If I asked you to think of an angry person, I would suspect it wouldn’t take very long for a particular person to come to mind. Don’t look around.
Maybe your boss, or a stranger that you’ve never met, but you’ve witnessed their anger, maybe it’s someone you are close to, perhaps a parent or a partner. Maybe it’s one of your children.
What about someone who very seldom gets angry. Can you picture them?
This is week four of our surrender series here at Cornerstone. In our first week we looked at things that we should never surrender. Our dreams, our convictions and our relationship with Jesus.
Then we began looking at things we need to surrender to God as part of our relationship with him. Two weeks ago, we looked at how we need to surrender our wills to God. The Bible tells us that we need to allow ourselves to be crucified daily.
Last week we looked at how we need to surrender our speech to God. And that meant that we aren’t to use foul or abusive language, but instead language that is good and encouraging and full of grace.
This week let’s jump down to the last verse of the scripture that was read earlier.
And it says, Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. And that sounds like a good idea, get rid of bitterness, rage and anger. But as someone said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
Most of us would agree that anger isn’t the best state of mind to exist in, it was Mark Twain who said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
And Buddha warned his followers, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
And Jesus warned the crowds who gathered to hear him, Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
So, in theory we need to surrender our anger to God, but what does that look like in practice?
For most of us, we say we don’t like to get angry, although it seems to be becoming more and more a reality of the society we are living in.
Recently I read a statement from Jean Kim, a psychiatrist for the US Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Kim said, “Anger is a public epidemic in America; it contaminates everything from media controversy to road rage to wars to mass shootings.”
Dr. Kim goes on to state that anger is addictive—it feels good and overrides moral and rational responses because it originates from our primordial system—the lizard brain, if you will.
And it seems that we live in a society that is perpetually angry over something. No longer can we simply disagree with someone; we need to be angry with them. You only had to follow the last federal election to see the reality of that.
But should we as Christ followers be angry?
Maybe we need to discover Why We Get Angry Sometimes we think, and we are taught that all anger is sinful and is a result of man’s fall and original sin.
In his book, Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion, Author Gary Chapman’s view is that we get angry because we have been created in the image of God. And I know that sounds wrong and almost blasphemous but bear with me for a bit.
And to be truthful A lot of what we will be dealing with this morning comes from Chapman’s book.
Chapman suggests that anger derives from two aspects of God’s nature. His holiness and His love.
We don’t have to go very far into the bible to realize that Holiness and love are vital parts of who God is. God spoke to the people of Israel and told them in Leviticus 11:44 “For I am the LORD your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” And we read in Leviticus 19:1-2 The LORD also said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”
And the word Holy simply means ‘set apart from sin’. There is no sin in the nature of God, which is why it could be said about Jesus in Hebrews 4:15 This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
A second fundamental part of God’s nature is Love. The apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. And of course there is John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
From the beginning of humanities’ story, we read of God’s love and his desire for the very best for His children.
And it is from these two characteristics of God, his love and his holiness that we see his anger displayed, when justice and righteousness are neglected or rejected.
Now understand God is not “anger”, but without a doubt God does get angry.
One source says that the word anger is mentioned 455 times in the Old Testament and 375 of those refer to God’s anger.
And in the New Testament we see examples of Jesus getting angry, which often conflicts with our mental image of Jesus.
It is because of God’s holiness and because of God’s love that God experiences anger. Because God wants the very best for us, and because he knows the destructiveness of sinful behaviour, he experiences anger. Chapman writes, “When God sees evil, anger is His logical response to injustice or unrighteousness.”
So, what does that have to do with our anger? Well, the bible tells us that each of us was made in the image of God. And every one of us, regardless of who we are, regardless of our belief system or even our lack of belief bears the imprint of God’s image.
How often have we heard non-Christian friends make statements like, “That’s not right” Or “They shouldn’t have done that?”
We’ve all heard our children say, “That’s not fair.”
Where did they get the ability to make moral judgements? Well, it’s because they were created in the image of a holy and loving God.
So, anger is what happens when we think something is wrong or someone has been wronged.
That’s why teens get mad with their parents, they feel they are being treated unfairly.
It’s why spouse get angry with each other because they feel their partner has done them wrong.
It’s why you get angry in traffic, because you feel someone stole your right of way or because the person is front of you should be paying attention to the light. It’s why you get angry at your children, either you don’t think it’s fair when they don’t do what you asked them to do, or because of your love you get angry when they disobey you.
Now whether or not you were done wrong, isn’t the question. The question is whether you perceived that you were done wrong.
So, now we know why we get angry
In the scripture that was read this morning, Paul writes Ephesians 4:26-27 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
In the NIV it reads, Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
The next thing we need to look at is; How We Respond in our Anger
It was Plato who said, “There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” And again, in theory that sounds great, but as long as we are people and as long as we live with people there will be times, we will get angry. And the bible acknowledges that, what it challenges us on is not our anger, but how we respond in our anger.
Let’s start by looking at a proper response. How should we respond when there is a legit reason to be angry?
The New Testament contains an account that sometimes seems to be in conflict with our view of Jesus. And it’s the story of when Jesus chased the merchants and money changers out of the temple.
The story is found in all four of the gospels. Let’s look at John’s account, John 2:13-16 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
He was angry because people were disrespecting God’s temple and making a mockery of God’s rules. What was supposed to be a Holy place had become an everyday place, what had been set aside as a place to worship God had become a place to worship money. And because of that people’s relationship with God were in jeopardy. And that made Jesus angry.
When people and churches stand between others and God that should make us angry in the same way it made Jesus angry. When people are more concerned with their preferences and their comfort rather than reaching out to those who need Jesus, that is a reason to become cranky and when people and churches that call themselves “Christians” do a disservice to Jesus’ name and nature by being rude and bitter, that should make us angry.
