The Great Adventure – Wrath (Anger)
Seven Deadly Sins
February 25, 2018
There’s nothing like watching a sporting event and seeing an athlete or a coach go ballistic. Whether they’re throwing chairs, throwing bases, or helmets, it’s actually appalling, but deep down it’s kind of funny watching others get crazy angry.
And that’s our topic . . . ANGER! We’re looking at the Seven Deadly Sins as we’re looking at ways to draw closer to God and determine what’s the antidote to those sins. Most of the sins on that list aren’t quite so obvious. We don’t always see envy or slothfulness, we don’t see the greed . . . but we do see the anger. It’s the most obvious of the deadly sins. Now, if we’re really good, we can hide anger in our hearts, but that eats away at us until we explode in a rage.
I’m sure most of you can remember times when your anger got a little bit out of control. Maybe you said something, or shouted something you could never take back. Maybe you broke something. Or maybe even you hurt yourself! Anger can be tremendously destructive.
Yet, here’s the thing about anger . . . too many people say, ‘oh, I can’t be angry, that’s wrong.’ Well, that’s wrong, because it’s ok to get angry. In fact, of the 7 deadly sins,
PRIDE LUST ENVY GREED GLUTTONY SLOTH
Only anger or wrath, can be a virtue. None of the other 6 have any good in them. In fact, it’s the only one of the seven that we can legitimately say is found in God. God may be “slow to anger,” but even God gets there sometimes.
As we look at ANGER, it’s also the only one of the 7 that must be managed. We want to get rid of the other 6, but anger can be good. Sometimes, we need to get angry. It’s a real emotion given to us by God.
As we move through this series, our desire is to better understand the sin, to ask God to help us, to heal us and strengthen us from the inside out . . . and then to grow closer to God at the same time.
Thus far, we’ve looked at pride, whose antidote is humility / humbleness; and lust, and the way to bring healing is through contentment.
So, let’s take a look at anger!
The first case of anger occurred in Genesis – – with the first family. It was 2 brothers, Cain and Abel.
Let’s look at Genesis 4:2-5 ~
2 Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,
4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.
And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,
5 but for Cain and his offering He had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
Anger is a natural human emotion. Something happened Cain didn’t like, and he became angry.
Verse 5 tells us he was angry and his face fell . . . or was sad and downcast. We’re emotional beings, when we’re happy and times are good, we smile and jump for joy. When we’re sad, we cry and become discouraged. When we’re angry, we may yell and scream, sulk and become withdrawn. Remember, emotions are from God. They are to be a good thing. My hope is that we would express our emotions in a way which brings glory to God.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 ~
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and give no opportunity to the devil. – Ephesians 4:26-27
Did you see what Paul said? He said BE ANGRY . . . but do not sin! How about that? Be angry, but in your anger don’t be sinful. Don’t explode, don’t be a volcano. And, when you’re angry, if possible, don’t go to sleep without a resolution. There have been times, I can’t imagine why . . . that Debbie hasn’t been overly thrilled with me. And there’s nothing worse than trying to go to sleep when the person next to you is angry at you! I’ve never had a good sleep that way!
And you see when you do go to sleep angry, and are ok with it, then the next time – – you know what? It’s even easier. And that causes division and separation in the marriage, it causes separation in our relationships. Sometimes, it’s ok to go to sleep without resolution, but it’s helpful to admit you’re angry and maybe need a night to sleep so you can think and feel more clearly the next day. Sometimes wisdom comes with a little time and what seemed so terrible, isn’t as bad as we first imagined.
So, Paul acknowledges there are times we will feel angry. And that is not sinful, it’s OK to be angry, it’s what we do with that anger which can be sinful and destructive
We become angry when things don’t work out the way we think they’re supposed to. When we have to wait for someone, when there is a long line, when we’re betrayed, when our kids disobey us, when a coworker doesn’t do their job, when we see injustices around us. Those are all legitimate things to be angry about. Something’s wrong and anger comes from our feelings of justice, our sense of right and wrong.
