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Showing posts with label Anger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anger. Show all posts

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Madness of Wrath


Introduction
Sin is madness.  It’s insanity.  Sin is a poison that we inflict upon ourselves.  It hurts everyone and everything.  Our sin hurts people we love—even if we don’t intend it.  Sin breaks all of creation.  It is the reason nature sometimes runs wild with tornadoes ripping through a community and killing people and destroying property.  Sin is the reason cancer ends people’s lives when they are still young.  (Not necessarily the person's sin, but the fact that sin permeates our world corrupts the nature of everything.)  Worst of all, sin wounds the heart of a loving God who only wants the best for us; it drives a wedge between us, separating us from the source of love, joy, peace, and hope.  Sin is madness.

And it’s not just the big sins like rape and murder.  All sin is despicably evil by the glorious standard of God.  In the past few blogs, I considered the deadly sins of gluttony, pride, greed, and sloth.  Perhaps they seem like minor infractions.  But they are terrible and evil and we should recognize them for the darkness they are, fall on our knees before God and repent lest we be consumed by the wrath of God.  For as we partake in the sins of gluttony, pride, greed, or sloth, we become partners with the armies of the Devil who oppose the Kingdom of God and seek to destroy the world and all that are in it.  It is that serious.

That is why Jesus came and preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)  We must recognize our sins—small as much as big—and repent.  Furthermore, we must give up every notion that we are better than anyone else because their sins are supposedly “worse” than ours.  That doesn’t mean we excuse the sins of others any more than we can excuse our own.  No.  Instead we repent of our own sin and we join in the saving work of God’s Kingdom, proclaiming to the world, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  We must work tirelessly, until all the world comes to Christ willingly, or until Christ comes to judge on the Last Day.

The characters from the classic movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” each represent a different sin.  Little Charlie Bucket and his grandpa take a tour of the chocolate factory and sneak a taste of Wonka’s fizzy lifting drinks even thought it was against the rules.  Furthermore, Charlie stole one of Wonka’s Amazing Gobstoppers thinking one of Willy Wonka’s business competitors would pay him a huge amount of money for it.  Wonka is livid and angrily informs Charlie and his grandpa they have broken the rules and forfeited the lifetime supply of chocolate they were expecting.  

The Madness of Wrath Title
Let us consider wrath or anger.  (Wrath and anger are the same thing.)  Willy Wonka was angry and his wrath poured out against Chalrie and his grandpa.  Wonka has been betrayed before and it always hurts to be betrayed.  Wonka is the leading candy manufacturer in the world and his competitors are always trying to steal his ideas and formulas.  They will do anything to get his secrets—even bribe his employees to betray Wonka.  Betrayal hurts and it sparks Willy Wonka’s wrath. 

Charlie’s grandpa gets mad too.  He’s angry because Wonka won’t give Charlie a lifetime supply of chocolate.  Even though Wonka’s actions were justified because Charlie broke the rules, Charlie’s grandpa can’t stand to see his grandson suffer.  He takes it as a personal offence and vows “I’ll get even with him if it’s the last thing I ever do!”  So we see Charlie’s grandpa is already, in his anger, plotting vengeance (and he’ll do whatever it takes to see it through).

Anger (also called wrath) is a tricky emotion.  It’s not a happy emotion.  We might wish anger didn’t exist.  And perhaps, if there were no sin in the world, everyone could be happy all the time and there would be no need for anger.  I believe when the Kingdom of God finally comes on earth in the Last Day there will be no more anger.  But that’s not the world we live in now; is it?  Anger is sometimes necessary in our broken world.  And there is a kind of anger that is not sinful.  We call this righteous anger. 

We see examples of the righteous anger of God in the Bible.  God is angry at the Israelites for breaking the Ten Commandments.  We even see Jesus get angry.  One time, the disciples wouldn’t let some little children come to Jesus.  They thought Jesus was too important to be bothered by a bunch of kids they thought were unimportant.  Mark 10:14 says, “When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”  And of course the story most people think of is in Matthew 21 when Jesus flipped over the money changers tables and drove everyone out of the Temple with a whip.  And we know God is Holy and Jesus never sinned.  So these episodes of righteous anger must be justified.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says:
26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Notice the New Living Translation doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  It says, “don’t sin by letting anger control you.  The New American Standard Bible translates the verse this way:  “Be angry, and yet do not sin.”

