The Angry Christian

Scripture: Matthew 5:22, 1 John 3:12, Romans 1:18
Date: 09/02/2017 
When is anger appropriate?

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Jesus said, 'I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.' Now don't miss that Jesus said 'without a cause' - meaning there may be a time when anger is appropriate. I hope you are all in a good mood because I’m going to talk about anger; and if you're already angry this may go the wrong way. The message title today is dealing with, what may sound like an oxymoron, the angry Christian.

You know, back in March this year, there was a plane that was traveling from Las Vegas to Hawaii. Sometime shortly after they finally passed over the Pacific Ocean, one of the passengers became very agitated because they asked for a blanket - I guess the plane was cold - and the flight attendant said it was twelve dollars for one of their blankets. And he said, 'That's not reasonable.' he said, 'You're the ones making the plane cold.' They said, 'We're sorry, that's just what it is for one of the blankets.' And it turned into quite a stir. At one point then, the 66-year-old man threatened to take the flight attendant out to the woodshed. They weren't sure exactly what that meant, but they took it as a threat and they were afraid. 'You know, if this fella's got a temper and we get out over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, who knows what could happen at that point?' So they turned back and they scheduled - they made an unscheduled landing there at LAX - Los Angeles - and everybody was delayed for hours. They escorted the man off the plane - probably wrecked his Hawaii vacation. Somebody commented later, they said, 'It cost the airline $12,000.00 to make that unscheduled landing because of a dispute over a $12.00 blanket.’

Anger is a very serious issue. You read first in the Bible where Cain became angry with his brother and God asked Cain, 'Why are you angry?' If there's sin at the door, you need to deal with that. That anger in the heart of Cain led him to kill his brother. The Bible tells us Jesus said, 'I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.' Now don't miss that Jesus said, 'Without a cause' - meaning there may be a time when anger is appropriate. 1 John 3:12, "Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous." So that's the answer why some people become angry, is because they're wrong.

I think it was Charles de Gaulle that said, 'When I’m right I get angry’. Winston Churchill, on the other hand, 'When he's wrong he gets angry. So we often argue with each other because I’m right and he's wrong.' That’s what de Gaulle said. But it's true. Sometimes we become angry because someone's right. 1 John 3:15, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."

Well, maybe before we go any farther, it would be a good idea to just - let's look at a simple definition - what is anger? Anger, a noun, 'A strong feeling of displeasure, belligerence, hostility, or wrath aroused by some real or perceived wrong.' That's anger. Now, you might be surprised that there is good anger. Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

So does God ever get angry? See, we are made in the image of God and there is a passion - there is a righteous indignation - there is an appropriate emotion of anger that we should all have inside towards the just purposes. Jesus got angry. Mark 3:1, "And when He had looked around at them with anger," - can't be misunderstood - "being grieved by the hardness of their hearts." - they were mad that he was going to heal this man. He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out and he was restored. He became angry at their cold heartedness.

Moses became angry - Exodus 32:19 - he came down the mountain after getting the Ten Commandments and, of course, there, again, you've got the law. The devil was mad at that so he tempted everybody to sin. "...he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses' anger became hot," - was that the right kind of anger? He was just so outraged that after they just made this covenant with God, Moses has the Ten Commandments still radiating in his hands with the writing of the hand of God and he goes to the people and they're breaking all Ten Commandments.

Yeah, there's a time for righteous justified anger. The early church father John Chrysostom said, 'He who is not angry when he has cause to be sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices.' In other words, not being angry when you should be angry can be a sin because it can be an indifference - it can be a lukewarmness that you're not outraged by something that should be a problem. Mark 11:15, "So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves." And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple and He said, 'You've made My Father's house a den of thieves.'

Now I don't know if anyone went as far as Nehemiah in the Bible, with the church and, hopefully, the pastors will not ever have to resort to this. But Nehemiah says, "I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them, and pulled out their hair and made them swear by God saying, 'You will not give your daughters as wives to the sons of the pagans, nor take their daughters to your sons.' Nehemiah said, 'This is how we got carried off to Babylon in the first place and you're starting to do it again.' And he flew off the handle.

