Anger Management

Ephesians 4:26-32

26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

29  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

31  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Be angry…. But do not sin

Hmmmm

Be angry…. But do not sin

Wow! I don’t know about you but that sounds like a toughy for me.

Why does that seem so tough for us? Isn’t it because we equate the emotions have with the actions we take because of that emotion?

One of our favorite family games when I was a young teenager was a game called “Break the Ice”. The game involved probably 25 white plastic blocks all suspended in a frame to look like one big sheet of ice. In center was a little man sitting on a chair. The object of the game was to take a little mallet and knock out a single block without causing the block the little man was on to fall through. (Think cruel Jinga)

The game is vey nerve racking and with each new piece you became convinced it is impossible for the other person to knock out another without drowning the little man. Back and forth you handed that hammer each taking a turn knocking out a new block till finally, CRASH, all of the remaining pieces come down releasing the little man into the imaginary freezing sea. It is one of those wonderful games from the sixties with no winner, but only one loser.

When I was a 13 year old boy my family got evicted from a trailer we lived in because I had trouble disconnecting my emotion from the actions I would take.  I had lost at a game of “Break the Ice”, probably for the third or fourth time and my mature intellectual reaction was to kick a hole in the bottom of a bathroom door. The landlord did not find this to be a fair and reasonable way to deal with my emotions.

My reaction on that occasion was to say, “At least I didn’t hit my sister.”

So that is an example of doing the opposite of what Paul is talking about. Right?  As I played this game with my family I became obsessed with the idea that I knew how to hammer each new block of ice without causing the block of ice the little man was sitting on fall through.  I was angry and I sinned.

So what is the solution?

Bottle it up inside and just let it eat at you?

Paul addresses this one right off the bat.

do not let the sun go down on your anger,

But then he follows it up with a curve ball that may not seem so clear.

and do not make room for the devil.

How to those two things relate to each other?

do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Paul doesn’t skip a beat with these two instructions. It is as if the two were somehow connected. Like going to bed angry would actually make room for the devil.

The first message I brought here at The Crossing spoke of the Devil, Satan, Lucifer… and that message spoke of the fact that all too often the term Devil refers to when Satan specializes in being “the divider”.

Have you ever gone to bed while you were really upset about something?

I have said a time or two here that I am one of those blessed people who generally goes to bed and is out within seconds. DaRhonda (my Wife) jokes sometimes by turning off the light and counting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz.

But when I do have trouble sleeping it is generally because I haven’t resolved something with someone before I got to bed. What happens in my head on those nights could easily be seen as “making room for the Devil”. 

You can almost picture the Devil sitting on the edge of the bed with all sorts of really swell ideas about how and why the problem exists. He seldom has a solution. No, he generally has new and exciting ways that the other person has done me wrong. When he does have a solution it is absurd, cruel, and vengeful… just to name a few.

Someone once called to tell me that they couldn’t tell me who it was that said it, but some people would really rather I wasn’t the Pastor. When I enquired about why well they couldn’t really tell me all of the details about that either. But they did recall that I annoyed this group of people that I preached from both the Old Testament and the New Testament in the same sermon.

This call came, of course, late at night and the stage had been set for an evening of dancing with the Devil.

Well it started simply enough…

·       Why don’t they like me?

·       How can you preach from the New Testament and be complete without ever mentioning the Old Testament prophesies or stories that gave birth to the situation?

·       That’s just because they don’t understand.

·       We’ll learn together

·       Why don’t they like me?

But then it got creative…

·       I’ll bet it’s Mrs. Jones because she looked at me oddly after the service the other day. She won’t talk to my wife.

·       You know Mrs. Smith never has liked me every since I let them paint the fellowship hall Kermit the Frog green.

·       You know this Sunday I need to preach a sermon about the perils of gossip and specifically mention the green fellowship hall gossip as I look at her.

·       Why don’t they like me?

But then he took it up a notch…

·       You know, frankly I should just all other ministries in the Church except those in the green fellowship hall

·       People don’t appreciate what we do anyway.