Of course, sometimes that sense of justice gets skewed by our self-centeredness: by what feels right or wrong to us. When we have to wait more than 30 seconds in line at Starbucks or the food is slower to arrive at a restaurant. Sometimes our anger is an indication that something is wrong with us.
In this case, Cain was angry because his brother’s offering was accepted, and his wasn’t. That didn’t seem right to him, so he became angry. We’re not told exactly why it wasn’t accepted. Maybe because it was a grain offering instead of a blood offering. Maybe because it wasn’t a first fruits offering, like Abel’s was. Maybe there was nothing wrong with the offering itself, but rather with Cain’s heart. Maybe he brought it begrudgingly rather than gratefully. We don’t know. And Cain didn’t know. But his anger got the best of him.
When we become angry, it can be like a warning light on the dashboard of your vehicle – – It tells you something’s wrong, that something’s not working the way it’s supposed to. You may not know what it is right away, but you’d better find out and get it fixed before something bad happens. Anger is a signal that something is not right — again, it doesn’t mean it’s bad anger, it means something is not right.
Let me tell you something which may be surprising. When we become angry, we’re presented with an opportunity to do something good. We determine the next action, which makes anger good or bad.
Look at what happened in the next passage, in Genesis 4:6-7 ~
6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.
Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:6-7
Look at what God was doing for Cain. Cain didn’t recognize his own anger. God called him out on it. God said, ‘hey man, what’s up? What are you angry?’ God was telling him, ‘don’t let anger get you, I can help you. Don’t let it control you, you control it.’ It all sounds great. Again, anger is a sign something’s wrong, and something was wrong here, but Cain didn’t want to hear it.
How did Cain respond to God’s words of encouragement and offer of help?
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field,
Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. – Genesis 4:8
Unfortunately, too often our anger leads us to do things which are wrong. And when this happens too many people become hurt.
Cain knew something was wrong. His emotions told him. He was angry and dejected. God spoke to him about it. But instead of learning what was wrong, Cain wanted the problem to go away. He felt the problem was Abel, and not himself. Had Abel done anything wrong? No! He simply gave an offering to God. Cain’s problem wasn’t with his brother; it was with God. But instead of directing his anger at God, he directed it at his brother and killed him. And killing his brother didn’t anything! It increased the pain and heartache. His brother was dead. His parents were grieving. He was guilty, afraid and more isolated than ever. Cain’s anger didn’t accomplish anything good.
I want to add this final thought before we move to what I would say is the antidote.
Most people don’t like to deal with anger. It’s been said, when people are angry, they either become raging bulls or porcupines. The raging bull becomes aggressive and wants to control the situation by yelling and making sure everyone knows they are angry. That’s how they get what they want.
Many are like porcupines, they’re more passive. When they’re attacked, they tend to curl up in a ball and put out their prickly quills. Sometimes that’s where we see passive aggressive behavior, which is also destructive.
Some of us are combinations. I grew up in an angry house! My father was the controller. He was the angry one. Yelling and all of that went on. My purpose in saying that is how it affects the children. My mom was the porcupine. My sisters and I become combinations of both. Because of all the anger, we became angry and let it fly.
As I got older, I’m talking my 30’s – 40’s, I finally realized that anger can be good and conflict and confrontation, which I always thought were bad, could actually be a good thing. Anger could be a good thing, it’s how you dealt with it in any given situation. So, parents, please understand your children are watching and learning from you.
Anger becomes sinful when it’s hurtful and misdirected. Cain was angry with God, but he took it out on Abel. When you get mad at the waitress because your steak is overdone, when you yell at your kids because you had a bad day at work, when you punish yourself for something someone else did, that’s misdirected anger.
NOW, let’s move on to the resolution, the cure ~
To start this movement – – let’s look at James 1:19-20 ~
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
I believe the way to move beyond destructive or unhealthy anger is a combination of righteousness and peace.