John Wesley, he said, 'He that would be angry and sin not must not be angry with anything but sin.' So the righteous anger is the anger against a sin of some form. Martin Luther became angry at the church's abuse of power. He said, 'When I’m angry, I can write, I can pray, I can preach well. For then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding is sharpened and the mundane vexations and temperaments depart.' When he saw the outrageous things that were happening in the church, he was animated by this righteous indignation. And, if you've ever read any of Luther's writings, you could see that he did have a pretty animated nature, to put it mildly. Aristotle put it this way: 'Anybody can become angry, that's easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose in the right way, that is not within everybody's power and it is not easy.' And a lot of times we think that our anger is the righteous anger and it is not.

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What causes anger? Well, sometimes, jealousy. Sometimes we get angry when we are being challenged. Peter denied Christ and, after someone asked him the third time, and he knew he was wrong, he began to swear and to curse. Someone feels like they're unappreciated they can become angry. That's often - several of these reasons I’m giving you all kind of point back to selfishness and pride - when our pride's offended we often get angry - neglect - Potiphar's wife became angry when Joseph would not accept her advances, and she was willing to send him to jail.

Then there's those who the anger doesn't happen all at once but it comes as a result of storing things. They just - they've got this mini storage and some little offense, it's no big deal. They just let it go, but they remember it and they file it and then something else happens and they file it. And you'd never know, but finally they - it's like you get frequent flier miles and then they send you on a free trip after a period of time. You ever meet anyone like that? And some people, things happen and you think, 'Oh, they swallowed it. It's okay' but, no, they didn't. And they'll process it with you later.

But pride is a big problem. 1 Timothy 6:4, "He is proud knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions," - Now what's the fallout of anger? Anger destroys communication, it generates fear, it scars relationships and, if the truth be told, there's a lot of people that are living with anger that is buried in their lives. A lot of marriages have unresolved anger, and so, because there's no forgiveness because of slights or grievances or problems - and they might be justified - at one time it might have been a righteous indignation - but you've never let it go; you've never forgiven, and so you cling to the anger. I've met people who have been angry for years with people who are dead. And you think, 'Boy, that's really sad.' it's like, if I let go of the anger - someone's got to stay angry at them. They're dead. They're in the grave. They don't know it. But they're destroying themselves with their anger.

I read about how costly anger is. There's a professional athlete that made the mistake of hitting his coach and he lost a 32 million dollar contract. Anger's expensive. Some of you remember when Mike Tyson got angry during a boxing match and so, instead of just boxing with Evander Holyfield, he bit off a piece of his ear. Well, you realize he lost millions of dollars. I hope it tasted good because that was the most expensive meal he'd ever bought - millions of dollars from that. And, again, that flight I just mentioned to you over the [Pacific] - $12,000.00 for a blanket. You know, if I was on that plane, I would have said, 'Look, I’ll pay for your blanket. Let's just keep going. Let's take up a collection. How many will give 50 cents for that blanket? (Laughter) and let's just get to [Hawaii].' - and try and calm the guy down, you know.

You know, Moses lost the Promised Land because he lost his temper? And, I suppose, if I had been leading the children of Israel, I probably would have lost it a lot sooner. But Moses had a temper and - you remember, he killed an Egyptian - buried him in the sand at the beginning of the forty years. And then, after - actually, he did that when he was 40 years old - 80 years later he loses his temper again. So you may be thinking, I've got it under control for a while and then you've got to walk with the Lord. Some people say, 'Well, you know, I lose my temper because I’m Spanish' - 'I’m Italian' - 'I’m Irish - I've got red hair' - 'I’m English' - 'I’m German' - you name it, people say, 'Oh, I can't help it because I’m human.' You ever heard that? 'Got it from my mother.' 'Got it from my father.' 'It's in the water.'

We've all got excuses for why we lose our tempers. There is no good excuse because when you lose your temper and when you have a tantrum, you are, as I said, basically giving yourself over to the devil. You're creating a window to do things you'll later regret. A bad temper is a very expensive commodity. Moses was not allowed to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land because he lost his temper and said, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" And then he smote the rock - he began to beat the rock with his staff. God said, 'You did not honor Me before the people. I cannot use you.' He was to be a type of Christ.

