She has met with leaders and celebrities around the world and whether or not you agree with her views you have to admit that Greta Thunberg is an angry young lady. And when i hear her speak, I kind of suspect that she is not only angry but bitter as well. Her speeches are scattered with “How Dare you”, “You have failed us” and “we will never forgive you.”
And she may be right, but I fear for Greta that her passion is damaging who she is.
We are continuing in our surrender series and over the past few weeks we have looked at how we need to surrender our wills, our speech and our anger to God. Last week Rob show us how we need to surrender to God’s Design for our Lives.
This week we are picking up where I left off two weeks ago while I was speaking of surrendering our anger to God.
That week we looked at why we get angry and how we deal with that anger. But I felt like I needed to unpack a little more on that topic.
I’m sure it’s only a coincidence that anger and danger are only one letter apart, but there is a warning there.
When I was a kid one of my favourite authors was Louis L’Amour, I must have read everything that L’Amour wrote, and he gives us this warning: “Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.”
And it was that great philosopher, Yoda who reminds us “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.”
However, the reality is that we will all get angry. As long as we are people and we live with people anger is inevitable. But it would be wise to heed the words of Aristotle, who said,
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Do you remember where we left off last time?
If you’re not sure, here is a recap. I finished my meesage two weeks ago by saying there are two things we need to note in Ephesians 4:26-27. First we are told, Ephesians 4:26-27 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” That’s telling us not to explode. And you understand that, we’ve all exploded in anger at one time or another in our lives and said and did things that we later regretted. That is what happens when we allow anger to control us instead of us controlling the anger in our lives.
But Paul doesn’t end there, he also tells us Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. So, while most of us would agree that exploding in our anger is dangerous, Paul warns us to not implode either. In other words, don’t keep your anger bottled up.
Someone says something and because of your personality, or because you think expressing your anger is wrong you don’t say anything. You just shove it down deep inside and hope it will go away. But it doesn’t go away. What it does do though, is it festers, and it breeds resentment and bitterness.
And in the scripture that was read this morning, we heard this admonition: Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
But the question has to be: How do we deal with our anger? How do we keep our anger from making us bitter?
The first thing that has to happen is We Need to Name It You’re not just bothered, you’re not just a little upset. When someone asks, “What’s wrong?” you don’t reply “Nothing” and shut down. Acknowledge that you are angry.
Again, we have been led to believe that to be angry is wrong, and to be angry is sinful. But the reality is that to be angry is human. We get angry when we perceive that we’ve been wronged. We get angry when we think something is unfair.
Throughout the bible we read of God getting angry for those very reasons and of Jesus getting angry. So, rather than bottling it up or denying it. Admit it. “I am angry because . . .”
The second thing after we have named it We Need to Claim It I Never thought I’d be preaching name it and claim it, but this is completely different. This is where we need to own our angry. It is so easy to tell someone “You made me angry”.
No. You may have chosen to become angry because of what they did, but you made yourself angry.
Again, this isn’t saying that it’s wrong to be angry, but it is wrong to blame someone else or something else for our anger. When we do that, we are surrendering control. We are saying, “I have allowed you to control me by making me angry” In effect we are saying, “Anger controls me, instead of me controlling my anger.”
When the lawnmower won’t start and you get angry, when your computer freezes up and you get angry, you are letting non-animate things control your emotions.
When someone cuts you off in traffic or has 17 items in the 15-item line at the grocery store and you get angry, you are letting strangers control your anger.
When you toddler won’t pick up their toys or your teen refuses to obey you and you get angry, you are letting a child control your emotions.
When you claim your anger as your emotion then you own it, and you are in control.
Remember what Aristotle, said, “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” And while it may not be easy, I think that as Christians we need to understand it is within our reach, when we’ve surrendered our anger to God.
So instead of saying, “That made me angry or you make me angry” reframe it as “I am angry in response to . . .” When that happens, we can then determine if anger is the appropriate response.
So, we’ve named it, we’ve acknowledged that we are angry, we’ve claimed it, we’ve acknowledged that it is our issue, our emotion. What do we do with it now?
How do we deal with our anger, without it damaging our relationships? That happens when we explode. How do we deal with our anger, without it damaging our souls and making us bitter? And that what happens when our anger implodes, and we keep it all inside.
