from the pastor

Dear friends in Christ,

Wherever you turn these days, people seem to be angry.  Psychologist Harry Mills points out that, “Anger is a natural and mostly automatic response to pain of one form or another (physical or emotional).  Anger can occur when people don't feel well, feel rejected, feel threatened, or experience some loss.  The type of pain does not matter; the important thing is that the pain experienced is unpleasant. ”  As we all know, when anger gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems — problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.  And it can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

Not surprisingly, the Bible recognizes that anger is a part of life for human beings; but again and again the Bible counsels people of faith to control their anger.  Listen to these words from the Book of Proverbs:  “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”  The Book of James offers the following counsel regarding anger:  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  And in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us, "In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Perhaps the best-known biblical teaching on anger comes from Jesus and his Sermon on the Mount.  There he tells his followers: “‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.”  But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire.“  Matthew 5:21-23

But we also learn from Jesus that we can redeem our anger by using its energy for constructive purposes.  In Mark 3:1-5, Jesus becomes angry at a crowd because they refuse to admit that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  But rather than lashing out at them or getting into an argument that would accomplish nothing, Jesus instead uses the energy from his anger to heal the man with the withered hand.

Many years ago during an NBA playoff game, an opposing player came up from behind the great Walt Frazier and punched him in the face.  Incredibly, the referee called a foul on Frazier.  But Frazier didn’t strike back or even complain about the ref’s unjust call.  His expression never changed.  He simply called for the ball and put in seven straight shots to win the game.  Frazier used the energy of his anger to achieve a positive result.

Anger is powerful.  And our anger can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, righteous or just plain self-righteous.  It is all a question of what we chose to do with our anger.  As the Apostle Paul put it, “Be angry, but do not sin.”

Grace and peace,

Alan