Anger is a big deal in the Bible. There is more talk about anger than you might think. But does the Bible send us mixed messages?

Save this PDF as:

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "Anger is a big deal in the Bible. There is more talk about anger than you might think. But does the Bible send us mixed messages?"


1 Mad Like Jesus (Anger) Ephesians 4:26-27, October 6, 2013 Travis Collins Today we talk about anger. Anger is one of the deadly sins: Pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, greed and lust. We can do better! Anger is a big deal in the Bible. There is more talk about anger than you might think. But does the Bible send us mixed messages? On the one hand, the Bible seems to say, Don t get angry. Ephesians 4:31, for example, which you heard read a moment ago, says, Get rid of all rage and anger. Pretty plain words. And James 1 says, Anger does not produce the righteousness (right living and right relationship with God) that God desires, (19-20). On the other hand, the Ephesians 4 text begins, in verse 26, by saying, In your anger do not sin. And there were lots of really important biblical heroes who got really angry. For example, when Moses was talking with Pharoah who refused to let the people of Israel, whom he held in slavery, go free, the Bible says Moses was hot with anger. So anger may not be inherently bad. In fact, a few years ago I talked about anger and characterized anger as sin. I got a couple of really good s from folks who politely took me to task on that. Anger is not a sin in and of itself, the s said, but anger mishandled is sin. Their point was well taken. (I m not suggesting you me weekly about my sermons but these were good s.) God wired us with the potential for anger, perhaps for our own preservation and, perhaps more importantly, so that we d get angry about injustices and work to fix them. So how do we find the balance? How do we get angry without sinning? Well, Jesus is our model here. We can learn to get mad like Jesus. Here s how Get angry about the right things, and express it in the right way, at the right people, and within the right time. When we talk about Jesus and anger we have to talk about the scene in the temple when he got mad and overturned the tables of the money changers. Jesus anger was evoked by the right thing, expressed in the right way, directed at the right people, and harbored for the right amount of time. 1

2 Jesus was angry at the right thing: Jesus was angry at the fact that these guys who had a monopoly were taking advantage of worshipers who came to the temple and charging exorbitant prices for animals to be used for sacrifices there. They were adulterating the sacrificial system. Jesus expressed his anger in the right way a way appropriate for the day and the situation. Now, before you think you can grab a whip and start turning over tables, you need to remember that you re not Jesus. He has the wisdom and the right to do that. He expressed his anger at the right people he didn t hurt those who had nothing to do with it, directed it at the crooked money changers. And he expressed his anger for the right time. Once he did his thing, he moved on. I don t often handle my anger so appropriately. To begin with, the stuff I usually get angry at is personal. I feel wronged. My ego has been damaged. And I don t really have a right to be angry Remember Jonah, the one who was swallowed by the big fish? Jonah 4:1 says that Jonah became very angry. In verse 4 God asks Jonah a big question: Have you any right to be angry? The gut level truth is that most of the time, if God were to ask us, Do you have a right to be angry? we d have to answer, No, no I don t. Second, I don t always express my anger in an appropriate way. Someone told me once I should never play poker, because I don t mask my emotions very well. And I m sure I ve expressed my anger in inappropriate ways. Third, I don t always express my anger at the right people. Sometimes I take my anger out on Keri. (I don t mistreat her, but I get all sulled up. Do you ever get sulled up?) And sometimes I hang on to my anger too long. I can hang onto a grudge with the best of them. In the Judean foothills, just up from the Elah Valley where David killed Goliath, there is a huge mound of dirt and rocks. That is the legendary grave of Goliath. Of course there is almost no chance that this is his grave, but there is a tradition for those who pass by to throw stones on Goliath s grave. So we did! I joined in! Poor Goliath s been dead for nearly 3,000 years, and we re still throwing stone s on the poor giant s grave! Some of us insist on throwing stones on the graves of issues that have long since been dead! We just won t let the giant offenses rest! Some of us are hanging on to bitter feelings and hostile memories that we need to let go. Every time you and I bring up the offense either in conversation or in just deciding to re-live it, we pick up a rock and throw it on the grave. I call a friend to talk again about the offense. Rock on the grave. I work the offense into the conversation with the one who offended me. Rock on the grave. There are issues that should have long since been left alone. Remember: Jesus got angry at the right things, expressed it in the right way, directed it toward the right persons, and for the right amount of time (he quickly moved on). When you re really ticked off do something productive. Mark 3 says Jesus was in a Jewish synagogue think church one day when a man with a crippled hand was there. Religious leaders huddled, watching to see if Jesus would heal the 2

