Fourth Sunday After Easter- Its A Mad Mad World
There was once a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry’, the wound is still there.”
If there was ever a universal sin, that sin is anger.
It just very well may be the very first sin that we each commit. Do you remember when your child, was born that they some times would cry, and cry, and cry? You couldn’t figure out what was wrong. You fed them, you changed them, maybe back then you would check to see if the pins weren’t sticking them. But they still kept on crying out shrilly. Finally, in desperation, you would call the doctor, who back in the day, actually stopped by the house to check on them. After examining your “sweet little child”, he said, “There’s nothing wrong with your baby. Their just angry.” Have you ever heard an infant let out a blood-curdling scream? Often the reason is nothing more than they are mad and want to let you know about it! If they were able, they might wrap their chubby little hands around your throat and throttle you until you give them their way!
And, the situation doesn’t really change when we become adults. We may become a little better at hiding our anger, but we still get angry just the same. Some of us show our anger by getting red in the face, and raising our voices, and stomping our feet, or slamming our fist into a wall, or throwing things, or saying hateful things we regret later. Others of us, turn inward, and become sullen and silent, and let bitterness and unforgiveness fester in our souls. So, whether we explode in rage on the outside, or boil with resentment on the inside, we are all guilty of the sin of anger.
Now, it’s important to note that anger is not always sinful.
If it was, then both God and Jesus sinned, because both get angry. In Mark 3:5 the Bible tells us that Jesus looked around at the Pharisees with anger. They would rather that a man continue as a cripple rather than be healed, because it was the Sabbath day, and this grieved Jesus and angered Him. Revelation 6:16 speaks of the “wrath of the Lamb.” And when it comes to God, we see His wrath in Scripture everywhere! In Psalm 7:11 the Bible says, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” In John 3:36 we read, “He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Ephesians 5:6 says, “Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief and disobedience” Revelation 14:10 speaks of “He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of his wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the sight of the holy angels, and in the sight of the Lamb.” We may not like this picture of God, but it is Biblical. God is a God of wrath and indignation, as well as a God of mercy and grace. So, if all anger is sinful, then God is sinful. Now, there is much in our world that should provoke us to righteous anger. In fact, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, and sin not.” So, how do we know whether we have righteous anger or sinful anger? In James 1:20 the Bible says, “For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” If your anger is the anger of man it is sinful. If your anger is the anger of God, it is just. To manifest just anger, we must be angry at the things that make God angry, namely sin and injustice.
Anger is always a response to something else.
To one degree or another, anger is a response to someone or something that endangers something we love. That’s why you get angry at the guy speeding down your street when your children are playing in the front yard. That person is endangering your children whom you love, so your response is a form of just anger. However, anger can turn sinful very fast when what is being endangered is yourself! We all tend to love ourselves. To love oneself means to be selfish. Sinful anger is a response that stems from our pride, selfishness, or idolatry.
Let’s take a few examples. You find out that someone has gossiped about you, and you immediately become angry about it. Why? Because your reputation is at stake. The issue is pride. Someone rebuffs you in a comment you make on Facebook, and it angers you. Why? Because someone has dared to take issue with something you have said. Again, the issue is pride. Someone inconveniences you, and it angers you. Why? Because you are more important in your own estimation than the other person. The issue is self-exaltation. Now, perhaps it wasn’t right that another person slandered you or rebuffed you or inconvenienced you. But why do we get so angry and upset over things like that, and are never angry that millions of babies have been killed through abortions since 1970? Why do we get so angry that someone has slandered us, and never get angry that God is mocked or belittled or dishonored in the lives of people all around us? Why are we so enraged about others rebuffing us, and care so little about Christians being persecuted unjustly in other parts of the world? Why do we care so much more about our own honor, and so little about God’s honor? Of course the answer is that we love ourselves and so are easily angered when anyone endangers us. But shouldn’t we love God and our neighbor just as much and be equally angered when they are endangered or belittled?
Often in a marriage or in a church there is someone with a strong personality and wants to call the shots. When someone challenges them, they become angry. Why? Because of selfishness. They want things their way. Someone may cut in to our lane in traffic or we go unrecognized at work, or our idea is shot down by our spouse and we become angry. Why? Probably because we love ourselves too much.
You can become angry at your children for their disobedience. But why are you really angry with them? If you were honest, you would have to admit that sometimes it is because their actions embarrass you. They make you look like a bad parent in the church, or maybe it inconvenience you. It may have very little to do with them dishonoring God.
Why did Jesus get angry? Well, he got angry with the Pharisees because they cared more about enforcing their interpretation of the Sabbath law than in a crippled man in their midst. He got angry with the money changers in the temple, because they had turned God’s house of prayer into a den of thieves and dishonored God. Jesus got angry over the injustices to men, and the dishonor of God. Is that what angers us?
There are many temporal dangers of unchecked anger, such as depression, drug or alcohol abuse, or physical illness like heart disease. Studies have shown that within two hours of an angry outburst, the chances of a heart attack or stroke skyrocket.
However, it is not that danger that I really want to focus on. I want to focus on the spiritual and eternal danger we face if we don’t fight anger.
In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul writes, “Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamour, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ.”
Right in the middle of the passage Paul speaks about anger. However, there are five other words that surround the word “anger.” They are “bitterness, indignation (or better to say is wrath), clamor, blasphemy (which can be translated evil speech or slander), and malice.” Let’s think about each one.
Wrath. In this passage is referring tobursts of rage, or violent passions, or temper tantrums. This is anger turned outward.
Bitterness. This is a smoldering resentment, which often manifests itself in an unwillingness to forgive. This is anger turned inward.
Clamor. This consists of loud outcries of anger, bickering, or shouting down an opponent. This is anger turned loud.
