Pastor Edward Brouwer October 7, 2018 “Dealing with Anger” James 1:19-27
Dealing with Anger
When I was a kid I used to hike along the river’s edge in Red Deer and spend hours fishing, hurling flat stones onto the water’s surface and count the number of times I was able to skip the stone. One day I was walking along the bank and noticed something in the shallow water. I pulled at it and out came an old style hatchet. I still have it. It’s a little weird but it’s travelled with me to many places in the world. Maybe it’s an object lesson for me. What’s the purpose of an ax? To bust wood or shape wood for building purposes. When an ax head is not properly secured on the shaft it’s a dangerous thing, we call that flying off the handle. That’s a metaphor for anger that is not properly controlled. Are you ever angry? Welcome to humanity! Everyone deals with anger. Today James gives us some solid advice about anger.
Read James 1:19-27
What if I told you I had a solution to your anger? You’d probably smile and say one of two things: what kind of snake oil are you peddling today preacher? Or “okay, I am mildly interested: I’ll bite”. Today’s message deals with the ABC’s of anger. I’ll talk about what makes us angry. Becoming more like Jesus in our anger. And finally the cure for the anger problem.
Angry Much? What makes you angry? Where you angry watching the Senate confirmation hearings the past few weeks? Does your spouse ever make you angry? Something they said or did that makes your blood boil? How about the idiot in the car that just cut you off? Our problem is that our anger leads us to sin! (I’m going to make your life miserable, I’m going to get even with you!) James gives us some great advice and a caution about anger. Dear Christian, he writes, we should all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. We’ve all heard the saying about why God gave us two ears and one mouth: that we would listen twice as much as we talk. James is not saying “don’t ever become angry”, he’s saying don’t fly off the handle, because human wisdom does not accomplish the righteousness of God. This resonates. Think about all the times you get mad. If we’re really honest, most often it is not righteousness that we are promoting, but rather our own agenda. At the root of anger is the human desire to have things our way. When our will is thwarted that is typically when we get mad. You want to know why you have an anger problem? Well it’s because our will is not conformed to the will of Christ. Am I saying that anger is always wrong? No. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:6 “be angry but do not sin”. Anger often is an involuntary response to a situation. It’s kind of a self-defense mechanism, we get an adrenaline rush and we are ready to fight or flee. So it’s what you do in the instant after you “blow your stack” that will result in sin or not. Anger can lead to hate filled words or even murder. The story of Cain and Abel is the classic example: “Cain you’re mad about this thing and sin is crouching at the door of your heart and wants to master you BUT you must master it!” Cain fails and in his anger he murders his innocent brother Abel. The fallen human condition is that we get angry and we sin. But is it then ever okay to be angry? I’m going to say that most of the time our anger is bad, but sometimes there is good anger. Let’s look at the second step, the B, becoming like Jesus in our anger.
Jesus became angry himself. Mark 3:5 gives a specific time when Jesus became angry. He was angry at the hardness of heart of the religious leaders. He was deeply distressed about what sticklers they were for the law but had no compassion. This man with a lame arm had come to Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, which according to the Pharisees was strictlyverboten by the law. Jesus said “what does the law really say? Is the Sabbath a day to do good? To save life? Well then I choose to do good and heal on this day! Jesus had come to do the work of the Father and the will of the Father. So when the work and will of God is thwarted then it’s okay to be angry. But notice Jesus’ anger has a proper focus (the hypocrisy of the leaders) a proper motivation (to do the true will of God) a proper control (he doesn’t call down fire on them!) and aproper result (Jesus uses His divine power to heal). You want to be angry and not sin? Then do it Jesus’ way.
Another example, recorded in all 4 gospels is Jesus’ anger on the temple Mount. The religious leaders, out of convenience for the many Jewish travellers, had put stalls and money change booths on the periphery of the Temple Court. But it just so happened that this outer court was the Court of the gentiles, where God fearing non Jews could come to worship and pray. Jesus, full of zeal for the Lord’s house overturned the tables and drove out the cattle, sheep and dove peddlers, and probably yelling at the top of his lungs: “My House shall be a house of prayer for ALL nations! But you have made it a den of robbers. Two sins were being committed here by the authorities: preventing gentiles from having a meaningful spiritual encounter with the God of Israel, and extorting the international Jewish community by forcing them to exchange their Roman coins for Temple currency at an exorbitant rate, and then providing the “convenience” of sacrificial animals for sale on site (so travellers didn’t have to bring their own animals—but this convenience came with a hefty price). Again Jesus’ anger has a proper focus (fixing a problem), has a proper motivation (zeal for God’s house), proper control(the whip he fashions is directed at the vendors) and proper results (freedom for worshippers to truly worship God). Let’s become like Jesus—but the gospel is NOT simply pointing to Jesus as an example. The gospel deals with the root of our anger problem—there is sin in our hearts and in this world. And so the final letter in the ABC’s of anger is CURE.
Curing the anger problem. Jesus died for your anger because Jesus died for our sin. The Bible says that in our rebellion, in our selfish way of doing things–our way apart from God–we wreck all kind of havoc in God’s beautiful world. And He is angry about that! And rightfully so. Murder, stealing, lying. All this makes God angry. And because of that we are objects of God’s anger. Ephesians 2:3 says basically we were doing things our way and not God’s way and so by the very nature of things we were children of wrath. But in God’s kindness he forgave us. That’s called expiation: God clears us of our guilt and declares us his children. But that came at an awful price because sin is not simply dealt with by sweeping it under the rug. Sin must be atoned for, paid for. A wrong is made right because a penalty is paid. And that is what God did in Christ. Christ became sin, all of our sin was placed on him, the sacrificial lamb of God; that’s propitiation. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, the atoning sacrifice. Expiation is what God did for us in reconciling us to himself. Propitiation is what He did for Himself in Christ by paying the price himself for our sin. James says don’t be forgetful like the person looking in a mirror and when he turns away he forgets what he looks like. We look into the Perfect Law, and Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, we are looking into Jesus face and we can never forget His amazing love for us. This love now compels us to serve Him. God asks that we use our passion (yes even our anger) in a channeled way through our speech and our actions of caring for victims of injustice (widows and orphans), for healing and for grace. Use your words and actions to reflect Jesus to all you meet this week, and be especially aware of those He brings across you path that are the least, the last, the lost and the lonely.