So there is in Scripture the idea that you can be angry and not sin or you can be angry and sin.  What’s the difference?  Here's a list of the differences: 

Righteous Anger
Sinful Anger
·       Has holy desires because you are aiming for the glory & justice  & righteousness of God
·       Leaves room for God’s vengeance
·       Never leads you to say or do things you will regret or for which you will have apologize
·       Is long suffering and quick to forgive
·       Gets angry at evil, but cares about the offender
·    Has selfish motivations and points to your own glorification
·    Is vindictive; you want to get even at any cost
·    Makes you say and do things you will regret latter and the need to apologize
·    Is short fused and holds a grudge
·    Gets angry at people and makes you cut people out of your life forever

Anger is an important emotion.  It can motivate you to fight against injustice when you would otherwise say or do nothing.  I saw a surveillance tape once of a McDonald's dining room.  A group of teenagers were picking on and bullying another kid in the restaurant.  Non of the other patrons or employees said or did anything to stop the bullying.  Thankfully, one brave lady was angered by the injustice and should stood up to the defence.  She scolded the bullies and told them to leave.  After they left, she said down with the one kid and told him that she had been bullied when she was in high school too.  Her anger drove her to protect a the innocent.

Anger is part of our DNA because we are made in the image of God.  God gets angry when He sees the rich oppressing the poor, the arrogant mistreating the humble, the strong beating up on the weak.  God gets angry when He sees sin destroying the world and people’s lives.  And we should get angry about these things too.

However, we have to be very careful, because the Devil likes to corrupt righteous anger and use it to worm his way into our life and bring destruction.  When we start to take an offense personally or start to derive pleasure from our angry feeling or let our anger make us vindictive, we will say and do things we regret latter and the Devil will have a field day in your life.

Important Advice about Anger
Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”  That means we need to deal with anger quickly.  Here are some tips about how to deal with anger:
  • Remember, we're fighting a spiritual battle.  Ephesians 6:12 – "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."  So don't be angry at a person who has offended you or someone you love.  Imagine the the dark powers behind what you can see that are manipulating the people who do wrong.  Reserve the bulk of your anger for the Dark Spiritual Forces that are twisting people's actions.  That is the real Enemy.  Directing your anger at Evil can help be angry in the right way and not sin.
  • Repent of any sinful anger in your life.  Don’t wait.  Deal with it ASAP.  It gives the Devil a foothold in your life.  Have you ever seen a castle wall?  A good castle wall is high and strong.  If the surface is smooth, an enemy cannot get inside the fortress.  The Bible says the Lord is a mighty fortress.  That means He protects us from evil like a castle wall protects those inside.  The Enemy can't get over the Lord's wall to harm you, unless you harbor anger in your life.  Holding on to anger puts cracks in your wall and gives the Enemy a place to put his feet and hands to climb up over the wall and cause all kinds of problems in your spirit.  I don't want the Enemy inside my fortress; do you?  Then, let's repent of the sinful anger in our lives ASAP.
  • Deal also with your righteous anger every day and be done with it.  Don’t hold on to it.
      Righteous anger is like milk
    ; it has an expiration date.  Even holy, righteous, godly anger can turn sour in your soul if you wait too long to deal with it.  Then, just like good wholesome milk will sour if it goes beyond its expiration date, righteous anger can sour into sinful anger if we don't use it up in time.  What action is the Lord's righteous anger in your heart calling you to do?  You better pray about it and talk to a wise friend and then get to work.
Closing
Christians are not meant to be angry people.  God wants us primarily to be filled with love, joy, peace, and hope.  There are times when sin and evil and injustice should make us angry.  However, when it does, we need to deal with it in the right way so that we can resume the love, joy, peace, and hope that are more fitting attitudes for God's children.  How is God calling you to deal with anger today?




Monday, December 21, 2015

I'll Be Home for Christmas, Part 4 - Anger

Isaiah 61:8-11
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice.
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be recognized
    and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people
    the Lord has blessed.”

10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
    For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
    and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
    or a bride with her jewels.
11 The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
    Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
    with plants springing up everywhere.

