Let Go of Sinful Anger

October 26, 2014

Yoda said “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to
anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  And Yoda could have been talking about
the movie Frozen.  Elsa’s fear of losing
her sister Ana, led to the explosion that you just saw which ultimately led to
the entire kingdom falling into a deep freeze and all the troubles that came
from that point on. 
This week the staff attended the Global Leadership Summit
and one of the speakers was Joseph Grenny, one of the authors of “Crucial
Conversations”  the subtitle of the book
is “Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” 
Elsa should have been in that session
And if we were honest with ourselves we can track many of
our problems in life back to the root of anger. 
Because you are angry with someone or something you do
something that you later regret.  You are
working at something and it isn’t doing what you want it to do so you get angry
with it and so you yank too hard and you break it.  You get angry at your child, spouse, sibling,
parent, employer, employee and you say something you wish you could take back.  And you can’t take it back, those words that
are said in anger are always remembered.   And you are thinking “But they said they
forgave me.”  Yep, but that doesn’t undo
the hurt, you can’t unring the bell.
And so you would expect me to say “Let Go of Anger”.  After all 
most people would say that anger is bad, that we should never get
angry.  It was Buddha who said “Anger will
never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind.
Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.”
While Peter O’Donnell wrote “Anger and worry are the enemies of
clear thought.”  And Ralph Waldo
Emerson   offered us excellent
advice when he wrote “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of
happiness.”  And here are words of
great wisdom from Ambrose Bierce, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best
speech you will ever regret.”   I’ve
given those speeches. 
The bible
even weighs in on the subject when Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:24-25 Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people,
or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.   And again in  Proverbs 29:22 An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all
kinds of sin.
And most of us think of anger as a “Sin”.  “Forgive me because I got angry” we pray or
we tell the person on the other end of our anger “I’m sorry I was angry.”   
And so you
would understand if I preached on “Let Go of Your Anger”.  But then we have to deal with passages in the
bible like Psalm 7:11 God is an honest judge. He is
angry with the wicked every day. Or in the New Testament John 3:36 And anyone who believes in
God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never
experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
And we look in the bible and we see Godly men and women who
get angry.  And maybe we can understand
Moses getting angry, and David getting angry and Jonah getting angry, after all
they were people like us. But the bible tells us that Jesus got angry, and you
are thinking “Not Jesus, Jesus hugged children and cuddled lambs, Jesus told us
to love everyone and turn the other cheek, no preacher you’re wrong Jesus never
got angry.”  Yep sure did, he got angry
with the Pharisees he got angry with his Apostles and in a story that is
familiar to all of us one day he got so angry about what was happening in the
courts surrounding the temple he turned over tables, set animals free and
chased people with a whip.
And so now we have this dichotomy to deal with.  We perceive anger to always be wrong and to
be sinful behaviour and yet we see Jesus acting in a way that seems to be angry
and he was without sin.  And there are
multiple instances in the scriptures with God being angry, and that is the word
that is used “angry” not a little put out or mildly annoyed but angry. 
Perhaps the truth lies in the words of Aristotle who
said “Anyone
can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the
right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way —
this is not easy.”
So here are some questions we can ask ourselves about Anger
and perhaps we can find some answers in the Jesus story.
What makes you Angry?  And probably I could get a whole range of
answers here.  Some would be appropriate
and some would be wildly inappropriate.  A
few years ago there was a story in the news about a guy in Ontario who was
charged with road rage.    
Someone had cut him off in traffic, I don’t know if it was
intentional or not, but he chased the guy down and then forces him off the road
with his truck, rams the offending vehicle a couple of times and then grabs a
chain saw and threatens the other driver with it. 
Do you get angry in traffic? 
In the parking lot?  In the
supermarket when someone cuts you off with their cart?  Do you get angry because of the way people
treat you?  Because of some slight,
either real or imaginary? 
Do you remember when Jesus
cleared the temple of the money changers? 
Why was Jesus angry?  I think
there are a couple of reasons, the most obvious is found in   Mark 11:17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My
Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned
it into a den of thieves.”
