I recently recorded a sermon on the topic of anger and during the service the camera stopped working. Do you know how angry that made me!? It was frustrating. I wanted to smash that stupid camera, which is kind of the opposite of what I was trying to preach.
Now that sounds almost comical, but really this is an important topic—anger—and so I want to repeat my message here. Let’s hope there are no technological hiccups and you can read this!
We’ve all been in aggravating situations when we haven’t known what to do with our anger. Right? Fury consumes us and there’s no reasonable outlet for our violent, intense feelings.
Paul addressed this kind of passion in Ephesians when he wrote,
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
What a scripture for the divided, angry world in which you and I live. Politics has never been pretty, but now it’s downright ugly. Racism is directed toward black people, brown people, and Asian-American citizens. Opinions are quickly denounced as hate. As a nation we seem to be drifting apart.
And it goes beyond politics. The media reports incidents of road rage, airplane rage, biker rage, grocery store rage, and people attacking clerks at fast food restaurants like it is entertainment. It seems some people have been cooped up so long that they don’t know how to act in public.
This has led some to say that the United States is in the middle of an epidemic. Oh you knew that? Well this is an anger epidemic, not the coronavirus one.
How about you? Are you angry? I’d be surprised if you never are, because we are all broken. We all get angry. Knowing this helps us step back from what we think are the issues—a malfunctioning technology, or politics, or a traffic incident—to get at our spiritual condition, which underpins an anger epidemic that leaves social scientists (and any parent who looks at the world our kids will inherit) concerned about a cultural breakdown.
When we worry about things like this, it can help to talk to a pastor. It can even help a pastor to talk to a pastor. I was talking with Pastor Jason about what Paul says in Ephesians and his take (which I agree with) is that we have become self-centered and not Christ-centered. We see this even from some churches who claim to want to follow Jesus, but really want to lead our culture. Lead, not follow.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”
Following God’s example is the answer to bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander. Remembering how God accepts and forgives us when we do wrong is the surest way to let go of our anger.
When we accepted Christ, we did not become endowed with a super power. Instead, we recognized our powerlessness and invited God to transform us from the inside out. God does that; we don’t. Of course, being human we slip back into Christless behavior. We want to fix things ourselves rather than wait to be fixed. But the more we grow in Christ, the quicker we realize our powerlessness and make amends. The quicker we let our anger go.
When I was a young man still living at home, I had an ugly confrontation with my father (who was also a pastor, if you’re keeping score). I came home late one night and at this point in my life I had an attitude problem and an anger problem. I’m not sure what set me off but I drew my fist back to strike at my dad.
Have you ever had an epiphany, a sudden realization—a light bulb going off in your head? I had one at that moment when Dad just reached out and closed his hand over my fist. I thought I was dead meat. But dad just said, “You need to go to bed.” He never brought the incident up again and that was the last time I lost my temper to that degree. I still get mad now and again, but once I realize what is going on in my head I turn to God in prayer. My father closed his hand over my fist and taught me anger management that day.
If you ever cross the line and let bitterness, rage and anger enter your life, I pray you feel your Father’s hand close around your feelings.
We know passionate emotions can be dangerous to our well-being and to the well-being of those around us. We need to pray for the ability to follow God’s example. Show kindness rather than anger, love rather than hate, forgiveness rather than bitterness.
“Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us.”
Pastor Steve Hall