The Problem with Anger

Today we are going to be talking about a bunch of interesting issues – and some of it – quite frankly, will be tough for some of you to swallow. Unlike National Donut day – it might not go down very easily.

I’ll tell you up front what we are doing – we are going to look at the hearts of two different kings – we are going to look at Saul’s heart and David’s heart – and we are going to compare them and I’m going to ask you to decide which of these two your heart more closely resembles.

And I want you to leave yourself open to the idea that maybe your heart is after the wrong king. At least give yourself permission to see that maybe your heart is in need of adjusting.

And it might be tough for some people to swallow – And so you know what Mary Poppins would say, right? A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – and so I’m going to start by showing you pictures of little babies. But not just any babies – here are pictures of angry babies.

  1. I am so displeased right now!
  2. You talking to me? You talking to me???
  3. Every Bears Fan – You stink ref!
  4. Fight the power
  5. Every husband has seen this look. I’m not mad. I’m not mad.
  6. This looks like a seattle Seahawks fan – You had Marshawn Lynch at the one!
  7. I know – right? If your baby looks like this – call a priest – don’t call me.
  8. Why I oughtta! Rotten sloppin!

Nothing funnier than angry babies. And maybe the opposite – there is nothing funny about angry adults. The cuteness really wears off quickly doesn’t it? I mean an angry baby? Throws a tantrum. An angry – out of control adult? Well, there’s no end to the damage a person consumed with anger can do.

Today we are in our fifth week of our series about the life of David. Last week we read about David’s soaring popularity after David kills Goliath. He is really trending – Mr. Popularity – the ruddiest man in Israel – and everyone is love with the guy – everyone except Saul.

We learn from the book of 1 Samuel, and I’d encourage you to bring a bible and turn there as we look over chapters 18-24 again this week – we learn that Saul is not pleased. In fact, it tells us that when Saul heard that people were singing about David –

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

What is anger? Anger is an emotion. It’s a spontaneous reaction against someone we feel has wronged us, offended us, hurt us or someone we love. Anger is at it’s simplest level – just an emotion.

And there is such a thing as Godly anger – Jesus displayed anger from time to time.

So there is such a thing as godly anger – anger for the right reason, at the right people, for the right amount of time. But you and I experience very little of that kind of anger. We often get angry because someone hurt my feelings, or offended a loved one, or treated us poorly.

Like all emotions – anger ought to be an informant – it should – like other emotions, inform our soul that something seems wrong – and it ought to cause us to ask, why am I angry? That’s the question God asked Cain – just before the first recorded murder in the Bible. God asks’ Why are you angry?”

But, rather than being an informer – anger usually prefers to be a controller. And if we are really honest – anger has a way of hijacking the operation, doesn’t it? Of all of our emotions, anger has a way of taking over control and suddenly we are doing things that later, when we are more rationale, we look back upon with regret.

I have three teenage kids and they are great kids. But we are human beings. And from time to time we get angry with each other. And one day I got into an argument with one of my sons – and I felt I was right and he felt he was right and then I felt he was disrespectful and he felt I was being a jerk and things get heated and I’m chewing him out and he has had enough of it and storms off to his room and I’m not going to let that happen – so I am going down the hall “Don’t you walk away from me – and then the door slams shut, don’t you slam that door – and then click, goes the lock and then boom goes my hand against the door and then – here’s the hole in the door.

And to this day I don’t remember what we were angry about – and it’s embarrassing to see that hole in the door and to show you, and the truth is that the door is only like 1/4 inch luan so it’s not even that impressive a thing – it’s just embarrassing.

But that’s the thing about anger – it demands to be indulged. It refuses to be hidden – it seeks to be noticed – and indulging it rarely subsides it – anger usually creates more anger.
How many times when someone is angry with you, you become angry in return, right? Don’t you disrespect me – don’t treat me like a baby, don’t you talk to me that way, don’t you talk to me that way! Don’t you walk away from me – don’t you yell at me! Don’t you close that door – don’t you tell me what to do! Boom!

