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The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.
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Let’s turn to Proverbs 16:32. Tonight, we’re going to look at the subject of anger, a very practical one. There are many verses in the Book of Proverbs that deal with this subject. I’ve picked one and here it is, Proverbs 16:32. We’ll use it as a springboard for our sermon tonight. He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
A little girl was showing her friend around her parents’ house when her friend noticed in the bathroom a set of scales. She’d never seen scales before and so she asked the little girl what they were and her little host replied, “I don’t know what they are but my mom and dad use them every day. All I know is this, when you stand on them, they make you very angry.”
Well, it seems today it doesn’t take much to get people mad, does it? In fact, sadly, our time has been designated recently as the age of rage. The age of rage. There is a mountain of evidence that Americans are becoming angry, short-tempered, nasty people from road rage to airplane rage, from domestic violence to violence at youth sports events. The media have been reporting an increase of vicious, emotional outbursts on an unprecedented scale.
Do you know that every year in America, 14 men are killed by softdrink vending machines? Because these guys get so ticked off with the machine because it hasn’t either given them their due change or given them their proper pop and so they shake the machine violently until it falls over on them and crushes them to death. In fact, I caught last night on the internet, came across the wires from the Associated Press that just a couple of days ago, a 52-year-old man in Manhattan, New York has been arraigned on a charge of animal cruelty which he could be sent up for one year and the charge relates to the fact that he bit off the head of his rooster because he believed it injured his pigeon. Can you believe that? The guy actually bit off the head of his rooster.
This is an age of rage. People are finding it very hard to keep their cool, to keep a rein on their emotions. Therefore, we would do well to turn to the ancient wisdom of the Book of Proverbs because here we find the wisdom writers of Israel reminding this up-and-coming generation of leaders of their need, in the art of diplomacy and even war, of keeping their cool. There are admonitions throughout this book to keep your cool.
Look at Proverbs 17:27, “He who has knowledge spares his words and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” Look at Proverbs 20:3, “It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.” There’s an art to keeping your cool. Wisdom will inform us as to how. In Proverbs 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings but a wise man holds them back.” The Book of Proverbs extols the virtue of showing restraint, of hemming in your emotions, especially as it relates to something that would agitate your anger.
In fact, the verse that we read by way of introduction tonight, Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city,” must have packed a punch to the young men that read it because remember, these are young lions. These are emerging leaders. These are the warriors and diplomats and rulers of Israel. This was a day in which military prowess was exalted and cherished. Yet, these young men who would eventually lead the nation and command the armies of Israel, they were being told here that it is better to exhibit self-control than to control others, either individually or as nations, through brute force. These warriors and brave young men of Israel were being reminded that they needed to learn to subdue themselves before they conquered anything or anyone else. It’s a powerful verse, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules the spirit than he who takes a city.”
Well, that being the case, let’s look at the subject of anger. Let’s look at what I call the mood of anger. The mood of anger. Anger is the inflammation of your emotions. In fact, the Hebrew word that is most often used for anger is a word that can be literally translated nose. It’s the Hebrew word [foreign language 00:05:32] and perhaps, it’s such the case because anger is associated with our reddening of the face and it is associated with the flaring of the nostrils. In fact, over in the New Testament, there’s a Greek counterpart to this. In John 11:33, the Lord Jesus is moved emotionally with regards to Lazarus’s death and the Bible says that He literally snorted like a horse is the Greek. The Lord snorted. It’s a very picturesque word of this powerful emotion.
Anger then is the inflammation, the flaring up of our emotions and I want you to know right at the gate tonight that this emotion of anger has its proper place in its proper proportion. I wanted to tell you tonight that in a certain set of circumstances, given a certain expression of it, anger is natural and it is God-given and we shouldn’t be frightened of it in that set of circumstances. It’s natural and it’s God-given.
See, God has displayed anger properly and proportionately. I won’t take you to the references, there are many. Throughout the Old Testament, Exodus 4:14, in Deuteronomy 29:27 and 20 being two examples. If we were made in the image of God, we are rational emotional beings patterned after God himself, you can imagine that there is a context in which you and I may express this inflammation of our emotions, this outburst of anger, and if we do it properly and we do it proportionally, it’s natural, it’s God-given, and it is not sinful.
