Proverbs: Anger

Proverbs: Anger

It was 1894, and it all began with a fight between the Boston Beaneaters first baseman Tommy Tucker and the Baltimore Orioles third baseman John McGraw. Now, McGraw was known to fight with practically everyone during his playing days. And, then, you had Tommy Tucker who was probably upset because he played for a team whose mascot was the Beaneaters. Seriously, that’s one of the worst team names I’ve ever heard. But, he was also known for his loudness on the field, and it almost seemed inevitable that these two would clash one day.

And, that moment happened on May 15, 1894, when Tucker slid into third base, kicking McGraw right in the head. Now, it could have been incidental contact but the punches that ensued between the two sportsmen were a bit more calculated. The crowds cheered on the brawl between the two men.

And, while everyone’s attention was fixated on the field, it’s what they didn’t see that resulted in great consequence. A group of children had started a fire below the right field stands, and as the seats caught fire, what came to be known as the Great Roxbury Fire had ignited. Even as the flames first became visible, many fans remained in their seats to see who might win the on-field skirmish. Only when the heat became unbearable did onlookers begin thinking of evacuating the ballpark; but, McGraw and Tucker continued to exchange their jabs and hooks. Finally, as the ballpark was engulfed in flames, the boxing match, too, was broken up. 

Still, the fire had spread quickly. Not only did it destroy the ballpark—the only true double-decker park in Boston history—but it would spread through several other blocks, destroying over 170 buildings, leaving approximately 1900 people homeless, and causing an equivalent of $7,000,000 in today’s money worth of damages.

Now, I know the Boston Beaneaters and the Baltimore Orioles aren’t the ones who caused the fire, but one has to wonder what might have been different if everyone wasn’t so distracted. How might things have played out if their energies were focused on fighting the real threat and not one another. Certainly, in some metaphorical sense, the rage burning within each man that day spilled out and consumed a city. Proverbs 29:8 warns us of such a danger, where it reads,

[Proverbs 29:8] Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.

The things that burn within us never actually only burn within us. It profoundly affects those around us. So, friends, let me ask you: have you been angry lately? Look, I don’t need to know much about you today to actually know the answer to that question. I came across a survey from the London Sunday Times in 2008 which indicated:

  • 45% of us regularly lose our temper at work;
  • 64% of those working in an office have had office rage;
  • 27% of nurses have been attacked at work;
  • Up to 60% of all absences from work are caused by anger and stress;
  • 33% of those polled are not on speaking terms with their neighbors;
  • More than 80% of drivers say they have been involved in road rage incidents; and,
  • 50% of us have reacted to computer problems by hitting our computer, hurling parts of it around, or screaming at it. 1

And, that’s not to say anything about the anger we privately harbor within our hearts. So, let me ask you again: have you been angry lately? Because the survey further indicated the majority of people also agree that we’re only getting angrier and angrier all the time. And, the chilling realization here, friends, is not just that we are angry. But, that we are actually angrier than we even realize. We are mad at liberals; we are mad at conservatives; we are mad at men, and we’re mad at women; we’re mad at millennials, and we’re mad at non-millennials. We’re mad at the people who conform too much and the people who don’t conform enough. We’re mad at people whose religion is different than our own, and we’re mad at people in our own church. We’re mad at people who are a different race and people who are the same the race. Today, we’re mad when things are open to the public, and we’re mad when they’re closed. We’re mad when things get canceled, and we’re mad when they’re not. We’re mad about wearing face masks, and we’re mad at the implications for our American rights. We’re mad at videos and images of people being killed by certain police officers; and, we’re mad because we don’t know the full story yet. We’re mad because symbols of oppression have been held onto for far too long; we’re mad because we’re trying to remove a piece of our history. We’re mad at the government; we’re mad at protesters; and, we’re mad at everyone else in between. Some of you might be mad just because I said some of the things you’ve been mad about and others of you are mad because I didn’t list the thing you’re mad about. And, if that list exhausts you, imagine what all that anger is doing in you. 

The chilling realization is not just that we are angry but that we angrier than we even realize.

