By William K. Smith, Sr. Pastor, Trinity Chapel Church of God, Little Falls
I have been privileged to absorb sunsets from many areas of the world, from the sandy beaches of Florida to the volcanic peaks of Hawaii, from the parched deserts of Arizona and Wyoming to the evergreen slopes of Canada, from cities of Great Britain to the hills of Israel.
The Apostle Paul, when he wrote Ephesians 4:26, very likely remembers the sunsets he had viewed from the mountains of Asia Minor to the towers of Damascas when he said, “… Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
Paul knew better than most that life is filled with frustrations; exasperation was no stranger to him. Harassment and maltreatment, such as beating and false imprisonment, were commonplace events in his life.
Do you remember the Biblical account when Ananias, the high priest, ordered that Paul should be smitten in the mouth? Paul was angry! Who wouldn’t be? I can imagine Paul’s face flushed with anger as he fired: “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23:3)
But, it didn’t take Paul very long to get over his anger. He instantly apologized. Prior to his instruction to the Ephesians to ‘let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’ he wrote, “Be angry and do not sin!” (Ephesians 4:26).
Life is full of exasperations. You are maligned, denigrated, misunderstood, disparaged, misinterpreted, swindled, etc. And all of us have a temper. The danger is in the possibility that healthy indignation will give way to carnal spite and a sustained siege of temper and feelings and talk that is displeasing to God and damaging to ourselves. A prolonged grudge is probably the most expensive thing anyone can carry. It will injure you more than the one against whom you are holding the grudge.
Why? It racks the nervous system. It hurts the digestion. It sours the disposition. It upsets the whole person and personality. It heats the blood in the brain and the heart and depresses you. It deters you from worthwhile work for God. It makes you uptight. It robs you of peace of mind. It disturbs your rest. It discredits the teaching of Christian forgiveness and makes your forgiveness by the Lord an impossibility.
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
God’s Word says without equivocation, “… let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Sundown is curfew.
By sundown we must renounce sarcasm for sarcasm, accusation for accusation, invective for invective. “I’ll get you before you get me or I’ll destroy you before you destroy me” attitudes are to be buried. (And I promise you will sleep better when you do.)
Remember this. Forgiveness is a divine attribute. An ancient essayist told the story of a boy who stole a fox and hid it under his coat. All the while the boy was hiding the fox, the fox was gnawing his vitals – and the boy submitted to the destruction by the fox rather than expose his misdeed.
Many of you, with a smiling face, have under your coat a burning grudge that is gnawing away the health of your body and the integrity of your soul. That horrible unforgiving spirit is stealing your eternal destiny. Homes are in desperate need of a forgiving spirit. Husband and wife are apart. Brothers and sisters are apart. Parents and children are apart.
You don’t like to live in that kind of unforgiving atmosphere. It is miserable. It’s lonely. But if you don’t begin to try and change the atmosphere in your home, who else will? Somebody has to be big enough, loving enough, spiritual enough to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
If you have never forgiven someone — I mean really forgiven them – then you have yet to experience one of the most divine joys attainable by man. Kind words are so inexpensive, why don’t we use more of them?
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.