************ Sermon on Ephesians 4:26 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 20, 2003
"The Wrong Anger in the Home"
Mary was irritated. The broken iron still sat on the workbench. Exasperation was evident in her voice when she needled her husband Bill, "Why haven't you fixed it yet?" The bitter tape began to play in his head, "She always find something to pick at!" Bill could feel the anger welling up inside. He tried to stuff it back in, but it exploded in cruel words designed to hurt Mary as badly as he had been hurt. A few minutes later the fight was over -- another in a long guilt-filled series that cripples their Christian life. The words of James 1:20 haunted both -- "man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." They apologized, prayed, hugged, and promised never to be angry again. But they both knew they would be again anyway.Does this sound familiar?
Instead of a broken iron we can mention an uncleaned house, a flat tire, the garbage piled up in the garage for 4 straight weeks, the negative balance in the check book. Does it sound familiar now?
Scenes like the one between Mary and Bill are common, as are their guilt and confusion about anger. Rare is the home that does not hear the raised voices and slammed doors of an argument. Rare is the home that knows nothing but peace and tranquility. Rare is the home in which feathers are not ruffled and tempers are not aggravated.
I remember the time I was at Promise Keepers. The speaker was talking about anger in the home. He told us that most men struggle with anger. To prove his point, he asked all of us men to gather together in groups of 4 or 5 and tell the other men who we were angry with and why. The first man in our group told us he was mad with his wife, his mother-in-law, and his secretary. The second man said he was mad at his wife and his mother. The third man said he was mad at his wife, his mother, his mother-in-law, his daughter, and his secretary. And then they all looked at me. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and said I couldn't think of anyone I was mad at. They all looked at me like I came from Mars, or something.
The point: anger in the home is far more common than we think. Maybe it is a problem in many homes here.
For the sake of our homes and marriages and children we need to know what the Bible says about anger. And, we need to know what the Bible says about the proper way of dealing with anger.
I Is Anger a Sin?
A Bill and Mary and many other Christians believe that having angry feelings is a sin. They look at what is written by James and Paul:
(Eph 4:31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.These passages weigh heavily on their minds. Many godly people feel guilty when they experience anger; they believe they are acting un-Christ like. So they develop methods of avoiding anger or they deny it and push it away when it comes.
(James 1:20) for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Sadly, they are wrong. They are wrong in how they deal with their anger. They are wrong in believing anger is a sin. In our text Paul says, "In your anger do not sin." In other words, it is possible to be angry without committing a sin.
B Anger is an emotion that appears often in the Bible. It is frequently equivalent to wrath, and the person most often described as angry is God Himself. Through the prophet Ezekiel God says,
(Ezek 16:26) You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and provoked me to anger with your increasing promiscuity.And the Gospel writer Mark has this to say about Jesus:
(Mk 3:5) He looked around at them in anger ... deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts ...
God has anger. Jesus has anger. We are made to image God and are being progressively conformed to the image of His Son. Imaging God includes having anger. Our task as Christian husbands and fathers, as Christian wives and mothers, as Christian children and sisters and brothers, is NOT to rid ourselves of all anger, but to have appropriate anger in a godly way. Says Paul, "In your anger do not sin." It is worth asking what God's anger is like and how we are to image it.
C A study of the Bible shows that God's anger is, first of all, situation specific. God's anger is not impulsive or accidental. It is a response to a specific offense. So, for instance, God became angry when Israel made and worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32). He became angry when 10 of the spies gave a bad report on the Promised Land and the people rebelled (Num 13 & 14). He became angry when Balaam went with Balak in order to curse Israel (Num 22:22). He became angry when Israel joined the Moabite women in worshiping the Baal of Peor (Num 25:3). He became angry when the Reubenites and Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh decided they wanted to stay with their flocks on the east side of the Jordan rather than settle in the Promised Land (Num 32).
In each and every instance, God announces that he is angry, why He is angry, and what He is going to do about it. God is not angry in general or all the time. His anger is not triggered by a trivial act as ours often is. He does not misdirect His anger as we commonly and sinfully do.
Second, God's anger at times is intense. Sometimes it is said to "burn" (Ex 32:10-11; Deut 6:15; 7:4; 11:17). In His anger Jesus was deeply distressed by the attitude of the people in the synagogue (Mk 3:5). We also can suffer intense anger. I think of the anger of abuse victims or of those who have been raped or of those who have been betrayed. It is not wrong to have these intense feelings.
Third, God's anger is not uncontrolled rage or malice. When they think of anger, many Christian think of out-of-control rage or the bitter, nursed resentment of malice.
