On Sunday we looked at the teaching of Jesus where he calls his Kingdom followers to root anger out of their hearts. This is where Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said that murder is wrong, but I tell you anger is also wrong”.
And as we explored this topic we realized why anger is so destructive. It is destructive because anger stops reconciliation. Anger fuels grudges, bitterness, and a prison of our own making. The point is that as followers of God it is not enough to simply refrain from committing homicide, while harbouring seething rage in our hearts. To do that is to miss the point.
Christians are to be a different community, called to live differently than those around us. But how can we live differently if we harbor anger, let it direct our actions, drag others into courts, refuse to reconcile, and hold onto our own self-righteous anger. And yes, all anger is self-righteous in a way. Because anger arises when our will is opposed, blocked, or stopped. We get angry because we don’t get what we want. The point isn’t that anger is wrong in and of itself. Anger simply points to the fact that something we want (which may be very good) is being stopped. The point is that if we harbor anger in our hearts, no longer is anger alerting us to a situation, it starts to direct our actions and attention.
The point is we cannot be the church God calls us to be, if inside of us our hearts are brimming with anger and resentment. We need to learn to deal with it, to root it out, and to not harbor anger against another.
Stanley Hauerwas writes: “Jesus’ life makes possible our reconciliation with the Father and with one another. That reconciliation creates a community of reconciliation, a community of peace. So we should not be surprised that Jesus admonishes us not to harbor our anger at our brothers and sisters, but rather we are to seek reconciliation with them. He does not say that we are not to be angry, but rather that we are not to come to the alter of sacrifice unreconciled to one with whom we are angry.”
The point is that if we are following Jesus, we are following someone who practices reconciliation, and then so must we. We cannot hold onto our anger, to stoke our rage, or to let contempt take hold of our hearts. We need to be people who root it out, and pursue reconciliation. This was the main point on Sunday – root out anger, and pursue reconciliation.
We left ourselves with this challenge on Sunday to rid ourselves of anger, and work at reconciliation. We want to take this teaching of Jesus seriously. To examine the places where anger has taken root, to ask Jesus whom do we need to pursue reconciliation with, and how can we live as people of peace in the world. This is indeed a practical everyday challenge, but one that could truly change how we live and how we are seen in the world.
I want to close with a rather lengthy but a very poignant quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who summarizes the idea and makes it personal:
Anger is always an attack on [another’s] life, for it refuses to let him live and aims at his destruction…Every idle word which we think so little of betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy.
So long as we refuse to love and serve our brother and make him an object of contempt and let him harbor a grudge against me or the congregation, our worship and sacrifice will be unacceptable to God…Let us therefore, as a church, examine ourselves ….There is only one way of following Jesus and of worshipping God, and that is to be reconciled
Big Idea: Root out anger and pursue reconciliation
- What if we actually did what Jesus said?
- “The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- “The whole sermon is not about how to be better individual Christians, it is a picture of the way the church is to look” Stanley Hauerwas, Will Willimon
- Now the point is that we can follow the rules and still entirely miss the point of the rules
- The root of murder is anger, and anger is murderous in principle. One has not conformed to the better righteousness of the kingdom simply by refraining from homicide. D.A. Carson
- Anger stops reconciliation
- This teaching is about overcoming the anger, that leads to murder, and learning to be people who reconcile
- We cannot be the church God calls us to be, if inside of us our hearts are brimming with anger and resentment
- Jesus followers are not to insult each other. Reconciliation must be a first priority in the family of God’s people, or else the worshipping community will be no different from the world at large where festering pride and resentment lead people to drag each other into court and throw each others into prison – Dallas Willard
- Root out anger and pursue reconciliation
- Rid yourself of anger, and work at reconciliation
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?
Would you say you ever struggle with anger? Had you ever thought of anger in this way before? How has anger stopped you from reconciling before? Whom do you need to reconcile with this week? How might you go about trying? Who can help you and support you as you pursue reconciliation?
Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about anger, and how about in God’s kingdom it isn’t to be there. Ask someone being angry has ever hurt their feelings. Ask if when they were angry they ever hurt someone’s feelings. Ask them if there is anyone they need to reconcile
Challenge for this Week Rid yourself of anger, and work at reconciliation