In fact, let me define anger for you. I took this definition from Robert Jeffery’s book on Proverbs. He says this, “Anger is a natural, physical, and emotional reaction to perceived injustice.” It’s a great definition. Anger is a natural, physical, and emotional reaction to perceived injustice. Now, I’m going to look at helpful anger and I’m going to look at hurtful anger here quickly but I want you to just camp on that definition for a moment because there are two things you need to take from it so that you do not misdiagnose your anger and calling it good when it’s bad or calling it bad when it’s good.
Anger is a natural, physical, and emotional reaction to a perceived injustice. I want you to see that anger must be expressed in matters of moral wrong. What is it that agitates our anger when it’s proper and righteous? Injustice. It’s important that you circle that idea. Frustration over someone’s idiosyncrasies is not justified anger. It’s not injustice. That’s just a matter of difference. The matter must be one that not only offends you but offends God if it’s to be proper and righteous. It’s got to be a defined biblically understood injustice.
I want you to understand something else quickly here about that definition. You need to understand that when you react in anger naturally, physically, emotionally to an injustice, he wants us to understand that it is a perceived injustice and that’s an important word. Therefore, if you and I are going to react righteously in anger, our perception has to be very good. We need to make sure that this is an injustice, that we’ve got all our facts straight and that sometimes can be difficult considering the fact that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceptive and therefore, we can become blind to our own sins and jaundiced to the sins of others and therefore sometimes, we can act in anger out of ignorance or self-righteousness because our perception is being twisted. And so, we must always be on our guard when it comes to expressing our anger.
There is a place to express anger when injustice has been perpetrated but you need to make sure that you have perceived that injustice correctly. So what about this mood of anger? Well, there are two expressions of anger. There’s one that’s right and there’s one that’s wrong. There’s one that’s perceived injustice correctly and there’s one that’s perceived injustice incorrectly. The Book of Proverbs hints at the fact that there are two categories of anger. Proverbs 14:29, look at it. Proverbs 14:29, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding and he who is impulsive exalts folly.” The fact that wisdom dictates that you come to a slow boil concerning anger by implication doesn’t rule out the possibility that there is a point at which your anger boils over and it can be righteous and it can be right. You’ve just got to be slow, you’ve got to be perceptive, and you’ve got to be moved to anger by a injustice that not only offends you but offends God. But if you’re not careful, you can be impulsive, you can be self-centered, and you express your anger but it’s not a righteous anger.
Let’s talk about helpful anger just for a moment. I need to move quickly. There is a right and righteous expression of anger. As we have said, it’s patterned after God and I would add to that it’s prompted in us by the very spirit of Jesus Christ. I’m not going to turn to it but in John 2:13 that the Lord Jesus Christ expressed anger at the fact that His father’s house which was a house of prayer, had been turned into a bank and the money exchange and His emotions were inflamed. He perceived correctly that this was a moral wrong and the Lord Jesus Christ drove the money changers out of the temple and He shows us the possibility that you can be angry and not sin.
In fact, that’s what we’re told to do in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and sin not.” It is possible to be angry and not sin. It means that not all anger is sinful. It means that there is a holy and a helpful anger. Jesus shows it. Paul shows it. In Acts 17:16, we find him agitated is the Greek, irritated, stirred in his emotions to a point where his anger was aroused as he looked out across the great metropolis of Athens and as he took in the sights and the signs, his soul was stirred at the thought of the idolatry that had infected this city. One of the great cities of the world was infected by idolatry on God’s earth and this holy minister, the apostle Paul, was brought to a state of agitation and moral aggravation and you know what? It was a proper expression of anger.
It’s possible to manifest anger appropriately in the face of injustice and the defamation of holy things. Anger is both unnecessary and an appropriate response. Let me give you something to think about that I think will be helpful here and we just have to treat this as quickly as we can. You can be angry and sin not when sin alone makes you angry. That is a great benchmark for you to think through your emotional reactions. Am I justified in an outburst of anger here? Well, if you do want to be angry and sin not, ask yourself, is it sin that’s angering you or have you just lost your own patience with other people? Is it a lack of love towards others that has you agitated? Is it a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty that has you sorting out every wrong in the world and fixing everybody’s lives for them?