The normal response to anger is to become angry. Hurt creates more hurt.

Anger is an emotion that seeks to hijack the normal operations of your life – and if left unchecked with hurt others you love. Anger will hurt people.

Anger is also one of those emotions that doesn’t dissipate easily. It festers. It hangs around. It collects. And there are many people in life, some close enough today to hear these words – who are carrying around in them a reservoir of anger that is near capacity.

Have you ever driven by a damn or a reservoir that has a spillway? When the water gets too much it overflows and out it comes! And when the reservoir is filled even the smallest rainstorm will cause all of this water to overflows through the spillway!

And there are some people who’s reservoir is filled with anger – and anger spills out of them at the smallest of inconveniences.

I remember once suggesting that in an effort to eliminate hurry from our lives we drive the speed limit for a week and the next day I got an email from someone who said I got flipped off twice on my way to work by people who passed me on the highway. Those people – their reservoir is already filled with anger – I mean how much work is it for someone to let off the gas a fraction? You want me to do what? You want me to bend my ankle all the way back to here? Up yours you foul flipping jerk!

So here we have Saul – and he is jealous and angry at David – and I want to show you how it begins to affect him – because things get out of control pretty fast for Saul.

First – Saul begins to wish harm on David. Internally he is hoping to see David killed. He has already been killing David in his mind – as Anger is often want to do – and so Saul being king has the ability to kill David off by the hands of another.

Think about how sick this thinking is – Saul’s daughter Michal falls in love with David. Saul’s daughter Michal had fallen in love with David, and Saul was delighted when he heard about it.  Oh how sweet! Saul is delighted – why are you delighted Saul? 21 “Here’s another chance to see him killed by the Philistines!” Saul said to himself.

Saul’s anger has so poisoned his soul that it has spilled over and is poisoning not just his relationship with David but also his relationship with others – completely innocent family members – and now Saul’s daughter Michal is involved and later Saul’s son Jonathon gets pulled into this inferno of anger coming out of Saul.

We see in Saul a rapid progression from anger to contempt to murder in his heart for David.

Now I want us to turn to Matthew 5 and I want us to read about Jesus’ teachings about anger and about the progression of anger in the heart of the wounded. Because it is Jesus who pins together anger and murder – it is Jesus who shows us the progression of anger in the human heart that poisons the soul.

Matthew 5 – this is called the sermon on the mount. And it is Jesus’ introduction to a different kind of Kingdom. All of us by default are born into this kingdom of this world. But when Jesus comes he brings an announcement that there is an alternative kingdom – it is called the Kingdom of God – or the kingdom of Heaven.

This default kingdom – also called the kingdom of darkness in the Bible is ruled by such saying as only the strong survive – and every man for himself. And along comes Jesus who says – there is an alternative Kingdom – where you and I are led by a good shepherd. Where we lack no good thing. Where we are comforted and protected – there is a kingdom – a right now kingdom – where I am perfectly safe -no matter what happens to me – even if I must – as we all shall one day – walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

So here in Matthew 5 – Jesus is going to point out the weakness of the law to address the true problem in the heart of man. He is going to challenge us to imagine a different life than we have ever allowed ourselves to imagine before. And here he is going to talk to us about anger.

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Now it’s important to understand the context. Here Jesus is speaking to the worlds ultimate moralists – they were called the Pharisees. They were professional moralists – meaning they were really really good people. They knew the rules and they followed them to the letter.

And as is often the case – the hardest people on earth to convince they need a savior are people who are really really good people. Moralists believe that they are better than the average person and therefore they are all set with God.

But Jesus is coming along and he will have the most difficult of times explaining to these people that entrance into this glorious alternative Kingdom of God is NOT based on being really really good. The gates of the kingdom of heaven have been thrown wide open to all who will — place their faith in Jesus. The gates are open to everyone – but there is only one way in and being really really good isn’t the way in…

Now this is very important to understand – Jesus is NOT adding more laws to our lives. He is not saying – if you murdered someone you were in trouble but NOW, even if you are angry you are in just as much trouble!