God told Cain ~
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. – Genesis 4:7
The word in Hebrew for well is GOOD / RIGHT! Isn’t that what God wants from us? To do good, to do right, so that we would always bring honor and glory to Him.
It’s what James was getting at in verse 20, our anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God wants in us. Because we display it in wrong ways.
Righteousness is about living life the right way. When we live a righteous life, it means God approves of the way you are living.
Righteous anger is about putting things right and putting relationships right. It’s about being angry in the right way, with the right person, at the right time, for the right reason.
So, how do you get from anger to righteousness? How do you know the right thing to say or do when you’re angry? Where do you find the strength? I’d like to suggest that the antidote to sinful anger is prayer.
That prayer is not, Lord help me not be angry. It’s Lord, help me to display my anger in a way which honors you. Lord, I’m so angry at . . . myself, my spouse, my sibling, my child, my friend, whomever it is. Tell God how you feel. Tell Him you’re furious! It’s OK!! Tell God how you are feeling. He knows you’re angry, so don’t think you’re hiding it from Him.
Many of the prophets expressed anger. They expressed frustration at their circumstances and even questioned God’s presence in the midst of their situation.
In Psalm 10, we read ~
1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; – Psalm 10
In Psalm 44 ~
9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. – Psalm 44
And in Psalm 77 ~
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
8 Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” – Psalm 77
Those are powerful passages. It’s one of the beauties of the Bible. There’s this honest rawness which God embraces. He already knows how we feel, so why hide our anger, our frustration, our confusion. That’s part of the power of prayer.
I could be here for an hour talking about God’s responses, but I want you to read these Psalms and see that the Psalmist doesn’t end there. In the end, they claim God is there, always was and will be there for them. It’s part of their journey as they move through the not so good, so they can get to the good. We don’t like to go through bad to realize the good, but often times that’s the only way we learn and grow and experience the power of God.
God will not let you stay in that place of anger. He hears you, listens and then will help you get to a better place. It’s not always the way you would want. It’s not necessarily that snap your fingers, or click your heels and you are transported home.
Righteous anger is using anger for good. We have great examples in the past week of students who want to be protected in their schools, who are wanting safety. I’m not hear to talk about gun control, but about the reactions from many of those who have been impacted. They are using their anger to try to have something good happen. That’s appropriate use of righteous anger. Again, righteous anger is when we try to bring honor and glory to God through our anger. MADD’s start!
Jesus did it when confronted by the Pharisees when they continually questioned Him. He tried to help them understand who He was, but they didn’t get it. When the moneychangers were in the Temple, Jesus became angry as they were desecrating the Temple.
The other way to move forward when angry is contained in the prayer process. It’s what Paul said in Philippians 4 ~
5 The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:5-7
This isn’t always easy, is it? But Paul offers us a great prescription for anger so that we could experience God’s peace. He reminds us God is at hand. God is near! It’s the same image as draw near to God. Trust and believe God is with you.
Now, through prayer and supplication. Which means to humbly and earnestly ask God for something. So, pray humbly and openly to God, be thankful, find a reason to give thanks, make your requests known to God. Tell God what’s going on, tell Him what you want. Be proactive. Don’t just pray once and be done. If you do, are you really that serious about it? Pound down the doors of heaven with your prayers.
And something amazing can happen. The peace of God which is incomprehensible. And many of you have experienced it and told me about it . . . that peace is available and that peace will guard your hearts and your minds. And the image in Greek of the word GUARD is that of a military guard. An MP officer on duty 24/7 . . . guarding your heart, guarding your mind, so that you could experience the power and presence of the peace of God.
I don’t know if you’re a raging bull or a porcupine. What I do know, is that you are going to become angry. And what you do with that anger will impact you and everyone else around you. You can choose how you display anger. That choice is always yours. It can be destructive or constructive, where the anger is used to create good. Righteous anger, healthy anger will honor God. Pray about what’s going on in your heart and spirit. Be honest and be open to experience his power to bring healing and wholeness.