But you and I can be angry. In fact, we need to get angry over false doctrine, over abortion, pornography, political correctness that breeds caried politicians, racism, drugs, drunkenness, poverty, terrorism, human rights violations, and a host of other things about that agitate the righteous spirit of a holy man or a holy woman. It did in Jesus, it did in Paul, and it ought to in us. In fact, let me give you a quote here and we’ll move on.
Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer said that he worked best when he was angry. That’s a rather strange statement, isn’t it? But let me quote him. He says this, “I have no better remedy than anger. If I want to write, pray, preach well then I must be angry. Then my entire blood supply refreshes itself, my mind is made king, and all my temptations depart.” There is such a thing as righteous anger and by the way, it’s more than fussing without cussing.
The Sunday school teacher asked the class what was righteous anger. Little Johnny put up his hand and replied being mad without swearing. No, that’s not righteous anger. It’s more than fussing without cussing. It’s the spirit of Christ in you reacting to a moral injustice and a defamation of holy things. It’s about God being offended and then you being offended. It’s not about pettiness, peevishness, self-centered convenience or comfort related to us which brings me to the second thought, not only helpful anger but hurtful anger. If there is righteous anger, conversely, there is unrighteous anger. If you can be angry and sin not, you can certainly be angry and sin. That’s our greater danger. It would be a work of grace to produce in us an anger that doesn’t sin.
James warns us, doesn’t he? In James 1:20, of the wrath of man that does not produce the righteousness of God. There is an anger that reflects the holy character of God but there is an anger that’s man-centered, that’s selfish, that’s peevish, and that does not produce the righteousness of God. It’s a work of the flesh rather than a work of the spirit. Let me give you six things to look out for. I’m just going to run down the list. I thought about extending this sermon but I want to cover it tonight. Maybe on another occasion I’ll deal with it in a more extended fashion but here’s how you might be on guard and here’s how you might sort out your emotions as to know whether you’re angry in a righteous way or you’re angry in a sinful manner.
Number one, anger becomes sin when it rises quickly. Anger becomes sin when it rises quickly. Proverbs 14:29, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding but he who is impulsive exalts folly.” You can bank on it, 9 times out of 10, when you react impulsively, you’re going to react wrongly. You’re not going to be able to exercise self-control impulsively. It will take prayer. It will take deliberation. You need to be careful about being aroused by some insufficient cause and flying off the handle. Anger becomes sin when it rises quickly.
Secondly, anger becomes sin when it’s out of control. You can be sure that you’re not acting righteously when you’re flying off the handle and you’re not in control of yourself when you’re going berserk. Proverbs 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings.” If you’re just letting it all hang out on the living room floor, it’s not righteous because a fool vents all his emotions.
Number three, anger is wrong when it is unaccompanied by a spirit of forgiveness. In Proverbs 19:11, what are we told? We’re told this, we’ll look at it before we’re done tonight, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” An anger that is righteous will be slow to come to boil and even when it comes to boil, it will be tempered by grace. But if you see an explosion of emotion that’s unaccompanied by a spirit of humility and a tone of grace, it’s likely that the anger is unrighteous.
Number four, anger is wrong when it is a dominant feature of our lives. If you are angry all the time, bank on it, you’re not righteous all the time. There is a time in each of our lives to express anger but if you get a guy or you find a woman who’s a ticking bomb, emotionally speaking, their anger normally will not be righteous. Proverbs 22:24 says this, “Make no friendship with an angry man and with a furious man. Do not go. Lest, you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.”You see the phrase there? With an angry man. The term angry man in Hebrew is a man given to anger. A guy who’s just always blowing his lid. A person whose anger flares up at the least thing. It is not righteous anger.