3 man s hand. The issue was that it was Saturday, Sabbath, the holy Jewish day, a day when no one was supposed to do any work, and healing was considered work. Jesus knew what was going on, so he turned to the religious leaders and said, What is the best rule for the Sabbath? To help people or not help people? They said nothing. Verse 5 reads, Jesus looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And Jesus healed him. Jesus was angry at the religious leaders lack of compassion, their misplaced priorities, their stubbornness, and the harm their sin was doing to this poor guy with the shriveled hand. So how did he handle his anger? He did something productive, constructive and instructive. He looked around at them in anger then said to the man, Give me your hand. And healed it. Now we have a choice when we re mad. We can be destructive or constructive. We can hurt people, destroy relationships, do irreparable damage and then regret it. Or we can roll up our sleeves and do something. Something constructive. To be angry like Jesus you have to be willing to do something constructive with that anger. On May 3, 1980 Cari Lightner was walking along a quiet road headed to a church carnival when a drunk driver swerved, hit her and killed her. He then fled the scene. When they found him it was a man with a recent DUI and had been arrested for another drunk driving hit-and-run less than a week before. Candice Lightner, Cari s mother, was angry at the guy and all those who drive while intoxicated. And she was furious when she found out that drunk driving was so carelessly prosecuted. So she founded MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. If you want to be mad like Jesus, do something constructive with your anger. Trust yourself and your hurt to Him Who judges justly. Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly, (1 Peter 2:21,23). One Sunday morning this fall, about 6:15, I was sitting with my computer in my lap putting the final touches on the sermon. My computer chimed with the chime I get when there is a new . I clicked on and it was an from the coach of a game I d done the previous Friday night. Attached was a clip from the film of the previous Friday night s game. I had made a call with which the coach disagreed. Enthusiatically. I m gonna send you the tape! he yelled. I responded, Send it! (In Christian love, of course.) And he did. Sunday morning. There it was. I said, Thanks for the video. I will forward it to the Commissioner. And I did. And I got a response from the commissioner Good call. But he added, Next time tell him to send the tape directly to me. 3

4 What if I had sent back an to the coach that said, You must be blind! That was clearly a cheap shot! Your mother must be ashamed of you? I would have felt good for a minute or two, but I would have made things worse. If there would be any repercussions, if any action was required, the commissioner will handle it. That s his job. Romans 12:19 reads, Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. If there is an injustice that you can address, a wrong you can make right, then do it. But if you are tempted to retaliate if you are under pressure let your Father handle it. Let the Commissioner of the universe, the authoritative arbiter of all disputes, the ultimate and only trustworthy judge, handle it. If there is any vengeance or retribution, let God handle it. Just send the tape to Him. Weeping over Jerusalem beats getting mad at the city. As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, (Luke 19:41-42). Jesus got angry at religious people the money changers and the rule-obsessed hypocrites. But when it came to those outside of the religious circles, Jesus grieved. Jesus wept over the spiritual poverty of Jerusalem. I m afraid we get angry. What if, instead of being mad at Washington, we were to weep for the pressure our leaders are under and the dysfunction of the city? What if, instead of being ticked off at people who live promiscuous lifestyles and use abortion as a means of birth control, we were to weep at whatever emptiness that sexual promiscuity results in? What if, instead of being angry at folks in the gay pride parade, we were to weep for the fact that some in the Christian community have been so dismissive and insulting of them that our opportunity for a redemptive relationship with them is almost impossible? I m not talking about softening our convictions; I m saying that ranting and raving isn t helping. Frankly, anger is easier than grief. It s easier to be mad at the people whose lifestyles are so far from God s plan than it is to weep for them. If I can be mad at them, I don t have to care for them. I can objectify them, keep them at a distance. But if I weep for them, they have names, and parents, and dreams, and hurts. If I weep for them I realize that they have really different influences in their lives than I do. And I might actually have an opportunity to connect and maybe make a difference with them. Jesus wept for, didn t get angry at, people who were spiritually lost. So where do I go to learn how to get mad like Jesus? 4

5 The long-range answer to anger is a renovated heart a heart like Jesus. So where do I go to get a heart like Jesus? Well, it begins with a decision to follow him, to trust him, to believe he is who he says he is. 2 Corinthians 5 says, If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! For some, being in Christ becoming a devoted follower of his is a whambam kind of instantaneous conversion the kind you can mark on your calendar. For others it s more of a process a growing awareness. Some, frankly, cannot remember a time when they did not love and trust Jesus. But however it happens, the first step toward a heart like Jesus is a spiritual conversion. We become Christians, which means little Christs. Then then we practice the practices he practiced. And here s how Make worship your lifestyle, not just a hit or miss activity. Get up early and read your Bible and pray. When those big decisions and events come along, go on a twenty-four hour fast. Join a small group and/or a Bible Study class of your peers. Make time for solitude. Get away by yourself with your Creator. Some of us probably could use the help of a professional counselor dealing with serious anger. For a lot of our anger comes from way deep down inside as a result of, perhaps, abuse. For many it is a matter of spiritual disciplines. In 1945 Branch Rickey took note of Jackie Robinson, a talented baseball player who deserved to be in the Major Leagues but because he was black he d not been given the chance. So Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers organization. Branch Rickey was a devoted follower of Jesus. He was, in fact, one of the founders of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was a businessman, for sure, and saw in Robinson a chance for a winning team and money at the ticket office. But he d seen a black man he cared for be discriminated against years earlier. At its core, Branch Rickey s motivation was justice. When Rickey signed Robinson both men knew there would be trouble. Breaking down racial barriers would not happen without serious conflict. And Jackie Robinson was, by nature, a really aggressive personality. He was quick to respond when wronged, often without tempering his response. Some would have called him a hot head. Rickey knew that Jackie Robinson could not lash out at his detractors, could not retaliate, or else people would write him off. Recently the movie 42 depicted the heroic story of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. There is a dramatic scene in Rickey s office. According to ESPN it is an accurate depiction of a real conversation. This is the conversation, in August Rickey is warning Robinson not to retaliate when people wrong him. Robinson: "Mr. Rickey, are you looking for somebody who doesn t have the guts to fight back?" Rickey responded, "No, I'm looking for somebody with guts enough not to fight back." 5

6 Robinson proved to be that kind of person. The courage not to retaliate. We can be the kind of folks who have the guts not to fly into a rage. The courage not to retaliate. The character to get mad but mad like Jesus. 6