seatedness. When we try to walk before we have sat, we fall down! We imagine that Christianity consists of performing certain duties or cultivating certain characteristics. Yet our new life really has been given to us in Jesus.
Thus, as he turns from “Sit” (Ephesians 1-3) to “Walk” (Ephesians 4-5) Nee makes this comment:
“God has given us Christ. There is nothing now for us to receive outside of Him. The Holy Spirit has been sent to produce what is of Christ in us; not to produce anything that is apart from or outside of Him…We have been accustomed to look upon holiness as a virtue, upon humility as a grace, upon love as a gift to be sought from God. But the Christ of God is Himself everything that we shall ever need… Our life is the life of Christ, mediated in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself.”
Given that this is so, the very first area of our “walk” which Paul addresses is the realm of “words” (Ephesians 4:1-25). In the word, Christ is given to us again by the Spirit. Therefore the body of Christ is a word-full body. We are forever returning to the gospel word to tell us of our true position – seated at God’s right hand. In spite of all worldly evidence to the contrary, we walk by faith not by sight. In other words, we “walk” by the “word”. Thus we are constantly “speaking the truth in love [that we] may grow up into him in all things.” (Ephesians 4:15)
As Paul considers this, he raises the issue of words that go wrong. In verse 29 he will talk about “corrupt communication.” In verse 31 he exhorts us to put away “evil speaking”. But in verse 26 he writes our fascinating little verse:
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26)
Paul is aware that anger is a reality in our daily communication. If we’re not tempted to daily anger, perhaps we are not walking with our brothers and sisters in close enough communion!
Anger arises when our desires are thwarted (James 4:1-3). Most often our desires are inappropriate, but sometimes our desires are good and proper and therefore their frustration involves a righteous anger. In such situations we are to “be angry and not sin.” The anger is not to be suppressed but addressed. And addressed quickly.
In the Bible, days end at sunset because each day is a microcosm (a little world). Each day begins in darkness (at dusk), but the light triumphs over the darkness. If that is the story of the world, then it must be the story of our lives. Darkness must not have the last word in our relationships. We must end with the light of grace and reconciliation.
Therefore Paul exhorts us to sort out our quarrels before the day is out. In this way we will be imitators of God. His final word to the world is not wrath but mercy. Notice how Paul grounds all our human acts of reconciliation in God’s great reconciliation in Christ.
“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us.” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)
Sit in that truth – Christ has loved us and given Himself for us. We are at peace with the living God, though it cost Him everything to secure it. Now walk by that light.
Are there people you need to reconcile with? “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
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