Number five, anger is wrong when it’s accompanied by an argumentative spirit. Anger is wrong when it’s accompanied by an argumentative spirit. Look at Proverbs 21:19. We looked at this verse some weeks ago, “Better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious that is an argumentative and angry woman.” Those two things go together, argumentative and angry. When you’ve got those two things going together, that expression of anger has no moral basis before God. There’s a difference between speaking out of righteous anger and even saying strong words with that of a kind of anger that’s vicious in its personal attack, cutting, belittling, and inflames unnecessary strife.
I’ll just give you one verse that’s worth thinking about in our life, “Do we need to tattoo this to our minds?” “The beginning of strife,” Proverbs 17:14, “is like releasing water. Therefore, stop contention before a quarrel starts.” If someone keeps badgering pouring kerosene on the fire in terms of the words that they use, it’s not righteous.
Finally, anger is wrong when it is produced by unholy jealousy. It’s interesting, you got the association of Proverbs 27:4, “Wrath is cruel and anger is a torrent but who is able to stand before jealousy?” The evidence here is that jealousy can be one of the strongest emotions but in its wake, you’ll find wrath and anger. Now, righteous anger is a good jealousy towards God’s glory. Remember what we said? Sometimes, if we see a defamation of holy things, if we see the breaking of God’s law, if we see the belittling of God’s sinless, spotless son, that should cause in us a holy reaction.
It’s one thing to be angry with that kind of jealousy but often, it is a selfish jealousy that moves our anger. It’s not about God’s glory, it’s about us. We want our way in the home. We want to dominate our wives. We want to keep our kids in their place and so, we express this overpowering anger that is not righteous. We’re jealous for ourselves, comfort, and convenience. Sometimes, we are wounded in our ego because somebody else has got what we want. Well, that’s the mood of anger. More could be said but enough.
Let’s quickly look at the madness of anger. The madness of anger, I use that word deliberately because if you think about it, anger involves losing your head, losing control of your emotions and your reactions, and therefore, if you have lost control of your mind and yourself, you are experiencing a form of insanity. If you think it through, anger is a form of temporary insanity because you’ve lost it.
People who are insane have lost it on a permanent basis but some of us are insane 5 minutes in a day, 10 minutes in a day. If we brood, 30 minutes in a day or the clock can go on. There’s a madness to anger, isn’t there? I’ll tell you why it’s mad, why it’s insane.
Number one, anger is dumb. Anger is dumb if you really think about it. Now, I’m talking about the unrighteous kind of anger, the anger that God doesn’t condone, that isn’t motivated by the spirit of Christ. That kind of anger is dumb. Look at Proverbs 14:17, “A quick tempered man acts foolishly and a man of wicked intentions is hated.” If our anger is uncontrolled and un-Christian, we will act quickly and we will act foolishly. We all know this fact. I’m preaching to the choir. Anger breeds folly and to be hot-headed leads to recklessness.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all done something in anger we’ve regretted. We’ve acted like a fool. We wish we could take the words back. We wish we could wind the tape back and not do what we did to our complete embarrassment. Anger is dumb. It’s marked by foolishness. It doesn’t promote the righteousness of God. In fact, I was telling June an interesting story I came across in my research this week of a man by the name of Harry Heavens of Indiana back in the 1930s. He got angry with his wife. This is one of those guys that like to go about the house and keep things clean. If the picture was awful, well, he straightened it and he would clean the kitchen tops. On one particular day, his wife made a disparaging remark about the way he had cleaned things and this really ticked him off.
He said, “All right. That’s the way it is. If that’s how you feel, I’m going to bed and I’m going to stay there the rest of my life and I don’t want to see you or anybody else again.” According to the news article, Harry stayed in bed for seven years wearing a blindfold until the bed became so uncomfortable he had to get out of it. He wore a blindfold because he said “I don’t want to see you or anybody else again.” I mean, how dumb can you get, huh? But if you ratchet that away, some of us have done things that are just as stupid. We walk out the front door, we go off into the corner and put music on, ignore people. We just do some dumb stuff. Anger is dumb. It’s madness.
Secondly, anger is divisive. Proverbs 10:12, it’s divisive. Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins. Proverbs 15:18, “A wrathful man stirs up strife but he who is slow to anger allays contention.” Anger creates animosity. Unrighteous anger, remember, is often driven by selfish jealousy and envy. Therefore, it’s competitive. Therefore, it produces conflict. Therefore, it breeds division. It puts walls up between people. It not only causes people to react to us and causes them to push back, it also drives people away.