Now We Need to Identify It I am angry because? And if it’s something minor, you got cut off in traffic or the lawnmower won’t start, acknowledge that is a point of frustration. But getting angry, isn’t productive.
But what if there truly is a reason for getting angry? You’ve discovered that your spouse was cheating on you, or your business partner cheated you, that someone has lied about you and has caused damage to your reputation. What then?
In his letter to the early church James tells them, James 1:19-20 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
We Need to Deal With It Take the time to process it, cool down, and start by talking to the person. Maybe it’s just a miscommunication. Maybe it wasn’t intentional. Or maybe there was a lot more going on in the other person’s life that you weren’t aware of. Or maybe you were angry because there was more going on in your life, outside of that one incident.
And that was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, but it didn’t really justify your anger.
We’ve been there, bad day at work, crazy traffic coming home and then someone says or does something and you explode. Really?
And you need to figure out how serious the offence was. If you have the same level of anger over every slight and hurt you feel, it’s not productive or healthy.
Someone being late or standing you up for a meeting may make you angry, but how angry should it make you? Don’t mismanage your anger.
Sometimes we simply need to release it. If you can’t do anything about it, perhaps you need to accept it and turn it over to God rather than letting it destroy you.
Maybe you can change your part of it, then you need to do that. If racism or the environment or one of the many other issues that affect our society are issues that make you angry and you can’t make a difference in the whole issue maybe you can make a difference with how you act as an individual.
You might not be able to reduce the carbon footprint of Canada, but you can probably reduce your carbon footprint.
If you are angry over things like how people were treated in the past, let me let you in on a secret, you can’t do anything about the past. And apologizing for how your great grandfather treated my great grandfather probably isn’t going to fix it. But you can determine to treat everybody fairly today.
Being angry with the Prime minister or the President isn’t going to make a difference to the Prime minister or the President, but it could be harming you.
God is a just God, and at the end of the day everybody will be judged by God, and sometimes we just need to leave it in his hands.
David wrote in Psalm 9:7-9 But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
If the person who you are angry with is dead, or simply gone out of your life or you have no relationship with them, you need to release your anger to God.
Or maybe it’s the system you are angry with, but you don’t feel you can change the system.
Orange Scott was a Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the US and he was angry because his denomination wouldn’t take a stand against slavery. And finally, he realized that he could not change the system he was in. So he used his anger to start a new denomination, a denomination that challenged slavery, a denomination that helped form the Underground Railway to help escaped slaves make their way to freedom.
So, you can remove yourself from the system or you can say, “God you take care of it.”
Or maybe that person is untouchable to you. Maybe you can’t deal with the anger you are feeling toward your boss, you feel they have treated you unfairly, but you feel that if you confront them, your job will be in jeopardy. Again, you can remove yourself from the situation, you can quit, or you can say, “God you take care of it.”
You are not wimping out by releasing it to God. You are acknowledging that you have been done wrong, but you aren’t seeking revenge. You don’t need that person fired or demoted or jailed.
You are choosing to accept that wrong has been done to you but you have determed that confronting the person or situation will have no redemptive value. You commit the situation and person to God for His judgement and in so doing are refusing to let it eat away at your own well-being.
Gary Chapman sums it up by saying “You are choosing not to be an emotional captive to the wrong that was perpetrated against you.”
Listen to what Peter writes about Jesus, 1 Peter 2:21-23 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
But, what about when we have a relationship with that person? They are a friend, a peer, a spouse or a child? What do we do then?
Jesus’ instruction on that are found in Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.
Rebuke is not a verbal tongue lashing; it is simply laying out how you feel that you’ve been wronged.
And maybe out of that you will discover some truths. You might want to write it down first and get your thoughts in order before verbalizing them. It was Groucho Marx who said, “Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
There is an interesting incident in the life of Jesus, it’s found in the book of Mark. Jesus is talking to the Apostles let’s pick up the story in Mark 8:31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
So, Jesus is telling them what the future holds for him. And the next verse we read, Mark 8:32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? Because he thought he was wrong. Peter had a view of how God’s Kingdom would be established, and it didn’t involve Jesus being rejected and killed.