Slander. Slander consists of insulting language, and abusive speech. This is anger turned verbal.
Malice. This consists of wishing evil on others, or spite. This is anger turned vengeful.
Now, notice that Paul tells us to put all these things away in verse 31, and then in contrast, he tells us what to put on in verse 32 – kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. Now, this teaches me that if I do not put away anger with all of its manifestations, I will not forgive others. Anger, if we are not careful, can easily turn into a grudge. Unforgiveness is a resolute anger. It is an anger that won’t budge. Have you ever heard someone say, “I will never forgive my Mom or my Dad or my brother or this person for what they did to me!”
Now, when anger turns into a resolve not to forgive, what is at stake? In Matthew 18:34-35 in one of Jesus’ parables it says,And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts their trespasses”
Jesus said very clearly in Matthew 6:15, “But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” Now, how important is it that we are forgiven by God? It is absolutely crucial, is it not?! If we are not forgiven, we will not be in heaven. We will not inherit the kingdom of God. We will not experience eternal life. According to Jesus, no one is forgiven by God who is not willing to forgive others. So, if you are one of those people who are holding a grudge against someone for the hurt they caused you, let it go! It’s not worth losing your soul over! Cancel the debt you feel they owe you! Jesus treats anger that has turned into unforgiveness the same way He treats lust. He says if you don’t fight lust you won’t be in heaven. He says if you don’t forgive others you won’t be in heaven. So, this is a very serious and real danger that we must seriously consider. My friends, beware of allowing a root of bitterness to spring up and cause trouble and defile many.
How do we defeat anger in our life? What can we do to diffuse it and subdue it, and conquer it? There are several things.
- Look Beneath The Surface And Discover Why You Are Angry. When Cain got angry that God accepted Abel’s offering, and not his, God said to him, “Why are you angry?” And God is asking you and me the same thing, every time we get angry. We need to give Him an answer. Why are we angry? What is it that you love that is being endangered? Is it your reputation, your ease, your convenience, your pride? Whatever it is, you need to put your finger on it.
- Repent of Loving These Things Above God. We all love certain things. The problem is that we take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing. That’s the definition of idolatry. We have disordered And when an ultimate love becomes endangered, we lash out in anger. We need to confess to God the real sin behind the sin of anger, and turn from it in heartfelt repentance.
- Change Your Attitude Toward The Person That Made You Angry. Actually, that’s a misnomer. The person didn’t make you angry. They didn’t cause you to become angry. No one can cause you to be angry about anything. They might be the occasion of your anger, but not the cause. We choose to react in anger. In Ephesians 4:32, after Paul tells us to put away all anger, bitterness, wrath, slander, clamour, and blasphemy, he tells us to be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ.” So, no matter what someone has done to you, we must change our attitude and behavior toward them. We must replace hostility for kindness, callousness with mercy, and unforgiveness with forgiveness.
What if the Person that Made You Angry is God? A lot of people have told me over the years that they are angry with God and they have never gotten over it. They are angry about what God allowed to happen to them, or to their spouse or child or mother or father. Maybe one of your parents suffered terribly with cancer, or your child committed suicide. You remain angry with God because you know that He had the power to prevent those things from happening. Many pop psychologists will encourage people to just vent their feelings toward God. They might say, “It’s OK to be angry with God. He’s a big boy. He can handle it.”
Is it true that it is OK to be angry with God? When we are angry with someone we have made a moral judgment of them. When we are angry with God, we are accusing Him of wrongdoing in our life. In our anger we are accusing God of treating us unfairly or neglecting us or doing evil to us. We might think that God owes us something better than what He has given us. Now, I am not suggesting that you stuff your angry feelings toward God and pretend they don’t exist. I am suggesting that you confess your angry feelings toward God to Him as sin, and repent of them and ask Him to help you release them. To go on being angry with God implies that you believe He has done wrong to you. It is the same as calling God a sinner. It is the same as saying that we don’t believe God is good. To be angry with God is an indication of our unbelief.
- Trust In The Justice of God. Believe that God’s justice will prevail. Remember, that putting sin to death is largely a matter of faith. Faith in God’s Word and His promises. Romans 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Now, there is a promise. God will repay and take vengeance on all sin and injustice and wrongs in the world. He will right every wrong. Even if we never see justice done in our lifetime, a Day is coming, in which it will all be put right. The question is, do we believe it? If we do, we can put our anger away, and let the situation go. God will have the last word. We can trust Him. We are told never to take our own revenge. Well, what is revenge, other than executing our anger on someone who has done something to hurt us?
- Trust In The Sovereignty of God. You are angry because someone did something that hurt you. However, if we believe in the sovereignty of God, we believe that God allows people to sin against us for a reason. Most of the time it is so we will grow in Christlikeness and personal holiness. Remember that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He suffered much because of them. He ended up in a strange country, far away from his family and homeland. Later, he was falsely accused of rape and ended up in prison for 12 years. However, the beautiful thing about Joseph is that he never seems to allow himself to become bitter. Later he told his brothers in Genesis 45:8, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” In Genesis 50:20 he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Also, in 2 Samuel 16 when David is fleeing Jerusalem after a coup by his son Absalom, a man named Shimei met him and cursed him, and threw rocks at him. Now, Abishai asked permission to go over and cut off his head. But instead David responded, “Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day” (2 Sam. 16:5-14). Do you believe that God is sovereign over all the pain and hurt and suffering you experience? Do you believe that God causes all things to work together for your good? If you do, it will go a long way in enabling you to defeat anger in your life.
God is calling us to put sinful anger to death. Fight the good fight of faith. Believe the scriptures when it tells you that God is sovereign and just and that His justice will prevail. Humble yourself so that instead of lashing out in anger when someone does something that you don’t like, you can respond to them in love and grace.