Look at Proverbs 22:24, “Make no friendship with an angry man and with a furious man. Do not go. Lest, you learn his ways.” Angry people end up having no friends, no real friends, and they do not enjoy intimacy with their family. Angry husbands find it hard to love their wives and their wives find it very hard to love them back. Angry fathers make it very difficult for children to enjoy an intimate honoring relationship with their parent. Anger is dumb. Anger is divisive.
In fact, the classic example of what I’m talking about is the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son. In Luke 15:28, you know what it says? That when the son came back and the father embraced him and announced the party and send out the invitations to all the neighbors, you know what it said about the elder brother? He would not go in. He was angry. His brother has squandered part of his father’s inheritance but this man in anger squandered an opportunity to honor his father and show grace to his brother. Anger is divisive.
Thirdly, and finally under this thought, anger is destructive. Anger is destructive. Look at how anger is described in Proverbs 27:4, “Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent or a flood.” Anger here is described as a flood and here, the word of God is telling us that anger is a torrent. Anger is like a river that overflows its banks. There is a place for anger just as is there a place for a river between its banks controlled, directed, proper. But once that anger breaks those borders and those banks, it becomes a flood and it’s destructive and it takes everything in its wake. It hurts others. It invites the wrath of God. It shatters relationships. It disturbs the conscience. It clips the wings of prayer. It drains up spiritual strength because of enslaving sin and it produces health problems. Did you know that?
Anger not only destroys those to whom it is directed towards, it destroys the one who’s giving it out. The Bible wants us to know that if we devour others through uncontrolled anger, we are making a feast of ourselves. Look at these powerful verses. Proverbs 14:29 and 30, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding but he who is impulsive, exalts folly.” Look at verse 30, “A sound heart is life to the body but envy is a rottenness to the bones.” Anger and envy are tied together here and anger driven by envy can produce health problems.
In fact, do you know? According to a researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a person with a propensity for anger is nearly three times more likely to have a heart attack than their calmer counterparts. In fact, other research has shown from Duke University that 20% of American adults have a susceptibility to anger high enough to threaten them with death. Anger is destructive on the outside and on the inside.
In fact, the 18th century British physician, John Hunter, who was a pioneer in the field of surgery and served King George III suffered from angina and as he diagnosed himself, he realized that his angina flared up when he became angry. In fact, here’s what he said, “My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.” He’s saying, “My life hangs in the balance and if I’m not careful, somebody can come along, tick me off, I get all excited into a rage, and I’m not going to hurt them, I’m ultimately going to hurt myself.” In fact, those words were prophetic because sometime later, he was at a board meeting at the hospital. He got involved in a heated argument with some board member. He walked out in disgust, went into the next room, and keeled over stone dead.
Anger is a torrent. It’s dumb, it’s divisive, it’s destructive. That’s the mood of anger. That’s the madness of anger. Let’s look briefly at the management of anger. This is a sermon in itself. I hope I’ll give you enough thought with the points that’ll just make you think, make you read. In fact, I meant to bring a book with me. I recommend you this. Write it down. It’s a book published by Presbyterian and Reformed. It’s written by Robert Jones who’s a Baptist professor at Southeastern Seminary. It’s called Uprooting Anger. Excellent tool.
It helped me and I realized that the way I’m going to do my sermon tonight, I’m going to probably raise as many questions as I answer but that’s a resource. If you forget it, ask me and I’ll recommend it to you but how can we manage our anger? We must manage it. We must subdue it. These young lions were told that he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. These young leaders were told, “Look, before you conquer nations, you need to subdue yourself. You need to rein in your own destructive emotions.” Let me give you some things here quickly about managing your anger.
