WEATHERING THE STORM OF ANGER

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TEXT:                           Matthew 5:21-26 

INTRODUCTION:

When I was growing up there used to be a song that we would sing that said, “if you are happy and you know it clap your hands, stomp your feet, and say Amen!” “If you are happy and you know it then your face will truly show it.” I believe this was to teach us that our expressions are visible as well as viable. This song teaches us that our internal wellness shows up in our external demeanor. In other words, what’s going onon the INSIDE – has a way of showing up on the OUTSIDE.

Just like that old song, “It’s written all over your face, you don’t have to say a word”. Some things you are going through – you don’t have to say it, nor shout it – we see it. One of the emotions that is easy to read is this emotion called ANGER.

One preacher once said that we live in a world that has gone mad. I believe this statement. And when anger is not met with a biblical solution you can end up killing yourself. Anger is a killer. If it does not kill you – physically – it gets you – emotionally – but the ultimate end is to kill you – spiritually.

Now, this message is not an attempt to massage those of you who have been a bit upset. I am trying to find some transparent children of God who can identify that there have been times in your life that you have been “down right mad”.

Have you ever noticed how when people are angry, things tend to get broken.

  • Once when playing table tennis, I got angry over making a bad shot and slammed by racket against the ping-pong table. Harder than I meant to, because my graphite racket broke.
  • A college friend of mine got into an angry disagreement with his girlfriend one night. In the morning he learned that after the fight she had gone into her room and broken a framed picture of him, by slamming it against her desk. (They’re married now, however most of their pictures are kept in rubber frames!)
  • Someone throws a punch and a nose gets broken.
  • In anger one nation lashes out against another and a pact or a treaty gets broken.
  • Express too much anger when disciplining a child, and trust gets broken.
  • Use angry words and perhaps a heart gets broken…
  • …Church unity gets broken…
  • …Relationships get broken.

As a matter of fact, angry outbursts ruin many relationships.

Jesus addresses this vital issue in His the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is announcing God’s Kingdom is here on earth. He surprises people by telling them God approves of them in spite of their imperfections…Those who follow Him will be as distinctive as salt and light. They’ll stand out. Because those in this Kingdom won’t attempt to be impressive just by obey rules – they will gain their good standing with God through a relationship with Jesus.

In Matthew 5:20, He tells us that our righteousness needs to surpass that of those who look perfect on the outside. Because far from being satisfied with good appearances, God is looking for hearts that have been changed. And now He’s going to illustrate this kind of the heart in several ways.

It’s safe to the average Christian would consider himself/herself to have a good heart. You know to be a basically good person. A rather common line of reasoning that exists today in determining if we are good sounds something like this – “Well, I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not a murderer!”

As if murder is the line between good and bad – perhaps also assuming that murder is the point of no return. Once a person commits murder, they can never be considered a good person ever again.

That’s actually a very ancient way of thinking. (Ancient in the truest sense of the word). Because that appears to be exactly what some thought about what it meant to be a good person in Jesus day. I’m basically a good person. I haven’t murdered anyone.

Jesus says, whoa! Not so fast here. Give this some thought.

Jesus can’t assume everything his audience had heard concerning the content of the OT Scriptures was really in the OT. This is because the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarded certain oral traditions as equal authority with Scripture itself.

So he starts out by saying…“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder.’” (That’s in the OT. That’s commandment number 6 of the 10 Commandments. Do not murder…) …And… (now here’s the oral tradition part) “…anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” That’s what had been handed down for years. If you murder, you are subject to judgment – in other words, you would be brought before the local courts. The crowd on the mountain with Jesus would have been as familiar with that statement as they were with the simple command“Do not murder.”

So here is what Jesus says…“But I tell you, that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (v. 21)

What are the points that Jesus would like to give emphasis regarding anger?

1. ANGER IS SERIOUS AND DANGEROUS (v. 21-22)

Oh yes, I am convinced that the battle of the ages still rages. No matter how mature you may be as a Christian, you and I can get angry at some point. And we must learn how to deal with our anger! Because, we need to understand that ANGER is one letter short of DANGER.

  • Dangerous anger made Cain kill Abel.
  • Dangerous anger made Saul lose his throne.
  • Dangerous anger made Moses smite the rock.

In our text, Jesus describes anger here like a crescendo – it builds through three stages.

a. FIRST STAGE:  Anger directed against another person

Anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgment. That is…worthy of the same consequence as murder. How can this be?

Anger, in its simplest form is a spontaneous response that has a vital function in life. It alerts us to an obstruction of our wills and immediately raises alarm and resistance, even before we have time to think about it.