Proverbs 25:28, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls." Meaning the devil has access to your life. We need walls. You need self control. Ecclesiastes 7:9, "Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools." And notice how Solomon said that - 'Do not hasten in your spirit.' He doesn't say you should never be angry, but do not hasten to be angry - because anger rests - that means it stays - in the bosom of fools.

Someone said anger will lessen your perceived IQ. Have you ever noticed that the emptier a pot is, the quicker it boils? The more shallow the water in the pot, the quicker it boils. If a person has a little depth, they're usually more controlled. Thomas Kempis said, 'When anger enters the mind, wisdom departs’. Someone else said, 'An angry man is seldom reasonable and a reasonable man is seldom angry.' You've got to be careful, people out there always giving everyone else a piece of their mind - you keep giving away enough pieces of your mind, you have nothing left. Anger will affect your IQ. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'We all boil, just at different degrees.' So you want to be slow.

Anger is bad for your health. A lot of people are very conscious about the health message and they wonder why they're not healthy. It's not because of what you're eating, it's because of what's eating you. And, if we allow ourselves to be eaten up with anger, you can follow the health message, but you're going to be sick. Angry, cynical people die young. This was a study that was done back in 1989, but I think it's still relevant. They tested a variety of men and those who scored high for hostility on the standard tests ended up becoming four times more likely to die prematurely than men whose scores were low. They also took another 27 men in Coral Gables and they studied their heart/blood distribution, and they asked them a bunch of questions and they did physical tests and mental tests and they finally said, 'Think about something that made you really angry that happened.' They measured the heart with all these very sensitive instruments and they discovered that the one thing that affected the distribution of blood from the heart to the tissue the most was when they were thinking angry thoughts. It released chemicals in their body that restricted the blood vessels and affected the flow of the blood. That affects your health.

Living in sustained anger is not good. Ephesians 4:26, " not let the sun go down on your wrath." Now this verse has sometimes been misunderstood. Someone was interviewing an old Texan who'd been married for sixty years and they said, 'To what do you attribute your long and happy marriage?' He said, 'Well, we determined early on never to let the sun go down on our wrath. We wouldn't go to sleep until we resolved our differences.' And he said, 'I have to tell you, there were weeks we didn't sleep.' (Laughter) So it is a good idea to keep short accounts. But, you know, sometimes you'll find, if you do go to sleep, even if you are angry, it goes away in the morning. What you needed was a night's sleep. So, a lot of times, when there's disputes in families or marriages, or whatever it might be, rest on it and things sort themselves out. Sometimes in the morning you get a different perspective and you realize it's not that big a deal.

Don't ever discipline your children in anger. Don't ever lose your temper in front of your children. Three rules for raising children is example, example, example. There was an author for National Geographic, he was writing an article about the Amish people. And, one day, as he was visiting the Amish school, the thing that struck him was that none of the children in the playground ever raised their voices and yelled. They all played in a very kind, cooperative way. And he went to the schoolmaster and he said, 'You know, I don't know if I've ever seen anything like this.' He said, 'I don't ever see any of the Amish children yell at each other.' And the schoolmaster said, 'Have you ever heard Amish adults yelling at each other?' He said, 'No, I haven't.' He says, 'That's why you don't hear Amish children yelling at each other.' Wow. When you see kids going ballistic in public, you wonder what are they seeing at home? Not always, but it makes you wonder. Never discipline your children in anger. Jeremiah 10:24, "O Lord," - the prophet prayed - "correct me, but with justice; not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing." What if God disciplined us in anger? Well, He will, someday, for the lost. And what happens after the wrath of the Lamb? They don't survive. So, if you don't want your heavenly Father to discipline you in anger, you don't want to discipline others in anger.

So what do you do? What are some tips for overcoming inappropriate anger? Because I've told you there's a right time to be angry. Alright, patience - one of the most important things. It says it over and over in the Bible - Proverbs 15:18, "A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention." You notice he says 'slow to anger'. It doesn't say you never have anger.