But there was a second reason that isn’t as obvious but just as valid, and I understand that this is speculation, but I think Jesus was upset over the fact that those who were supposed to be leading people to God were taking advantage of them.
These were pilgrims who had travelled a long way to be able to worship God in the temple and they were being ripped off. Historians tells us that the same dove that was being sold in the temple court yard could be purchased outside the temple for a fraction of the price, but coincidently the same people who benefitted from the sale of the doves inside the temple were the ones who had to inspect the ones from outside to make sure they would be suitable. Can you say, “conflict of interest”?
And the temple tax had to be paid in a certain currency, the principle had been laid down that the tax was paid for the upkeep of the temple, and that was a good principle the temple needed to be maintained and that needed to be paid for by those who used it. But then the principle was distorted and became a burden.
Because now it wasn’t enough that the right amount be paid but it had to be paid in the right currency. So, while other currency was used outside the temple the priests insisted on a certain type of currency inside the temple.
When the pilgrims came, they had to get their money changed. And if it was a straight exchange then the rate was about 20% but if you needed change back the rate doubled. And so, Jesus was angry because people were being taken advantage of.
What was happening was legal, but was it right?
Understand that Jesus didn’t lose his temper, he got angry.
The proper response of anger is a matter of time and degree.
Sometimes people get angry and their response is way over the top. If you lash right out you have probably reacted the wrong way. Which is why Thomas Jefferson cautioned people “When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”
There is something interesting in Marks account, we read in Mark 11:11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
And then we pick up the story the next day Mark 11:15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. Wow, he must have seen what was happening, left and figured out what his response should be and then came back.
If you find yourself reacting immediately in anger, you are probably in the wrong. You are letting your anger control you instead of controlling your anger, which is why Paul wrote in the scripture that was read earlier, Ephesians 4:26-27 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
It was Phyllis Diller who said “Never go to bed angry, stay up and fight.” I’m not sure that is what the Bible had in mind.
And then find out how you deal with what makes you angry. Remember when the disciples wouldn’t let the children come to Jesus and he got angry? What did he do? He taught the disciples what their correct response should be and then he blessed the children.
What can you do about what makes you angry? How do you correct it, how do you deal with it? Can you be part of the solution?
The other thing to note is that there was no personal violence in Jesus’ response, granted he set animals free and scattered coins but there is nothing to indicate that he struck anyone or that he hurt anyone.
Martin Luther King Jr. was angry, Mahatma Ghandi was angry, Timothy McVeigh was angry, and Osama Bin Laden was angry. Two will go down in history as heroes two will always be villains.
But some anger is misplaced. We are angry at the wrong people, for the wrong things. That’s where society is right now. We are at a place where if we perceive that we’ve been wronged, then we’ve been wronged, and we get angry. But is that right?
In his book, Chapman tells us there are certain reasons why anger is wrong, a mere disappointment, an unfulfilled desire, a frustrated effort, a bad mood. When they spark anger, it’s the wrong type of anger.
This past week a video was posted showing a worker from the Halifax Water Commission littering. He finished his coffee and threw the cup in the hole that was being backfilled, kind of rude. Probably just wasn’t thinking.
Some people’s response was over the top. There were people who demanded that he be fired. Fired? Because he threw his cup in a hole that was filled with dirt. Instead they felt he should have carried it over and put it in a garbage can, that was lined with a plastic bag, so it could be picked up by a little truck driven to a bigger truck, and then driven to a landfill so it could be put in a hole that would be filled with dirt.
The guy probably shouldn’t have thrown his cup in the hole. But fired? And people got really angry over that.
They should heed Emerson when he wrote “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.”
And sometimes we get angry because we just don’t have all the facts.
There is a story told in the Old Testament about a man named Naaman, a military commander who contracted leprosy. Naaman is told about a man of God by the name of Elisha, we pick up the story in 2 Kings 5:9-10 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
But that wasn’t what Naaman was looking for, we read his response in the next few verses. 2 Kings 5:11-12 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
Really? Naaman was angry because Elisha didn’t offer to heal him the way he thought Elisha should have offered to heal him.
I knew of a pastoral staff where the Lead pastor was always angry at one of his staff members because of the way the staff guy kept his office. The lead pastor was a perfectionist and a bit OCD and the staff guy was super creative and effective but a slob. And that was a point of tension, but the staff guy had done no wrong, he was who he was.
The lead pastor may have had a reason to be angry, but he had to realize why he was angry, the staff guy wasn’t evil. The anger came from the lead pastor’s compulsion toward perfection. That often shows up in marriages as well. Sometimes we need to figure out if we are angry at someone simply because they haven’t lived up to who we are.
So, what do we do when we are angry with someone?
If you have a relationship with them, you need to discuss it. Deal with it, work it through. And maybe that will mean compromises on both your parts
If you don’t have a relationship with someone, maybe they have passed away, or maybe you just don’t know them. You know, like the guy who cut you off in traffic. Then you need to release it with the knowledge that ultimately justice will be served.
And the third thing is Forgive it, as Christians we need to go back time and time again to the multitude of scriptures that remind us that we are supposed to forgive others just as God forgave us.
Remember where we started? There are two more things in that scripture, first we are told,
Ephesians 4:26-27 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” That’s telling us not to explode.
But Paul doesn’t end there, he tells us Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. So, don’t implode either. Don’t keep it bottled up so it breeds resentment and bitterness.
If you struggle with anger, you might need help to move beyond it. Gary Chapman’s book is a good place to start. You can get it on Amazon. Or you might need professional help.
But understand, this you will control your anger, or your anger will control you.