Summary: Anger drains us when it is either displaced or misplaced. But when we learn to replace it with a relationship to Christ, it becomes energizing.
One day when Margaret and I were college students, she said, “I think you ought to know that the deacons are going to ask for our pastor’s resignation.” We were members of the same church and had shared in appreciation for the thoughtful, exciting sermons our pastor brought us week by week. But her family was more connected to the inner circle than mine, and so she got some insider information.
It shocked me. I was stunned. I could not believe it. Frankly, I just about idolized the man. He had come to our church when I was eighteen years old, and had demonstrated to me that you didn’t have to park your brains outside when you came to church! He mattered to me; he had influenced me deeply; it was to him I had gone only a few months earlier when I first responded to God’s call to ministry. The very idea that the church’s deacons would want to get rid of somebody this valuable made no sense to me at all.
Sure enough, in a week or two it was announced that there would be a special business meeting to bring up “concerns” about the pastor. I sat through that meeting in misery. To my astonishment, from every corner of a tense sanctuary, filled with people I didn’t even know were members of our church, came words that were incredible, awesome, hateful.
One father stood up and claimed that the pastor had written a dirty book and had given it to his lovely daughter as part of her preparation for marriage. It later turned out that it was a book on sexuality, from a Christian perspective, and that the illustrator, not the author, had a name similar to our pastor’s. But that’s just how irrational things were at that meeting.
One husband and wife stood up together, and, with their voices choked with emotion and their faces twisted in pain, cried out that the pastor had ignored them, had refused to visit them, had insulted them, and they wanted him out of there. Still another man, the church’s elder statesman, a man so entrenched in the leadership of our church that when I was a small boy I thought his last name was “Moderator” -- this elder statesman rose to lay out the deacons’ concerns, but would only say, “It is just a whole lot of little things, no one big thing, just a lot of small complaints; but we think he has to go.”
On and on it went that horrible night. Certainly there were some who defended our pastor; of course there were many who sat in silence, some of them weeping. But the more the angry ones spoke, the more the mood of anger grew and spread around the room, and by the time it was all over, the church voted to dismiss that pastor, and, I guess, if somebody had not pronounced the benediction, they would have lynched him and boiled his wife and children in oil. So corrosive, so pervasive, so devastating, so contagious, so draining, is the power of anger.
Anger destroys lives, anger damages institutions, anger warps the fabric of society, and, most of all, anger drains us when we submit to it. Anger renders us incapable of healthy relationships. To say it as clearly as possible: hot heads make cold hearts. Anger drains us, it exhausts us. Hot heads make icy cold hearts.
The poet of Proverbs has much to say about anger. He offers us a number of very astute observations about anger. Frankly, I’m not sure he really knows what to do about it. For that I think we have to go to one wiser than Solomon and more profound than Proverbs. But we can gain some very significant insights from the poet of Proverbs about how hot heads do give us cold hearts.
There are three words that I want you to hear and to think about this morning. Three ideas that sound a bit alike, so let’s make sure we get them right. The three words are: displaced, misplaced, and replaced. Anger drains us. It can be displaced, or misplaced, or it can be replaced.
First, displaced anger. When we get angry at a thing, an inanimate thing, it is really not all that appropriate. But that’s where our anger goes. Anger is displaced when it is anger at a thing.
Usually displaced anger comes from our frustrations. We have not been able to accomplish something, we have not been able to do what we want when we want it. And that frustration, which is really our being angry at ourselves, takes us over, gets out of control, and it has to go somewhere. It has to be expressed. So we get angry at things instead of ourselves. We displace our anger.