Blowing Up My Anger

 

by Taylor Bacon – High School Pastor

An article about anger? Will this be a clever spin about how Jesus displayed righteous anger and how we can too? No, not this time. Will this be an edgy take on how my anger should be shown in a godly way in our increasingly tense, overly political culture? Not today. 

While I think both of these things are important, I believe that our most urgent and essential need is to look at our own anger and confront it. 

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The Anger Problem

We can get angry pretty easily. And in the moment, it seems like there isn't much we can do about it. We may recognize it's a problem; we may even occasionally repent of it to God and those it affects. But is that all that can be done?

If we're living in the freedom of Christ and by power of His Holy Spirit, there is more that can be done. God not only desires greater victory over this issue of anger in our lives, but he offers us a clear path on how to get there. 

Maybe there are specific issues, people, times, and places that seem to cause anger to well up within your heart and you feel like the only way to prevent it is to avoid the causes. I've heard a pastor say it like this before - "Other people may occasion our anger, but they don't cause our anger." This is because ultimately the cause of my anger is me. We care much more about satisfying our desires and it ticks us off when things get in the way of it. Essentially, we care about building our own kingdom more than anything else. 

Let's take a look at God's Word and allow it to confront the anger in our hearts and offer an opportunity to blow up our anger rather than letting anger blow up in us. 

James 1:19-21
[19] This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; [20] for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. [21] Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 

James says that the attitude of someone not controlled by anger is a person who is "quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger." I want that to be true of me. If that's the heart of someone not controlled by anger, then what would be the attitude of someone controlled by anger? We can probably just take verse nineteen and flip everything. It might look like this: someone who is controlled by anger is, "slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger."

The Bricks That Build My Kingdom

We can look at these attitudes (slow to listen, quick to talk, quick to anger) as the 'bricks' we use when building your kingdom. In the process of building up our kingdom with these bricks, we wreak havoc on everything in our way. When I think about our anger this way, I can't help but think of the Empire's Death Star from Star Wars. The Death Star was a spacecraft the size of a planet constructed to advance the evil Empire and its purposes. It would completely obliterate anything standing in its way. While we may not live in space or possess the power of the force, I think this is the perfect way to explain my anger problem. I am set on a path that benefits me and am willing to blow up at whatever stands in the way of what I want. 

Now you may be thinking - this is pretty dramatic...Bricks? Death Star? Obliterate? But whether it's a disobedient child or an annoying co-worker or an inconvenient traffic jam or even an empty stomach - when something big or small, ant-sized or planet-sized, gets in our way, anger says, "I will remove this obstacle at any cost."

But the true cause is not other people or things - it's me. I won't listen, I'm going to speak exactly what's on my mind no matter how harmful, I'm going to let this anger blow up and run its course in building my kingdom, regardless of how destructive it might be.

Maybe you see these bricks that you use to build your kingdom and the negative effect it has on your relationships, but still question the possibility of truly stopping your anger and destroying your selfish kingdom. 

Praise God - because James 1 gives us a clear path to wage war on our anger and our kingdom.

The Humility Solution

If anger is the response of a heart set on building one's own kingdom, humility is the response of a heart set on destroying selfishness and anger. Philippians 2:3-4 says it this way, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

The bombs that destroy my kingdom built by my anger flow from a heart of humility. Here's what we're called to do...

The Bombs That Destroy My Kingdom

Listen Long
I can be a pretty bad listener. The problem with not listening is that you refuse to hear someone else's perspective. The first step toward getting rid of anger in your heart is to stop and listen - listen to understand someone else's heart; listen to empathize with the needs of others outside of yourself. Listening is selfless and rational. Ignoring is selfish and irrational. 

Hold Your Tongue
Anger speaks. Humility holds back. Anger stirs up. Humility quiets. Anger hurls out biting, sarcastic comments and relationship ending insults. Humility collects itself and thinks before saying anything. As our wonderful soul care pastors would say - "Act, don't react." Or how Proverbs 29:11 says, "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back."

Control Yourself
Self control is an underrated fruit of the Spirit. A basic definition of self control is the ability to manage your actions, feelings, and emotions. It's so clear that this ability is a fruit of the Spirit, because I know I don't have this ability in and of myself. We may not be able to stop the initial feeling of frustration but we can choose not to dwell in our anger and build with those destructive bricks.

Put Aside All Anger
James calls us to put aside all that remains of anger. There is an emphasis that we italicized that is already there in scripture. This is because we tend to put aside anger in small ways or situations but we're not dealing with what's behind the actions, a heart filled with anger that we've been building up for years. I love the imagery of Jesus washing us "white as snow". This isn't partial language, it is change that is all encompassing.

Receive God's Word
James finishes the passage with this phrase - "in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." The greatest bomb on my kingdom built by anger is actively, continually getting in God's Word. Words like, RECEIVE, IMPLANT, and SAVE YOUR SOULS (or sanctification) are a picture of a life long process of going back time and time again into God's Word.

You've got an anger problem and the cause is you and only you. You and me, we're left to choose anger, building the walls of our kingdom at the cost of everything else around us, or in humility, allowing the work of the Holy Spirit to blow up the walls built by anger. Whose kingdom are you building up today?