“Anger” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 27, 2010

Rev. Tom Egger, guest preacher

“Anger” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Anger. Have you ever been angry? Our text tells us that things like hatred, discord, and fits of rage belong to the sinful nature. Such things in our lives make us undeserving to one day inherit the kingdom of God. That’s what God thinks of sinful anger. Instead, St. Paul commends to us the fruits of the Spirit, the dispositions that God desires to work in our hearts. Paul lists nine fruits of the Spirit, and of them, five could almost be given as exact opposites for sinful anger: love, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control. Those are the qualities that God desires in your life, and that He Himself is working in your life through His Spirit.

Anger is hard to describe or define, but we all know what it is, right? It’s that feeling and change that comes over your whole body and soul–that feeling of irritation and outrage. Anger is powerful. If another person is angry with you, even if that angry person doesn’t DO anything else to you, just the knowledge that they are angry with you is often upsetting. Have you ever begun to wonder if someone is upset or angry with you–from a strange look or from someone’s silence–and it can ruin your whole day. You aren’t at peace until you find out whether that person is angry with you, and if so, why. Anger is a powerful force within us and within our relationships.

We usually picture ANGER as hot or as fire. A cartoon character with a bright red face and steam coming out of his ears. Anger blazes and flames, we get fuming mad, a situation gets heated, tempers flare up, and even when things are relatively calm, some people’s wrath may still be simmering–smoldering under the surface.

Now, like fire, anger is not always bad. Fire can be destructive, but it also heats our homes, cooks our food, and powers our automobiles. Fire, when rightly harnessed, can be a powerful and productive force in our world. Anger, in this fallen world, can also serve good purposes. The Scriptures make it clear that anger itself is not always sin. “In your anger, do not sin,” we read in Ephesians 4. Anger can very often become the occasion for sinning in our lives, but the presence of a quickened pulse in our veins and a reddened face isn’t necessarily itself a sin. That’s why Saint Paul warns us: “In your anger, do not sin.” He makes a separation between the two–between sinful anger and righteous anger.

That’s the first thing that needs to be said about anger in our day. We have too often been guilty of NOT being angry when we should be outraged. Moral indignation is out of style in our society today. It isn’t considered good fashion to call sin sin, to expect our culture to praise what is good and not to praise what is evil. The Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote, “Anybody who doesn’t get angry at the right thing for the right reason at the right time is a fool.” St. John Chrysostom, one of the early church fathers, once stated, “He who is not angry when he has right cause to be, sins.”

And the Bible presents us with the very same picture. Jesus was indignant and angry when He saw the Temple of God being used as a marketplace, and a dishonest one at that. In a righteous fury He swept down on the vendors and the moneychangers, overturning their tables, chasing them around with a small whip. He was mad. He was angry at the right thing, for the right reason, at an appropriate time, and that anger compelled Him to action for the cause of right. Just like the fire that brings energy and motion to an engine. Is it wrong to act out of anger? Not if it is anger at the right thing for the right reason at the right time.

Not to be angered by the evil and the injustice in the world, and instead to sit by complacently and contentedly and tolerantly is itself a sin. Should it not anger us that thousands of children are beaten each day by abusive parents–not a well-deserved spanking, but a violent, uncontrolled beating? Shouldn’t that anger us? Or worse, shouldn’t it anger us when nearly one-and-a-half million unborn babies are slain in our nation every year by so-called doctors in our nation’s abortion clinics? Is it not right and righteous that we become angry enough that we don’t just wring our hands but that we do something to right these terrible wrongs?

We are not permitted by God to sin in order to right the wrong. God does not call us to take justice into our own hands with a child-abuser. God does not smile on those who murder the doctors who perform abortions. But proper anger quickens us and strengthens us for proper action, righteous action, actions that seek to right the wrong without sinning against our neighbor. There is a proper time for anger, and when anger is fed by a sense of what is right, then it can sometimes get us off of our rear ends and light a fire under our feet so that we take action–so that we stand up for those who are being wronged.

But anger is a fire, remember. And though fire can be a cause for good it can also bring injury, damage, and destruction. Though anger can be right and proper, most of the anger that we experience in our lives is not; it’s sinful anger.

“In your anger, do not sin.” Anger can be sinful in a number of ways.

Anger can surge up in us for wrong reasons. When I was kid and behaved badly, I would often get sent to my room, sulking and angry with self-pity. Anger for the wrong reasons is a sin.

Anger very often becomes sinful by excess. Maybe there is some cause to be angry or irritated, but we turn a small offense into an episode of gigantic proportions. This sin is common in our homes.

Anger also becomes sinful when it leads us to sinful actions. Right now, the sport of soccer is in the headlines, the World Cup tournament is going on, and the U.S. had a very exciting win in the first round–only to be defeated 2-1 yesterday. Like many sports, soccer often brings out strong emotions among its fans. For more than 100 years, soccer has been famous for the rioting which sometimes happens, before, during, and after the games between rival fans. In 1964 in Lima, Peru, 300 fans were killed and another 500 were injured, because of rioting at a soccer match between Argentina and Peru. Imagine that: 300 people dead in a single afternoon because of angry rioting at a soccer game. Anger can quickly become sinful when it leads to sinful actions.

Anger for the wrong reason, Anger far in excess of the cause, and anger which vents itself in sinful actions–that is the deadly sin of anger. God forbids anger of this kind. Paul writes in Ephesians 4: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Get rid of your rage and anger, God commands.

That brings us to the remedies for anger:

1) Don’t give yourself permission to have uncontrolled anger.

2) Admit to yourself how ridiculous and sinful it is to get angry about small, silly things.

3) Try to let it pass by before acting. (Anger is a “brief madness.” Count to 10 or 20.)

4) Don’t let it build up. Paul writes, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” And Jesus said, “Even if you’re at the altar of God right in the middle of bringing your offering and you remember that your brother is angry with you, go to him, resolve it, put the anger away, and then come and present your gift on the altar.” Deal with the sources of anger quickly and directly, and then put that anger away through forgiveness.

5) Remember how God has turned away His wrath from you. God’s forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ is always the greatest remedy for our sin. The other remedies may be helpful, but only in Jesus’ forgiveness do we find a remedy that is perfect and complete. Because of your sins, the Bible says that before being forgiven in Christ, you were an object of WRATH. You were an object of God’s anger and wrath–God was rightly angry with you for the right reasons to the right degree, and that degree was pretty severe. And if God’s anger hadn’t been removed, we would be destined for hell.

But instead of pouring out His righteous anger on you and me, God poured it out on His one and only Son. Because of that, St. Paul could write, “Since we have now been justified by the blood of Christ, how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.”

Our sin deserves punishment, our sinful anger deserves punishment, and God does punish. But He punished another in our place–punished Jesus, our perfect Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus has borne the wrath of God for us.

Every Communion should be a reminder of that. This morning we celebrate Holy Communion. This morning, as you come forward, think about that. Think about how God has taken His wrath away from you. He broke someone else’s body, poured out someone else’s blood. And now his anger toward you is appeased, and His wrath is over.

And as you come forward to receive in your hand and mouth the price Christ paid for your forgiveness–His own Body and Blood–leave all hatred and anger toward others behind you. Come to His Table repenting of the flare-ups and burst of anger by which you’ve hurt others. Come to His Table willing to pour the water of forgiveness and forgetting on any anger that you’ve allowed to go on smoldering in your life.

Christ’s Body and Blood were enough to quench the right and righteous anger of Almighty God. Certainly there is enough love and power here to quench the wrong and sinful anger in our lives. At His altar here today, may God’s Spirit give us the peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control, that only He can give.

Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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