Ephesians 4:26–27 makes room for anger that is not sin: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
The problem is that we are happy to exploit what seems to be a legal loophole. Anger, in its very nature, is self-justifying. My anger is righteous; your anger is not. So if we are to find some righteous wiggle room here, we must proceed very carefully.
Let’s begin with what is clear. The passage names anger as a close neighbor of the devil. At a moment’s notice, anger can drift toward his murderous ways, and we can transform into something less than human. With this in mind, Paul also writes, “Let all . . . anger . . . be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31, emphasis added). Our anger, therefore, puts us on high alert. Best to put ourselves in chains until it passes.
Since Paul’s words in Ephesians give no specifics on anger without sin, we turn to the illustrations on which he relied. We turn first to Jesus, who, indeed, could be angry without sin. Paul, too, could be angry in his rhetoric against those who hoped to put Christians under the law of Moses (Gal. 5:12). What these and similar instances of anger have in common is that they were never in response to personal attacks but were on behalf of those who had been wronged. What did Jesus do with personal attacks? He followed the ways of the psalmists and entrusted judgment to His Father (1 Peter 2:23).
The Ephesians passage is a quote from Psalm 4:4—a reference that might give more insight. The inciting event in this psalm is not identified, but it is probably linked to Psalm 3 and Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam. 15–18). There, David was never angry at Absalom. When a military confrontation became inevitable, and if David’s commanders happened to be victorious, David asked for one thing: “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom” (2 Sam. 18:5). Meanwhile, David was subject to Shimei’s cursings (2 Sam. 16:5–8); yet even there, David never responded in anger, choosing instead to live under what he interpreted as God’s will for him (2. Sam. 16:9–14).