Topic: AngerBill, in my opening illustration, has an anger that is out of control and impulsive. His goal is to hurt. God calls us to the hard task of putting away such anger:
Subtopic: Of Man
The great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was legendary for his fits of rage. The librarian of one of Toscanini's orchestras was particularly vexed by the maestro's habit of throwing valuable musical scores at the musicians when angry. Watching closely, the librarian observed that Toscanini's first act when enraged was to take his baton in both hands and try to break it. If the baton snapped, Toscanini usually calmed down and rehearsal continued. If the baton did not break, he began hurling scores. The librarian's solution? He made sure the conductor had a generous supply of flimsy batons on hand for rehearsal!
(Eph 4:31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
(Col 3:8) But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
(cf.. 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; Tit 3:3)
Fourth, God's anger is slow to develop. In more than one place the Old Testament celebrates God's slowness to anger:
(Ex 34:6) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,God is NOT a powder keg like Bill. His anger does not get thrown upon innocent parties. We are to follow God's slowness to anger. Being slow to anger is a mark of spiritual maturity. Love, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, "is not easily angered" (vs 5).
(Cf. Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; Ps 103:8; Ps 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nah 1:3)
Topic: AngerWhat a sad way for a useful life to end – but Hunter's story is only one in a long litany of lives marred by sudden anger.
Subtopic: Of Man
The 18th-century British physician John Hunter, who was a pioneer in the field of surgery and served as surgeon to King George III, suffered from angina. Discovering that his attacks were often brought on by anger, Hunter lamented, "My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion." These words proved prophetic, for at a meeting of the board of St. George's Hospital in London, Hunter got into a heated argument with other board members, walked out, and dropped dead in the next room.
Finally, God's anger is eventually replaced by kindness and compassion toward His people. In other words, anger is limited – it has its place, time, and goal. Says the psalmist:
(Ps 30:5) For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.God is not stuck in His anger like we often are.
I have worked with more than one victim of sexual or physical abuse. This is a horrendous sin and those who are abusers are very sick and need professional help and much prayer. I have noticed, however, that sometimes the victims hang on to their anger, they nurse it along, and they become consumed with a burning hatred for the person who victimized them. They need much support and prayer so that their anger, like God's, is replaced with kindness and compassion.
II Three Kinds of Anger
A In our Scripture reading Paul talks about three different kinds of anger. He talks about anger, an angry mood, and malice.
First, he says, "In your anger do not sin." It is possible to be angry without sinning. Although many have been taught that all anger is wrong, the Bible is clear that God experiences this emotion, and it is permissible for us to have it too. Paul assumes that there will be times that we are angry and instructs us not to sin when we are. Christian are not called to deny their emotions but to manage or control them.
The book of Proverbs has much to say about fools. In more than one place it talks about an angry fool:
(Prov 29:11) A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
(Prov 29:22) An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
Children have poor anger control. When a two-year-old feels anger, he immediately acts, perhaps by biting a sibling or, like our Joshua did once, by pulling out mommy's flowers. Adults may be angry too, but they learn the difficult task of managing it. If they haven't, they are immature and are like little children.
B Second, Paul tells us not to hold on to our angry mood. He says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." His point is that we need to recognize when we are upset and hurt and we need to deal with the source or cause as soon as possible, preferably within a day. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says love "keeps no record of wrongs ..." (1 Cor 13:5). In other words, we need to let go of our anger. Unlike Bill at the start of my sermon, we can't have old tapes and wounds intruding on our minds. We can't keep bringing up the past.
C Third, we learn that Christian maturity forgives, and replaces hostility and malice with kind thoughts and actions. Paul says,
(Eph 4:31-32) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.We must put away nursed anger and malice.
Research has shown that properly managed anger can motivate us to fight injustice and evil. At the same time, anger that is not managed well becomes toxic and sinful. According to Dr. Redford B. Williams,
Topic: AngerNo question about it, improper anger is hurtful to the heart both physically and spiritually.
Subtopic: Of Man
Angry and cynical people are five times as likely to die before they reach age 50 than those who are more calm and trusting. Angry people are involved in many hassles in their lives. This negative arousal may cause an un-healthy increase in blood pressure and eventual damage to the heart.
Paul commands us to forgive as God forgives. When God forgives, He knows exactly what he is angry about. He does not mince words in condemning wrong and evil. And, in the case of His children, He punishes it upon the cross. When God forgives, He satisfies justice and moves on to mercy and restoration.
We, too, must face wrong before we can forgive it. When we are rightly angry we can and should identify what wrong has been done. We don't ignore the wrong. But we also give up our claim to vengeance – that belongs to God, and He will deal with it. Like God, we are to move on to mercy and restoration.
Our task as Christian husbands and fathers, Christian mothers and wives, Christians children and siblings is NOT to rid ourselves of all anger; rather, we need to have appropriate anger in a godly way.
There is only one place where we can find the power and the will to do this: from the Lord and His Spirit. God's grace must work in us before we can have appropriate anger in a godly way. Paul understood this for he could say, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13). And, so can you and I.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page