Number one, be repentant. It’s a series of Rs here. Be repentant. Step one to solving any problem is confronting it and correctly diagnosing it, right? That’s no less true when it comes to managing your anger. Ignoring anger or burying it solves nothing. Not labeling it correctly is no remedy. Tending the problem on someone else is simply a means of delaying the real answer. Forgetting that anger is a secondary emotion leaves us dealing only with the symptoms and what I mean by that is if you’re angry, you need to step back from your anger. That is a secondary emotion. It’s what I call a ricochet emotion. You are angry because of something. Maybe because you’re bitter, you’re unforgiving. You think God is unfair. You’re not willing to trust him in a sovereignty. Something’s happened to you in your life and you haven’t dealt with that before God and you haven’t resolved it in your heart and therefore, you need to properly diagnose your problem which will involve repentance.
That will involve you calling anger what it is when it’s uncontrolled and un-Christian. It’s a work of the flesh. It’s a sin and it needs to be repented of and you need to take ownership for your anger. It is nothing to do with hereditary. I don’t care whether you’re Irish or Italian, that’s irrelevant. I don’t care where you were brought up. If you were brought up in a tough neighborhood, are you going to pin your problems on the environment? They may be complicating issues but they are nowhere near the heart of the problem which is the problem of the heart. If you’re going to deal with your anger, you’ve got to be first of all, be repentant. You’ve got to stop ignoring the problem. You’ve got to stop relabeling the issue. You’ve got to be honest before God and honest before yourself and cry before the cross, “God, I’m an angry man. I’m a bitter woman and I need the cleansing of Jesus’ blood and I need the infusion of the power of the Holy Spirit to deal with this inflammation of my emotions that has turned sour and sinful.”
We need to be honest with ourselves. We have a propensity to downplay our problems. Look at Proverbs 20:9 “Who can say I have made my heart clean and I am pure from my sin?” We need God to put the spotlight on our hearts and call us to a new state of repentance and confession before Him about our sin because we saw in a separate study, Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sin will not prosper but he who confesses and forsakes it will have mercy.” If you’ve got an anger problem, admit it. Go to a spiritual leader. Go to a dear friend who loves Jesus Christ and loves you and cry out in repentance for God to help you break that enslaving sin. That’s where it starts.
Has it ever struck you how they begin the AA meetings? Hello, I am John Smith and I am an alcoholic. That’s where it all starts. You’re going to have to before God and maybe in the company of a friend say, “I am John Smith and I am an angry man. I’m bitter. I’m impatient. I’m a fighter. I’m contentious. God, have mercy on my soul.” We need to be repentant.
We need to be, secondly, realistic. We need to be realistic. Another preventative measure as it relates to anger is to learn to pick your fight. In Proverbs 19:11, here’s what we read, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” A man needs to use discretion. He needs to weigh things up. That will help him become slow to anger. He needs to say, “You know what? That’s a fight worth fighting. That’s an issue worth confronting,” or, “You know what? I’m going to let that one slide. It’s my glory because it’s God’s glory to overlook a fault or an offense.”
That offense could be great or that offense could be small but I think the point I’m taking from this is you need to be realistic. You’re going to have to use some discretion, some discernment. You’re going to have to pick your fights. You need to realize tonight, and I’m sure you do but you forget this and then you get all ticked off and wind up, life doesn’t always go our way and people don’t always do what we expect them to do, right? Be discerning about that. Just put that one down. Think about the doctrine of the fall of man often. Remind yourself you’re living on the wrong side of Eden, that this world lies in the lap of the wicked one, that people are flawed individuals whose hearts are conclaved, whose actions are bent out of shape.
Part of the process of being slow to anger will involve you thinking about that thought often and reminding yourself that life requires you to do a lot of forgiving and a lot of forbearing. If you’re going to survive emotionally and if you’re going to rein in your emotions, you will need to adjust the world inside of you to the world outside of you. If you like everything to be proper and pretty, forget about it. You’re going to be miserable and you’re going to make everybody else miserable. Be repentant, be realistic.
This is not a denial of injury or insensitivity in the part of others. It’s simply a choosing to look past it and a giving it over to God or a realizing that it doesn’t rise to the level where it needs to be confronted. People do dumb things and hurtful things and sometimes, life stinks but you need to expect it to be that way. In this world, you will have trouble. Jesus got us ready for that reality.
