So, when was the last time you got angry? Be honest. Was it yesterday? A few days ago? This morning? Now? Do you remember what set you off? Maybe it was a family member getting in your space? Or someone at school or work mistreating you? Was it something monumental, like the injustice of human trafficking? Or was it something kind of minor, like the injustice of that guy cutting you off in traffic? Are you the kind of person who loses their cool easily, or does it take a lot to push your buttons? What are you like when it comes to anger? Share with each other some of your answers to these questions.
Anger is one of those weird emotions. I’d certainly categorize it as a negative emotion, and yet, often, getting angry feels pretty good. Blowing up at someone can have the give the same satisfaction as scratching an itch. And once you do that, it becomes almost addictive. We feel “right” being angry, so we stoke those embers and keep that grudge smoldering for a good long while. Right? Where does anger fir in the Christian experience?
Over the next several weeks, we will hear Jesus address some hot topics we wrestle with in discipleship, starting with the issue of anger. Read Matthew 5:21-26 together.
I love that Jesus starts with murder. The sixth commandment is often our go-to standard for “acceptable” living. “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone, so I can’t be that bad.” Seriously, is that really the rule we want to measure ourselves with—as long as you’re not homicidal, you’re ok? This is the point where Jesus calls us to start living on a higher plane than what has become the standard rule of thumb. It’s not just about managing any murderous tendencies, it’s about managing the root cause of those feelings: anger.
Now Jesus does not say we should never experience anger. Certain things should anger us, like sin or injustice. But Jesus points out that what we need to be wary of is anger fostered in or harbored for people in our lives, in particular our brothers and sisters in faith. Yes, sometimes someone does something that gets under your skin. What we want to do in those situations is deal with the emotions. Unprocessed anger is a lot like moisture in an enclosed space. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s just water—give it time and it will evaporate, no problem. Wrong! Water in an enclosed space becomes the perfect home for mold and mildew. Just leave a damp washcloth in a Ziploc bag for a couple of days and you’ll smell what I mean. At first glance, anger doesn't seem like any big deal. It’ll die down after a bit, right? Wrong! If we don’t deal with our anger, if we don’t bring it out into the open and talk about what’s going on, it becomes the perfect home for bitterness, resentment and sin.
Jesus witnessed so much sin and injustice around Him, and yet what He modeled was not fierce anger over and over, but honesty led with love. He didn’t hold on to grudges or pop off at anyone who crossed His path. He valued the other person and their relationship more than any indignations He may have felt. Jesus chose to confront the sins He saw openly and with a desire for healing and repentance, not punishment or vengeance. That’s our model, friends.
So where’s your anger at today? Are you dealing with some unresolved issues? Is there someone (or a couple of someone’s) who have been living in your angry crosshairs lately? If so, now’s the time to deal with it. It could be you need to have a chat and talk about some things, bring the source of your anger out into the open. Maybe you just need to let go and move on. Perhaps you’re not the angry one but the one who has caused anger in someone else. These verses tell us that if someone else is angry and keeping it confined, we should go and start the conversation to bring the issue to light. Take some time to talk about your “anger issues” with each other and brainstorm ways you can begin to follow Jesus’ lead in keeping anger at bay in our lives and in our hearts.
Thank you, God, for loving us. When we look around and see all of the sin and disobedience in the world, we would understand if you had a holy tantrum. Yet, your choose to love us. Help Guide us to lead with love, to open up in honesty, and to give grace. Give us the courage to let go of our anger and lead with love. In Your Holy Name we pray, Amen.
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