Would you describe your life as good and beautiful? Notes from Sermon on Living without Anger, Part 2
As I mentioned last week, my blog through September expands on our current Good and Beautiful life series, based on the book of that name by our pastor-in-residence James Bryan Smith. The following notes from Sunday’s sermon on anger pick up from where I left off in last week’s blog.
Sirach 30:21-25 – A Vision of the Good and Beautiful Life
“Do not give in to sadness or torment yourself deliberately. Gladness of heart is the very life of a person, and cheerfulness prolongs their days. Distract yourself and renew your courage. Drive resentment far away from you; for grief has killed many, and nothing is to be gained from resentment. Envy and anger shorten one’s days and anxiety brings on premature old age. Those who are cheerful and merry at table benefit from their food.”
Would you describe your life as full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control?
“The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering…but in the development of the soul.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” C.S. Lewis
As James Bryan Smith says in his introduction to his book, The Good and Beautiful Life:
- We live at the mercy of our ideas and our narratives
- What we think determines how we live.
- The key to beginning a good and beautiful life is to adopt the narratives of Jesus
“Everyone who hears these words of mine (Sermon on the Mount) and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock…” Matthew 7:24-27
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’
22 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.
23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“Of all the emotions we are born with, anger is the most primal and difficult one to control.”
Andrew Newberg, MD, author of How God Changes Your Brain
How anger typically works
“Anger releases a cascade of neurochemicals that actually destroy those parts of the brain that control emotional reactivity.”
Andrew Newberg, MD, How God Changes Your Brain
1. We lose the capacity to be rational.
2. We lose the awareness that we are acting in an irrational way.
3. We lose the capacity to listen.
4. No capacity for sympathy or empathy.
How God intended anger to work
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle
25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil.
Embrace a new narrative. As a follower of Jesus:
- I will not live with unresolved anger! I am going to be free from contempt and rage!
- As a follower of Jesus, I will admit my hurt/anger and name the behavior without blaming or shaming.14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; 15 You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message.
- I will not seek to get even because ultimately it is not my battle.The Lord will pay him back for his deeds. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- As a follower of Jesus, I can name my disappointment with people and pray for them so I can be free from resentment.16 At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them!
- I can trust Jesus to transform my anger so I don’t transmit my anger. But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
- As a follower of Jesus, I am never alone. Jesus is my Shepherd. (Psalm 23) The Shepherd will take care of me.17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (Above verses from 2 Timothy 4).
Anger as a gift as demonstrated in Jesus’ life:
- righteous indignation
- holy discontent
- oxygen which fuels the fire of engagement
12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’, but you are making it a den of robbers. Matthew 21
Where there is injustice….
Anger is love’s clearest voice!
“He that is angry without cause, sins. He that is not angry with cause, sins.”
St. John Chrysostom
Soul Training Exercises
Discover your passion – place of ministry. The place we can make a Kingdom difference. Spiritual gifts determine what we do in that place where we have passion to serve.
How do you resolve anger that comes from circumstances over which you have no control? Such as illness, poor choices, natural disasters, the struggles of life, etc.
Read the Psalms of Individual Lament or create your own and share with one person.
Psalm 77 for example. You allow the Psalm to be your voice to express the deep emotion. In the process of allowing the Psalms to be our voice, we learn to be boldly honest with God who in our naming brings healing to our emotions and memories. The Psalms become the “vehicle” for maintaining relationship with God in and through the difficult circumstances of our lives.
Other Psalms of Individual Lament include:
3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27*, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142
Practice a weekly Sabbath
24 hour period of not doing anything you have to do.
We learn to trust God for the things we cannot control.
Be patient with yourself. Just remember to keep the vision before you.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8
What is God saying to you today?
What is your next step?