Anger
Over the last few weeks, we explored how Jesus helps us overcome sin, manage our time wisely, and deal with grief so we can be at Home with God this Christmas.  Today, we will look at one more common obstacle that can keep us from saying, “I’ll be Home for Christmas”—anger. 
            I once heard a Christmas song that said, “Half way round the world, sometimes that’s how it seems when walls of anger keep us from familiar Christmas scenes.  We ache for them to disappear, but don’t know how to start.  Lord with Your light, somehow tonight, bring Christmas to our hearts.”  I love those lyrics because they expresses so beautifully the way many people feel this time of year.
            This year, don’t let anger keep you from saying, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”  In an imperfect world, we have many reasons to be angry.  Anger can be a normal and healthy emotion that motivates us to seek justice.  But anger also has a dark side.  When it is not channeled properly, it can fester deep inside a person and turn into something very dark and ugly.  Anger can become a prison that keeps us locked away from those we love and those we are called to love.
            Jesus came to help us overcome the walls of anger that keep us from being at Home with God.  He has the power to break our chains, but we must cooperate with his liberating work.  The first step is to be willing to let go of our anger.  Sometimes, anger feels good.  It makes us feel good about ourselves when we hold another in contempt for the bad things they’ve done.  But we must humble ourselves and remember that we are not perfect either. 
Christmas is a time when we think of that cute baby, Jesus, lying in a manger, but we forget that Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.”
            We have no right to self-righteous indignation against anyone.  No one is perfect.  We have all sinned.  Jesus came to bring forgiveness.  The famous prayer he taught us says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”[i]  It is not good for us to harbor resentment. 
We should deal with our anger with humility and love.  The moving words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 are a good model for us to follow.  “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.”  How much better off we would be, how much easier it would be for us to get along if we embodied this kind of love—especially with the people to whom we are closest.
          
            Patience and kindness…  How often do we overreact about some silly little thing?  It’s easy to be irritable and impatient with your family.  It’s as if they know just how to push your buttons.  Have you ever seen the movie, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?”  In the movie, the Griswold’s plans for a big family Christmas, but it turns into a big disaster.  The father, Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase), is obsessed with making everything go perfectly during the holiday season, but as soon as everyone arrives, things start going haywire, especially when Cousin Eddie shows up with his crazy family as uninvited, surprise guests from Kansas.  Cousin Eddie (played by Randy Quaid) is well-meaning but, sloppy, obnoxious, and rude.  He drives Clark Griswold crazy!
            Every family has a “crazy Cousin Eddie.”  He’s the guy that dresses weird or smells funny or acts crazy.  If you can’t figure out who in your family is the “Crazy Cousin Eddie,” watch out—it might be you!!!  Humility reminds us we’re all a little bit “crazy” in our own way.  Yet God loves us in spite of our irritating habits.  Patience and kindness and humility help us to bear with the idiosyncrasies of others without being irritable or rude.
            And love keeps no record of wrongs…  This doesn’t mean we pretend as though a wrong didn’t happen.  It means we don’t keep beating people up about their past sins.  Jesus said, “If your brother wrongs you seven times in a day and each time repents and asks forgiveness; you must forgive him.”[ii]  You shouldn’t hold people hostage with yesterday’s sins.  If they repent, forgiven them and try to move on.
Here’s some more helpful advice gleaned from scripture about dealing with anger.  Avoid acting on impulse when you are angry.[iii]  When tempers flare, wisdom takes a back seat to emotion and you do things you will regret latter.  Wait until you calm down and can think more clearly.  Timing is very important.  And try not to impulsively speak your mind when you are angry.[iv]  A sharp tongue cuts its own throat.  (That’s not in the Bible, but it’s true!)  Wait until you aren’t so hot before you speak your mind with a sharp tongue.  That way you will choose your words more carefully or even realize that you don’t need to say anything at all.  And avoid disciplining people when you are angry.[v]  The difference between harmful abuse and helpful discipline can be as little as ten seconds.  Stop, take a deep breathe, count to ten, and ask your self, “Is what I am about to do retaliation?  Or am I genuinely trying—in love—to help this person do better next time?”
Conclusion
            Because Jesus, the Word of God, became flesh and lived among us, he understands the struggles we face that make being Home for Christmas difficult.  But because Jesus is the Son of God, He has the power to overcome any obstacle that threatens to separate us from God. 
            What keeps you from being at Home with God?  Is it sin? Are you too busy?  Are you weighed down by a load of grief?  Is there anger in your heart?  Jesus understands your struggles and he has made a way for you to come Home.  Do you hear him calling you Home?  Will you accept his invitation?  Will you come Home for Christmas this year?   

Gracious Heavenly Father,
            Thank You for inviting us Home for Christmas.  Help us to be faithful as we take up our cross and follow Jesus on the road that leads us Home.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.


[i] Matthew 6:12
[ii] Luke 17:1 (paraphrased)
[iii] 1 Samuel 19:9-10
[iv] James 3:5
[v] 2 Corinthians 2:5-7, Ephesians 6:4