And in response we read in Mark 8:33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter rebukes, or challenges Jesus on what he had said, because he felt that Jesus was wrong, and then Jesus rebukes Peter by telling him he doesn’t understand God’s plan.
Maybe when you confront the person you will discover part of the story that you didn’t understand up to that point.
Or maybe they can explain their motive, or maybe they will acknowledge that what they did was wrong and ask for your forgiveness.
And Jesus taught us that when someone asks to be forgiven, that we are to forgive them. As a matter of fact, he goes on to say in the account that we started with in Luke 17:4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” And you are thinking, that’s really tough.
The apostles must have thought the same thing, because their response is found in Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
But what if they won’t acknowledge that what they did was wrong? That discussion is expanded in Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about how this works in context of community. Matthew 18:15-17 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
And how did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? He loved them. In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, The Message vs 17 reads this way. Matthew 18:17 If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
But if the person won’t repent, won’t acknowledge that they’ve done wrong, then they can’t be forgiven. By you or by God. God offers everyone forgiveness, but they have to repent of their sins to receive that forgiveness.
But, while you can’t forgive the person who is unrepentant you can be willing to forgive them and you can release your anger to God and trust that God will judge the person justly. Remember what Peter said about Jesus, 1 Peter 2:23 He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
And remember the admonition to not sin in your anger. Anger is not a sin, but if it causes us to say hurtful things, or to resort to violence or if we become so obsessed with our anger that it damages our relationship with God, then it becomes sin.
What about when we are on the other side of the table? When we know that we have sinned against someone else, in what we’ve done or what we’ve said, what is our responsibility then? Well Jesus spelled that out in Matthew 5:23-24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
In other words, don’t be the cause of somebody else’s anger.
So, we’ve looked at what happens when you are angry with someone or something you don’t have a relationship with. You need to release it to God. And we’ve looked at what to do when you do have a relationship with the person. There needs to be discussion and the chance for repentance and forgiveness so the relationship can be restored.
What about when you are angry with yourself? We’ve all been there. Close a document that you’ve been working on and then realize that you haven’t saved it. You get angry with yourself. You’ve heard those words, “I am so stupid” “I always do things like that” “I’ll never learn”.
I would say that start from the top and work your way down. Name it, claim it, identify it, and deal with it. And in dealing with it you need to learn to forgive yourself.
We all understand the concept of the Golden Rule. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” The flip side of that is that we need to be as charitable to ourselves as we are to others. If we are willing to forgive others, we need to be willing to forgive ourselves.
Now let’s go a little deeper, what about when you are angry with God? If you haven’t been there, you probably will be at some time. When I spoke about surrendering your anger I said that we get angry when we feel that something was unfair, or we were done wrong.
And when we lose a child, or we lose our spouse, when we are sick and cry out for healing and we are still sick. When we pray for that promotion or raise, and it doesn’t happen. When we feel that God hasn’t treated us fairly, we can get angry with him.
Let me assure you that your anger toward God doesn’t offend God. Job got angry with God, Moses got angry with God, Elijah got angry with God. If you read through the Psalms you will see times that David was angry with God.
And with each of those people the anger was resolved when they talked to God about their anger.
Take your anger to God. It won’t hurt his feelings, it won’t even surprise him, he knows how you are feeling.
I’m not saying that God will answer all your questions when you pray, but you will discover more of God’s character and perhaps discover that we see the world from a limited perspective.
Gary Chapman says, “The call of God is that we will trust him in the darkness as we have trusted him in the light.”
And listen to God, it may not come in an audible voice, it may be through the Bible, it might be words spoken by a Christian friend, or maybe in a message you’ve heard or a song that is sung.
Open your heart to what God has to say to you and how he will use the grief in your life for his purpose.
The problem isn’t getting angry with God, it’s how we respond in that anger, we could paraphrase Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger with God, do not sin”
Let me finish with a scripture and a thought.
In the Psalms Davide writes, Psalm 37:8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.
And Gary Chapman reminds us, “Anger was designed to be a visitor, never a resident.”
If anger has established a permanent residence in your life, then you need to figure out how to deal with that, because remember, you will control your anger, or your anger will control you.