He is not adding more laws. He is actually trying to free us from the law, because the law always bring guilt conviction bondage and ultimately death.

Instead – here is Jesus is going to take the prize claim of the moralist – I have never killed someone – and he is going to declare that man looks on the outside and God looks on the heart – and what does God see when he looks at your heart?

How different is my heart than the heart of a murderer? And if I have a heart that is filled with anger there might be NO difference in the heart. They might look identical.

Now notice the progression of anger. Jesus says – if you are angry – the next step is to call someone an idiot. And after that a fool.

Well this is the case where translators aren’t doing us a favor in how they are translating.

When it says here if you call someone an idiot – the actual term is Raca – and it is thought to have it’s origin in the sound you make when you producing spit in your throat. It’s the ultimate term of contempt for someone. We degrade them as less than human – not worthy of any consideration.

Isn’t it the case often that you move from anger towards someone – to contempt. The longer you nurse you anger the more likely it is that you move from – I am angry with them – to I don’t care about them – they could die for all I care. You are nothing to me – I could spit on you because you are just garbage to me.

And the term here that Jesus uses as ‘fool’ – it sounds so innocent – why is Jesus all bent out of shape about the term fool – well the actual term is is the first century version of the F-word. It’s the worst curse word you can think of…

So here we have this progression in the heart of a human being – I haven’t murdered anyone – and Jesus says – yet. Because if you allow anger to fester it leads to contempt – where we degrade a human being to being nothing more than garbage worth spitting on – and in our heart of heart we see them NOT as human beings but as f-ing sons of blankity blanks.

When we see this play out in the world, it’s truly heart breaking. There is no shortage of examples. And many of us know of marriages – indeed some have lived through the horror – of watching two people who at one time pledged to love one another – become people who genuinely curse one another.

Anger, contempt, scorn, hate – and though it ends perhaps before actual murder, inside the heart is a barely concealed desire for genuine harm to befall them.

And Jesus says Hold on. Let’s imagine a different kingdom. Where instead of a heart full of anger and contempt and hate – let’s imagine a heart of love. A heart so filled with love for other people that we cannot degrade them in our minds – we simply can’t look at people as garbage – we can’t see them as objects that we lust after – let’s imagine hearts filled with love and respect and dignity for other human beings. All human beings.

This is the kingdom heart that Jesus tells us he will form in us if we let him. We can be so radically transformed that hate and anger will be unable to cling to our soul – it will find no beach head – no foothold within us.

And – Jesus goes on – to say that it will be filled with so much love that it will even be possible to love our enemies.

Now I want to go back to 1 Samuel – and I want us to see how David presents to us a micro-story of what it looks like to love your enemy.

This story gives us a chance to see two hearts of two kings. And in the end I feel that it leaves us with something of a choice – which king does our heart more resemble?

And I will start back here in 1 Samuel 18 – with a very interesting story of David playing the harp in Saul’s court… And this was before David runs for his life – he is in the court and Saul is suddenly filled with rage toward David. Anger has so consumed him that God gives him over to his anger – and it says that Saul… began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice.

The most amazing word in this sentence is the word – Twice!

What do you do when someone throws a spear at you? everyone knows, right? You pull it out of the wall and you throw it back, right? Don’t you?

But David doesn’t. He keeps on playing – I mean he doesn’t twice! Why not? Why didn’t David kill Saul? He certainly could have.

For some of you here – you have gotten yourself into this situation where anger creates more anger which just keeps ratcheting up the scale – and someone throws a barb at you and you throw it right back.

