Summary: God’s help for anger
Last week we began our series “Victory in Jesus,” to help us realize that through Jesus Christ we have been given victory over sin and the power of evil. Unfortunately even though we have this victory we still struggle with temptation and desires of the flesh. I firmly believe that God wants us to gain victory over sin and evil, so we are continuing this series to explore how we can claim the victory God wants to give us through Jesus. Last week we recognized the main reason for yielding to temptation and sin is because we lose the battle for our thoughts. In order to gain victory over sin and evil we must allow God to help us gain control over what we think. By God’s strength we can control the negative influences we put into our minds, and place good things in our mind. As Paul tells us, we should “set our minds on things above”. The more we think about God and his Word, and the good things of his creation the more we gain victory over temptation and sin. Last week I asked, what are you filling your mind with? How are you intentionally filling your thoughts with the things of God?
Beginning today and over the next three weeks we are going to look at specific issues of sin and evil which affect us and how we can gain victory in these areas. One of the most common areas of sin we are trapped by is anger. Have you ever been driving home from a long day at work and someone cuts you off or pulls out in front of you and you just churn inside as you think, “what a jerk,” or perhaps some other not so church friendly language? Perhaps vulgar language occasionally slips from your mouth. Does someone at work just make you hot under the collar every time you are around them? Do your kids just seem to push the right buttons and set you off? Do you find yourself being so impatient that the littlest thing sets you off into a verbal tirade or even a rage, perhaps you have even lashed out at someone physically? If any of these are true for you, you are like the millions of people have trouble dealing with anger.
Anger is a major problem in our country even for Christians. A Gallup poll found that 49 percent of those surveyed generally experienced anger at work, with one out of six becoming so angry that he or she felt like hitting another person. Domestic violence is on the rise, with 4 million occurrences of partner violence annually. “Thirty percent of American women report that their husband or boyfriend has at one time or another physically abused them.” Not to mention verbal or emotional abuse. Anger is out of control. When we lived in Kentucky in the neighboring town (about the size of Petoskey) a member of a church hit their pastor repeatedly in the head with a golf club causing severe injuries. In the small town in which we lived, where there was a Christian college and seminary, the rumor was that more calls were received by the police for domestic violence in the homes of seminary students than for the rest of the population. Obviously Christians have just as much a problem with anger, even though Jesus has given us the victory over all sin, including our anger response.
The Apostle Paul told the Christian believers at Colossae:
NIV Colossians 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
His reasoning was that those who are Christians have died to their earthly sinful nature and are now hidden with Christ in God. We are in Christ, therefore we must put away sin. How can you be in Christ and still do these things? Anger, rage, slander, and filthy language are not appropriate for Christian believers, and yet these seem to keep hanging around us and pestering us like mosquitoes.
Anger is a natural emotion
We must be careful in talking about anger because anger in itself is not a sin. People mistakenly think Christians should not get angry at all, but this is not the case. In Ephesians Paul writes “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil (Eph. 4:26-27, NRSV).” In other words anger happens to all of us, it is inevitable but it is what we do with our anger which is the real issue. Do we deal constructively with our anger and resolve it quickly (or as Paul says before the sun goes down), or do we nurse it and allow it to infect our thoughts like a virus giving the devil a stronghold in our thoughts which later erupts as rage, slander, or filthy language?