Not all anger is bad even Jesus got angry when people were having obstacles put in the way of their coming to God at the Temple Bible talks of the wrath of God.

The problem is our anger quickly turns to something more evil. It includes thoughts of making a painful impression on others, whether physically, verbally, or emotionally.

Jesus says, we shouldn’t even allow ourselves to become angry enough to consider harming someone in any way (feelings too), because then we’ve already committed murder in our hearts.

Illustration:

Clarence Darrow, probably the most famous criminal lawyer of his generation, must have surely read the words of Jesus. He once said, “Everyone is a potential murderer. I have not killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction out of obituary notices.”

Anger is as serious as murder in the heart.

In verse 22 Jesus says, “Again anyone who says to his brother ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.”

b. SECOND STAGE – Contempt “Raca” – an expression of contempt

Raca – means “emtpy head.”

The word may have originated from the sound a person makes in clearing the throat in preparation to spit. Rrraaaacah! That’s what I think of you!

Jesus said this is a greater evil than just anger. In anger, we want to hurt someone. In contempt, we don’t care if that someone gets hurt or not.

Instead of Raca, In America they use dork, nerd, bonehead…Here in the Philippines we use, Tange, Tanga, Bobo, Mangmang, Mot-Mot, Tsaka, Shunga…(I made a research on this my friends) or something worse. But the intent is always the same. It’s meant to cast someone aside – like spitting on them – and saying you don’t belong. Sometimes these words hurt so bad that murder would almost be a mercy.

Jesus said that people who express contempt are guilty enough to be judged by the Sanhedrin – The highest court in the land – the Supreme Court.

“But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

c. THIRD STAGE – MALICE (“Fool” was an expression of malice)

Illustration:

In high school I wouldn’t dare call anyone a “fool” (ULOL) because Jesus said not to. However, I used all sorts of other R-rated words. Somehow I must have thought I was still acceptable to God b/c I didn’t say “fool.”

Fool, as such, no longer captures what Jesus had in mind. For us, fool is more like Raca – empty head. No, fool isn’t so cutting, but we sure have plenty of other terminology that allows us to go ahead and do exactly what Jesus was condemning without using the word “fool.” Which is exactly what I was doing in high school, thinking I wasn’t breaking this command.

Do you think it’s possible you and I ever keep God’s rules but overlook His intentions? That’s what the Pharisees did.

The Pharisees would never commit murder. Yet they were angry enough at Jesus to have him killed. But they got someone else to do it. Keeping the rules – but overlooking the intentions.

So if someone at work misses a deadline – someone cuts us off in traffic – and we shout, “You brainless idiot!” Terms like “PRANING” “BUWANG!” “ULOL!” Even with those words, we’ve already gone way too far. We’ve gone beyond the intention of the commandment to not murder.

To brand someone with words like that way is a violation of the soul so devastating that Jesus said is tantamount to murder.

The popular rock band, Creed, is known as much for their powerful music as they are for their passionate lyrics inspired by genuinely Christian themes. They are successfully influencing the masses with positive spirituality. If you’re not familiar with their music, I’d encourage you to check them out.

One of the songs on their most recent CD is called “What If.” The song says…

I know I can’t hold the hate inside my mind
Cause what consumes your thoughts controls your life
So I’ll just ask one question…What if?
What if your words could be judged like a crime?

That’s exactly what Jesus is talking about here. Hateful words spoken in anger are treated like a crime – specifically murder – in God’s eyes. Jesus reminds us, it is not possible for people with such attitudes toward others to be thought of as truly good, or righteous. People who think this way are out of harmony with God’s kingdom.

Some might think at this point, “So, I’m going to go to Hell for calling someone a nerd?” No. Jesus isn’t saying that. He’s illustrating the fact that the Kingdom heart is a heart of love. That if truly the Kingdom of God is in your life, you’ll have a heart that values relationships, and doesn’t just want to get by with the rules, and say, “Well, at least I’ve never killed anyone.”

That kind of heart values other people.

From Jesus’ perspective, we can see why this is so serious. As He’s saying these words, He already knows what kind of death awaits him at the cross. So reading between the lines we can hear him say, “Hey, you people who cut others down with your words. I’m here to give my life for them and for you. That guy you just called an idiot? I love him. He’s so valuable to me that even if he was the only person in the world, I’d still die for him. And you’re making him sound worthless and insignificant? What’s that say about my mission to die for him? How dare you? That’s not the kind of heart inside a person who is truly good – inside a person who follows me.”

