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The Sooner the Better
Scripture and a reading from Luther's sermons and devotional writings

From the Word

26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:26–27, RSV

From Luther

This passage sounds as though permission were given to be angry. But Paul is taking into consideration the way of the world. Men are tempted and moved to anger. There are no clean records. Under sudden provocation the heart swells with ire, while the devil lustily fans the flame; he is ever alert to stamp us with his seal and image and make us like unto himself, either through error and false doctrine, or through wrath and murder in conflict with love and patience. These two forms of evil you will encounter, especially if you make an effort to be a godly Christian, to defend the truth and to live uprightly in the sight of all. You will meet with all manner of malice aforethought and deceit, and with faithlessness and malignity on the part of those you have benefited. This will hurt you and move you to wrath. In your own house and among your dear Christian brethren you will often meet with that which vexes you; a word of yours may hurt their feelings. It will not be otherwise. This life of ours is so constituted that such conditions will exist. Flesh and blood cannot but be stirred at times by wrath and impatience, especially when it receives evil for good; the devil is ever at hand kindling your anger and endeavoring to fan into a blaze the wrath and ill humor between yourself and your neighbor.

But right here, says the apostle, you should beware and not sin; not give rein, nor yield to the impulse and promptings of wrath. That you may indeed be moved, the apostle would say, I well know, and you may fancy you have the best of reasons for exhibiting anger and vengeance; but beware of doing what your wrath would have you do; if overcome by wrath and led to rashness, do not continue in it, do not harbor it, but subdue and restrain it, the sooner the better. Do not suffer it to take root or to remain with you over night. If followed, wrath will cause you to fall and sin against God and your neighbor. When wrath attacks you, go into your chamber, pray the Lord’s Prayer and confide in God; he will uphold your right.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 328–29.

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