(And I’m just throwing this out there – I’m not talking here about abusive situations – if you are in real physical danger – you don’t need to turn the other cheek to your abuser you need to get out of that situation. And we will do all we can if that’s your case. But sometimes it isn’t abuse – it’s just plain anger and meanness and contempt and someone is throwing barbs at you all the time.

I’m just putting it out there – but how we respond when someone throws verbal spears at us shows us whether our heart is more like Saul or more like David. David passes on the chance to throw the spears back.

Is it possible that this morning God is challenging you to break the chain of anger and contempt and that he is challenging you to begin to see that person who is throwing barbs and spears and hate toward you – as a human being with an eternal destiny and someone with intrinsic dignity – and God is working to change your heart to begin to love him.

It’s not easy – and it’s again – not a law. It’s not one of these things where you grit your teeth and say – okay I guess I’m supposed to love you or else God is mad at me. It’s not a law – its love.

But I want you imagine being the kind of person who freely is willing to love that person who is throwing the spears at you. Can you even imagine being that full of love?

I think that the matter of whether we end up with Saul’s heart or David’s heart depends on which of those two hearts we intend to develop. And unfortunately the default heart will chase Saul’s. The default heart will throw the spear back.

The default heart is one that – when wounded – seeks to wound. When attacks – seeks to lash back. When offended – seeks payback.

I love to watch westerns, but so many of them are simple revenge movies. I mean isn’t the plot of every Clint Eastwood western – Bad people killed a Clint’s friend. Clint rides his horse into town and kills everyone? I’m your huckleberry! Right? Revenge movies! You injured me I will kill you and all your friends.

These movies speak to our Saul hearts. Anger begets more anger – hate more hate. Contempt for contempt. An eye for an eye! Revenge is a dish…

And yet here is David – his heart is different. He doesn’t throw the spear back at Saul.

Throw the spear back David and you can become a king – a king just like Saul – one who is really good at throwing spears.

David has a heart that genuinely wants to bless Saul.

Back to Jesus 38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 

Why? Why Jesus? Why would we even want that kind of heart? And Jesus tells us –

45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 

Ah-ha! Here it is. Why would we want a heart like David’s? Why would we desire to be the kind of people who don’t throw the spear back? Now we know. Because David is a man after God’s own heart.

God has a heart that doesn’t throw spears back. Instead – his love causes his goodness to be displayed equally to both the good and the evil.

He treats all humans with respect and love. Love. God truly is love. And so to have a heart that is loving – even to people who treat us poorly – honors God. Displays godly love – it stands opposed to what the Saul-like heart is used to – I mean – even gang members love people who love them. Even the Mob loves people who love them. Even Isis loves people who love them. But who loves their enemy?

God does – and while we were still his enemies he sent his son Jesus to die for us. While we were still his enemies – God loves us.

Which of these two kings hearts does your heart more closely resemble? Which of these two king are you becoming? Will you be a king after the order of Saul? Or will you be a king after the order of David?

Now if you are here today and you say – I think I’m after Saul – I think I’ve allowed anger and contempt a foothold – then what shall we do?

And for the answer I’m going to turn back to Matthew for one thing that Jesus recommends we do.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 

I want you this week to begin to pray for that person your heart wants dead. And it begins here – because one of the most loving things we can do for another is to pray blessings upon them. To pray that God blesses them.

We aren’t going to pray that God teaches them a lesson – we aren’t going to pray that God humbles them – or softens their evil heart -see we aren’t going to take a superior position to them in our thoughts and prayers – instead we are going to pray that God’s best blessings would reside in them. That their marriage would thrive – that their work is a blessing.

Instead of praying curses on them, would you consider really praying God’s very best to be shown to them?

It’s tough – but when we pray blessings instead of curses- we force our heart to turn in the right direction. And soon we may actually find our anger dissipating. (And that’s the rub because for many in here – you are secretly delighting in your anger – it brings satisfaction – but it is turning you into Saul.

Would you pray God’s blessings upon whomever it is that God has placed in your mind right now? Pray for them as I pray for you.

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