He was angry because people
were disrespecting God’s temple and making a mockery of God’s rules.  What was supposed to be a Holy place had
become an everyday place, what had been set aside as a place to worship God had
become a place to worship money.  And
because of that people’s relationship with God were in jeopardy.  And that made Jesus angry.
That was why Jesus was upset
with the Pharisee; they were putting religion ahead of people and putting
roadblocks between people and God.  Once
when Jesus was teaching some parents tried to bring their children to him to be
blessed and his disciples scolded them for interrupting Jesus while he was
teaching and then we read in Mark 10:14 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.”
When people and churches stand
between others and God that should make us angry in the same way it made Jesus
angry.  
When people are more concerned
with their preferences and their comfort rather than reaching out to those who
need Jesus, that is a reason to become cranky and when people and churches that
call themselves “Christians” do a disservice to Jesus’ name and nature by being
rude and bitter, that should make us angry.
But there was a second reason
that isn’t as obvious but just as valid, and I understand that this is speculation
but I think Jesus was upset over the fact that those who were supposed to be
leading people to God were taking advantage of them. 
These were pilgrims who had
travelled a long way to be able to worship God in the temple and they were
being ripped off.  Historians tells us
that the same dove that was being sold in the temple court yard could be
purchased outside the temple for a fraction of the price, but coincidently the
same people who benefitted from the sale of the doves inside the temple were
the ones who had to inspect the ones from outside to make sure they would be
suitable.  Can you say “conflict of
interest”?
And the temple tax had to be
paid in a certain currency, the principle had been laid down that the tax was
paid for the upkeep of the temple, and that was a good principle the temple
needed to be maintained and that needed to be paid for by those who used
it.  But then the principle was distorted
and became a burden.  Because now it
wasn’t enough that the right amount be paid but it had to be paid in the right
currency.  So while other currency was
used outside the temple the priests insisted on a certain type of
currency.  When the pilgrims came they
had to get their money changed.  And if
it was a straight exchange then the rate was about 20% but if you needed change
back the rate doubled.  And so Jesus was
angry because people were being taken advantage of.
What was happening was legal,
but was it right?   Personally I think
Jesus would be a little cranky over what happens in the name of business and
commerce in our society today. 
When companies ask the rank and
file to make wage concessions and give up benefits and then give their
executives million dollar bonuses, I can understand the anger there.   And I don’t think it would be billion dollar
bailouts that Jesus would have had in mind for the big banks and Wall Street,
just saying.
But here is a rule of thumb, If
you are getting angry over your feelings or over your stuff, you are probably
getting angry over the wrong things. 
Understand that Jesus didn’t
lose his temper, he got angry.  Which
leads us to the next question.
How Do You respond In
Your Anger?
This is a matter of time and degree.  Sometimes people get angry and their response
is way over the top.
The guy with the truck and the chainsaw in Ontario, that was
probably not the best way for him to express his anger. 
 If you lash right out
you have probably reacted the wrong way.  
Which is why Thomas Jefferson cautioned people “When angry,
count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”
Again, let’s look at when Jesus
chased the merchants and money changers out of the temple.  In Mark’s account we discover that Jesus had
actually been there the day before, Mark 11:11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the
Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was
late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.   And then we pick up the story the next
day Mark 11:15 When they arrived back in
Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying
and selling animals for sacrifices. 
So you understand what must
have happened, right?   He must have seen
what was happening, he left, thought about what was happening  and figured out what his response should be
and then came back. 
John’s account of Jesus in the
temple comes at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and there has been debate
over whether it was the same incident or a separate incident, and I can say
categorically it could have been the same incident or a separate incident.  But there is a neat line there in John’s
account.  John 2:15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them
all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money
changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.   I wonder in that account if the taking
the time to braid the rope together was his way of counting to ten.
If you find yourself reacting
immediately in anger, you are probably in the wrong.  You are letting your anger control you
instead of controlling your anger, which is why the bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26-27 And “don’t sin by letting
anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for
anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”:
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil
a foothold.  Presumably when we
let ourselves be controlled by anger that is when Sin gets a foothold. 
But Paul doesn’t stop there he
tells us to deal with it right away, and not to let it fester in our lives.  Because if you’re like me you’ll lay awake
all night pressing the replay button over and over again.