·       They get mad at me for not shaking their hand and they leave early. What’s up with that?

·       I can spend time with God alone at my house.

·       Who needs this?

·       I could just tell everyone off and…..

·       Why don’t they like me?

Mak’n room for the Devil. Heck, I built him a motor home that night. He had a recliner, an end table, air conditioning, and a big screen TV. He was moved in and I was driving.

So what is the solution…

Don’t answer the phone after 9pm… In most jobs, that might be a great solution. Not Pastor.

Take up cage fighting and take it out on your opponent?

Maybe not for all us…

Paul tells us, but in an odd kind of way. If you aren’t careful you’ll miss it.  Let’s read it again.

Ephesians 4:26-32

26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

29  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

31  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The simplest solution in my case would have been to deal with the issue completely before going to bed.

If I had sat that night and spoken more completely to the person I was talking to I would have at least felt that I got my explanation made to the person who was telling me the issue. But in this case the real source of the problem wasn’t on the phone. So no help.

Was I right to be angry… probably. It was cowardice at best and foolish cowardice at worst to put this person in the middle. But Paul has this to say about the ones who wrong us.

28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

In other words, let the ones who are doing wrong find something better to do. It is not for you to resolve their issues. They need to take care of them.  You will gain nothing by sitting a fretting about how to make them be better people.

28 Thieves must give up stealing

A great deal of being angry, but not sinning comes from the realization that you cannot force anyone to be kind, to stop stealing, to stop gossiping. They must stop. But in the mean time you must let it go and immediately recognize the things you cannot change with that person.

28 Thieves must give up stealing

Next

29  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

31  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

By taking the time to berate the other person and belittle them what have you solved? Generally not the problem.

You see once you begin to tell them how awful they are or how rude they are; their brains shut off.

Believe me when I say they did not come to you to be insulted anymore than you answered the phone to be insulted. So take a breath and count to ten, then think of some way to say something to them that would be useful in building them up. Give grace.

It will be like a sneak attack behind enemy lines. You see they will never see that one coming. Take a second and ask yourself, “what is something I can think of that is good in this person.” Take two minutes if you need to. Ask yourself, “How can I turn this around so that they can see what just happened?”

Here is an example of what I mean.

“Mrs. Jones, I really appreciate that you saw fit to come to me instead of continuing the cycle of letting it go. That took a lot of courage on your part.

How do you feel about the things you just told me? Do you agree? I value your opinion.”

See now one of three things is going to happen here.

They do agree and they will tell you. Now you have a chance to express your side, empty your heart of the issue. You may not agree, but then you will feel you got to explain.  

They will explain that they really don’t agree, but they felt you should know that others are speaking this way. Here is my approach with that…

28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

“Mrs. Jones, do me a favor. If these people have an issue and you do not agree, tell them they need to tell me. If they won’t then they will just have to have the problem. If they get you to do their bidding then they have made you carry their garbage with all of the stink. Even though you did not make the mess.”

28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Finally Paul tells us to meet these situations this way.

32  be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

The times I have found that I have done my best with these situations are the times when I can walk away, count to ten, say a prayer… But then find a way to address the person as if they were a wounded child of God.

God stooped to us and met us where we were. Here on earth. God’s expectation of you was not that he would never be angry with you, but that he would have to forgive you. He knew it from the begin of your existence. He didn’t for one moment believe that you wouldn’t hurt His feelings. He knew from the start that He would have to help you live up to your potential .

Take a minute (two if necessary) and ask, “How can I build this person up?”

Having done so will give you the gresst nightd sleep and may create a strong freindship.

Destroying them will only leave you back on the dance floor with the Devil as  he shows you what you did wrong. Because you see first he teaches you to dance and then he makes fun of you for dancing that way.

31  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

 

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About toddcbrown

The body of Christ will never grow if the Pastor is the one using his gifts to MAKE IT grow through some cool program or inspiring turn of a phrase.
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