Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I said that we live in the ‘Age of Rage’—so many people are angry. So when the Bible says, “In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”, we’ve got something here to think about.
Anger may come from being hurt, physically or emotionally. Illness, a break-up, or a disappointment may leave us bitter and angry. It can come from frustration—when things don’t go our way. Some of us have the gift of always getting in the slowest line at the supermarket or the airport parking lot exit. Fear can trigger anger. One day Jesus fell asleep in the boat. A storm came up. The disciples were afraid. They woke Jesus up with angry voices, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Once we know the source of our anger we can process and work through those feelings. Our anger may be tied to something that happened a long time ago—early in our marriage, career, or even our childhood. In church work and counselling, it’s very common to hear people say, For years I was angry because… For years! We may need to let go of the past!
Do you know what effects prolonged anger can have on us? It is critical we manage our anger because it can damage us! It can even destroy us!
Anger turned inward results in depression. One eminent psychiatrist estimates that anger is responsible for 95% of psychological depression. Anger not resolved makes us more susceptible to ulcers, hypertension, and heart attacks. People who are chronically mad are not only unhappy people, but often unhealthy people who live shorter lives! If you look at this word, anger is only one letter short of danger.
Paul offers such sound psychological advice: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26 – NIV). Comedian Phyllis Diller once said, “Don’t go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” I believe Paul had a better way to handle this than Phyllis: take care of business; manage your anger, talk it out, so it doesn’t endanger your marriage, your children or yourself. Don’t let it become destructive anger.
Use your anger for constructive action
If we fail to take care of our anger, we also risk harm to others. Many of us have seen or experienced what is called ‘road rage’. In one such incident, two drivers were in conflict. One driver felt the other had cut him off in traffic. He tailgated, and then pulled alongside the other driver. They made angry gestures at one another.
As his anger escalated, the first driver pulled out a semiautomatic pistol and emptied it into the other car, hitting and killing the driver, a 17-year-old girl. Later in an interview from his jail cell, the first driver sought to justify his destructive angry outburst by declaring, She started it. I am just as much a victim as she is.
That sad, tragic outcome of momentary road rage resulting in an adolescent’s death and the jailing of a young adult awakens us to the ability of unmanaged anger to damage and destroy the lives of others who are totally innocent. It can happen in seconds. So, it’s s OK to be angry. But manage your anger appropriately; and use your anger in a positive way by translating it into action. Rather than be a destructive force, our anger can be purposeful and redemptive as it motivates us to act.
One day Jesus came into the Temple. There he saw exploitation, greed, and a mockery of worship. He was angry over what he saw. Rather than ignoring these misdeeds, he did something. His righteous indignation led him to take a whip, and drive the proprietors and their animals out of the Temple. He turned over the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins everywhere. He verbally chastised those who misused his heavenly Father’s house. Jesus translated anger into appropriate action.
Are you angry at the pervasive presence of evil in our world in the form of drug abuse, child abuse, family disintegration, or social injustice? Then do something that will contribute to the strengthening of families, to the support of children, to the responsible decision-making of youth, to the serious addressing of issues of inequity and human need that plague our society:
- Be a mentor for a young couple beginning their marriage.
- Teach a children’s Sunday School class.
- Serve as a big brother or sister to fatherless teenagers.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:31 (NIV): “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…“ What better way to put away our anger than to put it into something positive and redemptive for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
The late Gilda Radner felt she was ‘in a room of anger’. Anger is a fact of life, but I don’t want to live a room of it. And I don’t want to sin because of my anger. Neither do you. Jesus said:
You have heard that it was said to those in ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment. (Matthew 5:21-22 – NRSV).
Anger Management was the name of a 2003 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. It is also our calling as Christians, to manage the mad moments of our lives and convert them into kingdom-building experiences for the benefit of our brothers and sisters.
Dr Michael Dent 2012 Trinity United Methodist Church
1820 Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80202