Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Week Two - Anger

“He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…”  
Proverbs 14:17
Basically, a Christian should not be a “hot-head”.  Quick responses of anger reveal a heart that is not controlled and passions that will bring nothing but more exasperation and frustration.  The writer of Proverbs goes so far as to link anger with foolishness.  A quick-tempered person will make rash decisions and speak sharp, harmful words.  The result will only be more trouble.
Proverbs 15:18 states, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife…”  He causes trouble as he goes along.  His quick words and foolish attitude bring him shame.  He is not willing to listen to others, but thinks he has to have the first and last word.  Proverbs 18:13 says that it is “a folly and a shame” to him.  Proverbs goes on to say in 19:19 that a “man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.”
So, while he thinks that his anger will chase his problems away, it actually only brings him more trouble, more punishment, and he will have to learn self-control over and over again.
The lesson is to learn to control our passions.  To listen before we speak; to be a person willing to lay aside or deter our emotional responses so as to avoid playing the fool.
What about you?  Do you burst forth before you think about the consequences?  Do you spit, splutter and stew as a general attitude of life?  Are you known as a “hot-head”?  Maybe you need to take this to the Lord?

“…whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger…”  
Matthew 5:22
To get the complete teaching of this verse you need to read from verse 21 through 26.  Christ is in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount.  He is laying out a new way of living – a new commandment.  He starts with one of the Ten Commandments – thou shalt not kill – and begins teaching on the danger of being angry with a brother without a cause.
So, why would a person be angry without a cause?  Just for the fun of it?  Because of a misunderstanding?  Out of jealousy or envy?  Out of the desire to get his own way? You have to ask yourself…have I ever felt anger at someone when I knew they had not really done anything wrong?  And you have to answer…yes. 
Matthew Henry states, “Anger is a natural passion, but it is sinful when we are angry without a cause….This is a breach of the sixth commandment, for he that is thus angry, would kill if he could and durst: he has taken the first step towards it.”  So we see how the commandment not to kill and the warning against being angry without a cause are linked.
Where does this sort of anger come from?  The sinfulness of our own hearts, pride, self-promotion and other such attitudes breed this type of response to perceived threats and hurts.  Like the saying, “wearing our feelings on our sleeves”, a person unaware of the capability of the flesh might not even realize how damaging it is to allow this type of anger to have a part in their lives.
Jesus gives us the immediate remedy.  Verse 24 – go and confess your anger to the one you have ought against.  Do it immediately, Verse 25.  Or, it will cost you, Verse 26.  Like the root of bitterness, this type of anger will seat itself in your heart and you will be looking for future offenses and eventually build up a pot of anger that will spill over.
Do you have this type of anger residing in your life?  It might be hard to admit.  It will be a hard pill to swallow as you make it right.  No one links to “eat crow”, but it is best to face up to it!  Humble yourself and go and confess to your neighbor.  It will be a lesson you won’t soon forget and it will serve to warn you against such attitudes in the future.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” 
Ephesians 4:26
This is probably the one verse that most people have heard about anger. It simply states that when anger comes, we should control it so it does not become sinful and we should settle the matter before sunset.  This is a simple instruction, yet one not always easy to fulfill.
Some types of anger have a place in our lives.  Anger comes when we feel threatened.  It is usually involuntary and consequently innocent, as Barnes states.  It is a prompter to self-protection and when the threat is taken away, the anger subsides or ceases.  However, sometimes, we choose not to allow it to cease.  We persevere in it. We allow it to grow or fester.  We start to desire to rebuke our offender or to injure him.  Then, it becomes sinful.
We don’t like to think of ourselves like this.  We think we would never act this way, but truly, nearly everyone of us will have to admit that there have been times when we just had a hard time letting go of an offense.  When we have gone to bed angry and woke angry.  And, we knew we were doing wrong, but everything in our flesh was crying out for vengeance and justice for our own personal cause.
We were not thinking about the consequences of our anger, only our desire to “get even”.  We can be sure that this type of anger is sinful.  It is stubborn and based in pride.  We just don’t want to admit we are wrong in holding on to the hurt and allowing anger to have control. 
The trouble is that usually we are the one who pays the price.  We suffer sleepless nights, high blood pressure, ulcers and a bad attitude all because we are not willing to resolve the issue.  Meanwhile, the person with whom we are angry goes merrily on their way unaware and unaffected.  That makes us even angrier.  Rather a vicious cycle, wouldn’t you say?
Does this type of anger have a hold on you?  Do you have knots in your stomach as you seethe?  Do you allow a wall of anger to keep you separated from friends or family as you wait to see vengeance fall on them?  Better be checking….

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32
Lest we spend the whole of this study on the negative, let’s look at anger from another angle.  If we are slow to anger, if we learn self-control in our responses and cast aside our pride, we come out the better.
The old practice of counting to ten still has a place.  Being slow to anger does not say that we have conquered the emotion, only that we choose its decibels. We measure our anger rather than letting it be the measure of us.  Being slow in expressing anger means that we can quickly stop and calm ourselves. 
The result is might.  We become stronger.  We rule our spirit.  This requires true wisdom and steady management.
I remember when this verse came alive to me.  I was a young mother with too many little ones.  I would get overwhelmed with the volume of work, noise, crying and demands.  I began to see myself as some screaming banshee and I did not like the picture.  God brought this verse to my attention.  “Learn to rule your spirit”, He said, “and I will help you.”  And He did.
Slowly I began to think about the situations that would bring me down.  I made better preparation.  I made sure I was rested and ate properly.  I did the things that would strengthen me instead of allowing my passions to have control.  I did my part, and God did his!  Consequently, everyone around me benefited!
What about you?  Are you living only on emotion?  Are you out of control?  Why not ask the Lord for help?

…when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts…”  Mark 3:5
This is a statement about Jesus himself.  He looked on the people around him with anger.  This is not sinful anger.  It is not anger that is spiteful or revengeful.  It is an indignation and grief brought on by the action of another.  Their hearts were hard.  He could see down to their core and it upset him.  Rather than lash out, he decided to channel that anger into good.  So, right there he healed the man with the withered hand.
This is one of the best uses of anger – channeling it for good.  That is what happens when people champion a cause.  MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is but one example. This mother was angry at the loss of her son, but instead of allowing that anger to overtake her, she channeled that anger into creating awareness and bringing forth legislation to make things better.
You might not be ready for this type of challenge, but you can still learn to channel you anger for good.  Clean a closet, take a walk, sing – did you know you can hardly be angry while you sing?  Just try it…when you feel upset at a situation, choose not to lash out.  Redirect that energy into something more beneficial.

Anger is a strong emotion, but it doesn’t have to defeat us.  We can use that strength for good.  We can allow it to make us stronger – not harder or angrier.  Used properly it can give us moral fiber and vibrancy.  Next time anger rears it’s ugly head – face it with the challenge of overcoming evil with good.

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