Jesus is operating at heart level – where anger grows. Anger embraced and allowed to grow through these three stages is dangerous and serious.

Illustration:

There was once a famous snake charmer. His trick was that he taught his giant snake to wrap around him and retreat. He’d say, “COIL!” The snake would wrap around, and around his body all the way up to his face where it would HISSSS! Then the snake charmer would say, “RETREAT!” And on command the snake would uncoil and slither across the floor. This became such a great trick that he went on tour. One night he and the snake went on stage in front of the biggest crowd ever. Like always he said, “COIL!” and the snake coiled around him. Everyone gasped. Then he said “RETREAT!” Nothing happened. Again he said, “RETREAT!” Still nothing. “RETREAT, RETREAT!” And there in front of that crowd the snake began to squeeze on the snake charmer tighter and tighter until the man died.

After the show, backstage, a man told a newspaper reporter, “I remember when he got the snake. It was just a baby. So small he could have crushed it in his hand. But he played with it and let it grow. It finally crushed him.”

Don’t go the route of anger. Don’t embrace it. Don’t harbor it. Don’t nurse it. Don’t befriend it. Don’t play with it in your mind. Crush it while you still can. It’s so serious it can cut you off from God. It can really affect your relationship with God…So dangerous it can crush you.

Christian author Dallas Willard says in The Divine Conspiracy, “To cut the root of anger is to wither the tree of human evil.” (p. 150)

TRANSITION:

Anger is serious and dangerous. It ruins relationships. With that point being made, Jesus turns to some practical examples that show us this…

2. TO AVOID ANGER, TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY (v. 23-26)

Do you remember the TV show “The Incredible Hulk?” The main character was a scientist named Dr. David Banner. And he was basically a very friendly man. But whenever he got angry, his eyes would turn green. And he would be transformed into this big green hulking monster. If you were a person in need, he would save you. But God help you if you were the one he was mad at. Because he would pick you up. And throw you on the other side of the room like you were a rag doll. Dr. Banner didn’t like what anger did to him. In fact, the whole show is built around Dr. Banner’s desire to find a cure so that this won’t happen to him anymore.

The message I get from the show is that if you don’t learn to deal with your temper, it could turn you into a monster of a person. It could change you into someone you don’t want to be.

This is what happened to Cain in Genesis chapter 4. He had a bad temper to start with. But he didn’t deal with it. And it turned him into this other person. An evil person. We pick up the story in verse one: Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain. And then Abel. Verse two says that “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.”

What I want you to notice about this is that at this point, no one has anything to complain about. God has blessed both Cain and Abel with the ability to work with their hands. And if you scroll down to verse 17, you see that Cain has a wife. So he has employment. He has companionship. He has his health. And he has a God in heaven who is watching out for him.

Sometimes when we get angry, we forget about the good things that we’ve been blessed with. And all we can think about is how we have been wronged! Or how our rights have been violated. Or how this person wasn’t nice to us. Or how we didn’t get what we deserved.

I’m sure by now, you have discovered that life is not always fair. And life is not always easy. There are disappointments. There are difficulties. And there are hard times. But one thing that will help us to put everything into perspective is to take time to thank God for the things that we DO have. And thank God that he loves us enough to deprive us of what we don’t really need! And that he has our best interests at heart

So for us to understand this even more Jesus further explained this matter about anger in a very practical way:  In weathering the storm of Anger we should immediately:

a. Settle things with others before attempting to worship.

Jesus sets the scene at the altar – one of the holiest moments in life. READ 5:23-24 23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

We might think of a wedding, ordination, baptism, communion…Right then you remember – someone is angry with me. I am at odds with someone. My actions have knowingly hurt someone else. Jesus says, go! Settle mattersnow! He says it is far more important to be reconciled to someone than it is to engage in religious activity. Worship becomes a sham if we’ve behaved so poorly prior to coming to worship that we’ve knowing hurt someone.

Similarly 1 John 4:20-21 makes this point: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

So settle things before attempting to worship.

The other application Jesus gives:

b. Settle things with others before receiving a court decision

(READ V. 25-26) 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

So Jesus says, this is urgent business.

Settle matters outside of court. It’s always safer. Anger can turn you into a hypocrite – Anger can land you in jail. So settle matters quickly. Jesus says, “Right now! If you wait, it could turn out to be disastrous.”

What if the person refuses to be reconciled? We might wonder, Am I never to go to church again?