Some years ago, I read the story of a gardener in Britain who every spring and summer had to deal with a crop of dandelions that grew amidst his grass and every time he cut his grass and cut the heads off the dandelions and it was a nice green carpet. After a while, these little white flowers would sprout back up. He got real ticked off about it. He went down to the local stores and got all that he could to deal with it but they just kept coming and kept coming. And so, he wrote to the experts in the Department of Agriculture in London asking them what he should do about the dandelions.
He got a reply and it said this, “Get used to them.” Some things you just got to get used to. I’m not in any way condoning sin but I’m just telling you that you and I need to sometimes exercise a great deal of forbearance and patience. Give each other a little bit of a wide berth, understand we are flawed characters. We are not perfect. We are something in progress. God’s not finished with us so I’m not going to get all flared up and give up on you because God hasn’t given up on you. He’s not finished with you yet and I can’t write you off and be finished with you either. We’ve all got to show some discretion and be slow to anger. We’ve got to sometimes just look past in the glory of the knowledge of God’s own grace towards us.
My time’s gone. I had three more points. I’m just going to go to the last one. Everybody said, “Amen.” Be redemptive. Another way to diffuse damaging and unrighteous anger is to live redemptively. That is to act and react in the light of the cross. Instead of being angry with those that hurt him, Jesus showed forgiveness. He repaired their hatred with love. He repaired their violence with peace and the Book of Proverbs incites us to forgive also. Look at Proverbs 10:20. This will help you deal with anger. If you cultivate a spirit of graciousness, if you are quick to forgive in the light of God’s forgiveness towards you, you’ll not be so angry or angry so long. Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins.” We read Proverbs 19:11, “It’s the glory of a man to overlook an offense.”
We ought not to wish hurt to those that have hurt us. Look at Proverbs 24:29, “Do not say I will do to him just as he has done to me. I will render to the man according to his work.” It seems to be an echo of Paul in Romans 12, doesn’t it? Or Paul’s probably an echo of this where we’re not to seek vengeance, where we’re not to give evil for evil but we’re to give good for evil. The Book of Proverbs encourages us to do what the cross teaches us to do. This is pre-Christian literature but it’s anticipating the grit and manifestation of God’s love toward us and the death of his son for us when God’s righteous anger was extinguished in the cross. When you and I come to the cross and find the forgiveness of God in the full payment of our sins through the suffering of Jesus Christ by means of atonement, our unrighteous anger can be extinguished at the cross just as God’s righteous anger was extinguished at the cross.
I want you to hear this as we wrap up. People who want to deal with anger cling to the cross. They don’t hold onto their hurts. They don’t nurse their wounds. They look at the wounds of Christ. They clinging to the cross. They remind themselves that God’s righteous anger was extinguished in the death of Jesus Christ so that we may be given something we do not deserve.
Why can that transaction not take place between two sinners? If a righteous God can forgive me, an unrighteous man, how can I not, in the light of that cross, forgive those who are as unrighteous as I am? If you cling to the cross, you won’t be as angry. In fact, I’ll guarantee you that if you’re angry and peevish and bitter and contentious, you’ve lost sight of the cross.
Remember what Paul said in Ephesians 4:31? He says, “Put away all bitterness and malice and anger,” and then he goes on to say, “and forgive one another even as God has forgiven you.” That’s the trick. In his book, Lee: The Last Years, Charles Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree that used to be in the front of her house but the federal artillery had blown it to smithereens and only a stump remained and she went on about this injustice.
She looked to Lee for a word of condemnation towards the north and at least some sympathy for her loss and her bitterness and her resentment. After a brief silence, the great confederate leader said this, “Dear lady, cut it down and forget it.” Cut it down and forget. It seems to me that if you and I are to cut down those trees in our lives that are spreading roots of bitterness in our soul, if we’re going to cut down those trees, we need to go to that one tree and remind ourselves of what God gave us and what God gave His son so that He could give forgiveness to us.
Oh, I hope that’s an encouragement. We live in an age of rage. I know some of us are struggling with anger. By God’s grace, you can control it. It can be a river that is controlled between these principles and practices we’ve just talked about. It doesn’t need to become a destructive flood. Well, let’s pray.