It was Phyllis Diller who said “Never go to bed angry, stay up and
fight.” 
I’m not sure that is what the Bible had in mind. 
But understand this; if you aren’t controlling your anger
then your anger is controlling you.
So, you need to find out how you are supposed deal with what
makes you angry.  Remember when the
disciples wouldn’t let the children come to Jesus and he got angry?  What did Jesus do?  Did you yell at them and call them jerks, no he
taught the disciples what their correct response should be and then he blessed
the children.
What can you do about what makes you angry?  How do you correct it, how do you deal with
it?  Can you be part of the solution?
The other
thing to note is that there was no personal violence in Jesus’ response,
granted he set animals free and scattered coins but there is nothing to
indicate that he struck anyone, that he hurt anyone.
Martin
Luther King Jr. was angry, Mahatma Ghandi was angry, Timothy McVeigh was angry
and Osama Bin Laden was angry.  Two will
go down in history as heroes two will always be villains.
The
scriptures don’t tell us not to be angry but they do warn us in Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”
Do You Understand The Price Of Your Anger?  There is an old saying that there is only
one letter difference between “anger” and “danger”.  There are people who will go to jail because
of their anger.  There are people who
lose their lives because of anger, on both sides.   Because a man was angry in Ottawa this week
he is dead along with an innocent man.
I can’t count the marriages
that I have watched dissolve because of an angry spouse.  Sometimes situations where there was abuse
but often just times where the other partner just got tired of the anger and
venom that was being spewed. 
People have lost their jobs
because they were categorized as an “angry person” and people lose friends for
the same reason, nobody wants to be around someone who is always angry at
something, even when that anger is justified.
But there is also a cost when
we are angry in the right way.
Jesus got angry over what was
happening in the temple, and he responded after thinking about it and without
violence.  And the result?  A lesson was taught, not just for that
specific point in time but for the next two thousand years.  The temple courts were cleared at least
temporarily and I’m sure that some of those who were chased out examined their
motives. 
But what else happened?  Mark 11:18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law
heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him,
because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
This was the tipping point in Jesus’
ministry. 
The lives of African American’s
were changed irrevocably for the better because of the anger of Martin Luther
King Jr.  India’s future was changed
because of the anger of Ghandi.  And King
and Ghandi paid the price with their lives.
You get angry over abortion, or
poverty or social injustice, or people disrespecting God and his name and voice
your anger and there will be a price to be paid.  Chances are that you won’t be killed, but it
might be the way people view you, or it might be a promotion or it might be
contempt.
But that doesn’t mean that you
shouldn’t get angry about those things, it just means that you need to be aware
that there is often a price to be paid. 
Remember the words of Edmund Burke who wrote “The only thing necessary for the
triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 
Anger has been the catalyst
that has changed our world for the better. 
One of my favourite quotes comes from George Bernard Shaw who said  “The reasonable man adapts himself to the
world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the word to
himself.  Therefore all progress depends
on the unreasonable man.”
It is when people get angry
over social injustice that we see change, it’s when people get angry over the
environment that people begin paying attention. 
Seriously if it wasn’t for angry environmentalists big business would
still be pouring poison into the air and cars would still be burning leaded
fuel and getting 15 mpg.
At the Global leadership Summit
we heard Allen Catherine Kagina who is the Commissioner General of the Uganda
Revenue Authority, which is like our CRA or the IRS in the States. She said that
she took the position because she was angry. 
Angry that the URA was known as a Den of Thieves, angry that the taxes
that Ugandans were paying weren’t providing what they were supposed to.  Ten years later the URA is now a model public
institution for developing countries around the world.  And more than that it is an institution that
the people of Uganda trust. 
It was when Martin Luther got
angry over what he saw as the failure of the Catholic Church that the
reformation began. 
After all the founder of the
Methodist movement, John Wesley got angry over child labour and the founders of
the Wesleyan Church go angry over Slavery. 
But it can’t be repeated enough: Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”
While we understand these normal human experiences of anger,
Christians need to ask the question—when is anger righteous, moral and
appropriate?  And how we do we
respond?  And so this morning I would
challenge you to “Let Go of Sinful
Anger.”