Ask ourselves these questions:

  • Does our heart long for reconciliation?
  • Have we done all that we can? (Honestly)
  • Do we act lovingly toward the person?
  • Do we mourn for the harm that the person’s anger is doing toward his own soul, to us, and to the others around us?

If so, then we are showing the kind of heart that has no desire to live at odds with someone. The kind of heart Jesus wants us to have.

Can I be involved in court battle and still expect salvation?

Is Jesus saying never go to court? I don’t see that here. God provided judges for the people in the OT to settle some disputes. When someone refuses to be reconciled, they take us to court, or we are left with only that option. Jesus tells us here how to act – do whatever you do without hostility, bitterness and the merciless desire to win.

Remember – Jesus isn’t so much giving a law as he is giving an illustration. The law in question, is do not murder. Since anger is as serious as murder, and it is also what leads to most actual homicides, avoid it at all costs by fixing broken relationships as quickly as possible. Don’t let anything get in the way – not a religious ritual, not a court verdict. Just do what you can to get it fixed. The truly good person does this.

Illustration:

I’ve read that when President Bush was governor of Texas he had to deal with a lot of conflict. He came into office with a legislature that was in the opposite party. Early in his term he met with the opposition leader of the legislative branch with the hopes of building a cooperative coalition for the future.

The meeting was a failure. There was no trust and no agreement. There was plenty of conflict.

At the end of the session as Bush got up to leave he suddenly reached over and grabbed the opposition boss with both hands on his neck and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.

The man was completely stunned. He got red faced and stammered “What did you do THAT for!”

Bush said, “If I can’t get your cooperation and help, I’m at least going to get a kiss!”

The opposition leader broke up laughing and that was the beginning of friendship and the end of conflict.

Now I’m not suggesting that a kiss on the cheek will fix all broken relationships! I am suggesting that we worry more about our relationships and less about having the upper hand! More about loving than harboring anger.

TRANSITION: Since anger is serious and dangerous, we should take action immediately to avoid it.

3. REFLECTION:  SURRENDER YOUR ANGER TO GOD

When you get really angry, you can either repress it. Or express it. But the healthiest thing you can do is confess it. Give it to God. Tell him how you feel. Unload your backpack of burdens at the feet of God.

How many of you have ever read the Psalms? In some of them, David wrote them when he was really angry. In theology, these are known as “the imprecatory psalms,” or “the Angry Psalms.” In Psalm 3:7 he says, “Deliver me, o my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw! Break the teeth of the wicked!” David found out that by writing about his anger to the Lord, he was able to get it off his chest without hurting anyone.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Jhun, I just can’t control myself like that. When I get angry, I feel like my emotions are all pent up. And I can’t hold back. I have to let it out.” You’re wrong. You can hold back.

Illustration:

Have you ever been in an argument with someone at home, and then the phone rings? You’ve been yelling and screaming your head off. And then you pick up the phone and you say (in a gentle voice) “Hello? Oh, Hi Mary. How are you doing? Yes I had a wonderful time last night.”

You see? You control what you want to control. Proverbs 29:11 says that “a fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Well, the Bible has something to say about overcoming anger. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience. It is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

Cain was a fool. Instead of humbly listening to God’s word, he held on to his anger. And he took all of his frustrations out on Abel. He said to him, “Let’s go out to the field.” That proves right there that this was a premeditated murder, not a crime of passion. Cain had plenty of time to reconsider what he was about to do. But instead he chose to give full vent to his anger, and he murdered Abel in cold blood. And when God asked him where Abel was, he lied right to God’s face! “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?

This just goes to show how wicked Cain was. And God usually knows us better than we know ourselves.

But the most amazing part of this story is that God offers Cain a second chance! Instead of giving him the death penalty, he allows him to live and raise a family.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not justice!” You’re right. It’s not justice. It’s grace.

The fact of the matter is that we all deserve the death penalty. We all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. We all deserve nothing but punishment for all of the years we have turned our backs on God.

But every single day we wake up and get out of bed, we are being given another chance to get things right. Another chance to let Jesus Christ take over the throne of our lives. How have you been doing with the opportunities that God has given you?

Maybe tonight you are struggling with anger. Or frustration. Or bitterness. I want you to know that God understands. And with his help, you can master it. And vent it in ways where no one gets hurt. But you need Jesus in your life for this to happen. Because it’s only through the power of God that we can master ourselves. And become all that God wants us to be. I invite you to Jesus this day. And if you let Him in, he will forgive all of your sins and your mistakes and shortcomings and wipe the slate of your life completely clean. We all could use a clean slate. Let Jesus do it.

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