Again, Proverbs 16:32, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." So you pray for the Spirit of God to give you patience and self-rule. Do you know the phrase 'slow to anger' is mentioned nine times in the Bible? It doesn't say don't be angry, it says 'slow to anger'. You want to make sure that you've got the real reason to be angry. And Abraham Lincoln had an interesting habit: one time his secretary, Stanton, came to him and he was just outraged by something someone else in the government had done and Lincoln said, 'I think you ought to write a letter and tell him exactly how you feel.' So Stanton spent a day and a half writing this letter. He brought it to Lincoln and said, 'So, should I mail it now?' He said, 'No, don't mail it.' He said, 'Throw it away now.' He said, 'You probably already feel much better.' He says, 'Now write one that's discreet and diplomatic.'

Have you ever done that? Someone does something or mistreats you or they do something inconsiderate and you type out an e-mail and there's just smoke coming off the keys, you know? And you have all the right words and you look at it and the longer you look at it you think, 'Well, maybe I ought to change that word.' Well, I don't need that line in there, I’ll delete that one and'. Don't ever send an e-mail when you're angry, because you can't undelete - you can't unsend, you know what I mean? And you send something when your blood's boiling and later you say, 'Oh, I overreacted and now that person will never be a friend again. All I needed to do was think about it a little more.' Write the letter, but use a pencil and paper. Don't do it on your keyboard, you might bump the send button. (Laughter)

James 1:19, "...let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." Pray when you're angry. Sometimes when you're angry you will feel like praying the least but it is when you feel like praying the most. It doesn't help if the person you're angry at - if they're asking you to pray, but you may need to.

Claim the promises of God. The Bible's full of exceeding great and precious promises like Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ" - it's hard to be angry when you realize, 'Hey, Jesus died on a cross for this person's sins. He died on a cross for my sin. What right do I have to be so angry at them?'

You know something that helps me not be angry with people? I hear about folks who say they're angry at God and, if you trust that God is good, you can usually work your way through that. But when you get angry at people - I think about that parable in Matthew 18, of the unmerciful debtor who is forgiven ten thousand talents and God has forgiven us so much that what right do I have for the little offenses that we have with each other?

The other thing that helps me is I remember that the Lord loves everybody and sinners are going to do diabolical things because they're being tempted by the devil. So, if people do devilish things, that's to be expected if they're lost. You've got to love even those people. Jesus said 'Love your enemies' - right? He didn't say 'Be angry at them.' 'Give them a piece of your mind.' "A soft answer turns away wrath" - Proverbs 15:1. There's an interesting example of this in the book of Judges, chapter 8. Gideon, when he was fighting against the Midianites, he did not call the tribe of Ephraim to go with him to battle and they felt left out of the victory. They, on their own, they went out and they fought against the princes of the Midianites and they were going to, now, have a civil war with Gideon. And it says - I’m reading, now, Judges 8:1, "Now the men of Ephraim ...reprimanded him sharply. So he said to them, 'What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?' Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that." He gave them a gentle delicate soft answer and it defused the whole thing that could have turned into a civil war.

Grievous words stir up strife. If you're in an argument with somebody and, even if you're right, you might need to look your eyes down and say, 'You know, I’ll listen to that. I see what you're saying.' And just let a person vent sometimes. Don't feel like you've got to tell them how wrong they are. A soft answer - in marriages - a soft answer turns away wrath. Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Do you realize that the reason that you and I have hope of salvation is because, after the devil did everything he could to get Jesus to react at the cross, through His trial - through His torture - they did everything they could to provoke Christ. You name something that can be done to make a person lose it and Jesus never lost it. Because He did not lose His temper, we can find salvation. And so, He set an example for us. He was thinking about us when He kept His cool. Jesus didn't come to make us stress, He came to give us peace. He says, 'Peace I give to you, not as the world gives, give I unto you.' 'Let not your heart be troubled.' 'Be anxious for nothing.' 'Fear not.' So many times people are angry because they just - they don't have peace. And the Lord is giving you a peace that the world doesn't understand - a peace that passes understanding. I want that peace, don't you?

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