Let’s be honest: our culture’s default mode seems to be outrage all the time and at all the things. Today, there is no shortage of things we’re angry about. Did you know that Slate Magazine actually declared 2014 as the year of outrage. Seriously, you should look it up because, frankly, I don’t know that we’ve ever left it; we might just be working ourselves up to the decade of outrage at this point. But, Slate Magazine actually has a website you can go to that has a calendar, and you can click on any day in 2014 to see what it was we were outraged by on that specific day. You’ll see people were upset about TV stars and wheelchairs and lattes and racism and war. Honestly, it can be a little jarring to see events as nation-shaking as the death of Michael Brown and the Ferguson riots alongside something like somebody saying that Hello, Kitty isn’t actually a cat or a photo of Steven Spielberg in front of a dead triceratops on the set of Jurassic Park. Like, people were actually incensed because they thought he killed such a “majestic animal.”

Our problem isn’t just that we are angry, but that we are angry in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons.

I know! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s ridiculous how easy it can be to rationalize, minimize, and outright deny our own anger while pointing to the anger of the other person. Let me say that again in case you missed it: it’s easy to see the absurdities in those examples because they are outside of yourself, but you deceive yourself about what’s inside of you. We tell ourselves that our anger is justified and moral and good and right, but the anger of everyone else around us is unmerited absurdity. So, I want to invite you do something with me this morning. This is not a sermon for the other side. This is not a sermon to pass off to that one person in the office you think needs to hear it. This is a sermon for you, and it’s about you. And, as we continue to unpack this topic of anger together, be open to seeing yours for what it truly is. See, I’m convinced our problem isn’t just that we are angry, but that we are angry in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons.

Sinful anger must be EXTINGUISHED.

So, this brings me to our first point in this message: our sinful anger must be extinguished. See, the story of Scripture is actually an intricately woven narrative of two angers. Throughout the pages of our Bible, we read about the anger of a Good King. And, honestly, we sometimes talk about the anger of God almost like it’s an embarrassing quality for Him. We prefer to talk of His grace and His mercy and His love, but, friends, you want an angry God. You want a God who looks at the broken condition of this world and of our lives and is moved to action. You want a God who, in His perfection, looks to a world that should not be the way it is and is angered by it—not indifferent to it. See, the anger of our God is the love of God. 

The other weekend, we took our girls to the Athletic Club’s swimming pool. I had been working with Gwen and Lydia on their swimming, so I had taken off their floaties for a moment. And, as we were taking turns practicing our floating and kicking, it was Gwen’s turn to practice. Explicitly, I instructed Lydia to wait patiently by the poolside for her turn. But, before I even knew it and while my attention was on Gwen, Lydia jumped in. No floaties. No idea how to swim. No deep breath before her jump so she could hold it under water. No, she just sank. I didn’t even notice at first, but as soon as I did, I frantically set Gwen on the poolside and swam to scoop Lydia out of the water. I swear it had to be only seconds, but there was already water in her mouth. She coughed it out, visibly rattled by the whole experience. She was freaked out; I was freaked out. Now, obviously, she’s quite alright (thank God), but I have to tell you: I was angry—relieved, but angry because I knew it didn’t need to be that way. I had a plan for her; it was to protect her and not to limit her. I knew the joys of the swimming pool, but I also knew of the dangers. I wanted her to experience the joys to their fullest. And, the last thing I wanted for a fun day at the pool with the family was for her to be spitting out water and crying in fear. And, I think most people would understand my reaction. I would not be a loving father if I was indifferent to the image of my child submerged beneath the water’s surface. It would not be loving for me to not feel the seriousness of that moment and move into action. 

And, so it is with the anger of our God. He has a plan for our lives. The anger of God is His love in action against our sin and for our redemption. The wise Solomon tells us this in Proverbs 24:12, where we read,

[Proverbs 24:12] If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to his work?

He knows the dangers of our ignorance. But, there is another anger interwoven into this grand narrative. It is my anger. It’s your anger. It’s the anger insistent upon getting its way. It’s the anger compelled not by love for God or love for man but by love for self. It is the anger which overflows not in loving action but in defiance, isolation, and tantrum. It is the anger that manifests in social media tirades rather than empathetic conversation. And, what is deeply troubling about our anger is that it doesn’t take long in this life for it to reveal itself within us. 

My other daughter, Sadie, is going through a phase right now where she loves to lock herself in our bedrooms and bathrooms and basically any room; if it has a lock, she’s going to get to it. Not only is it inconvenient to go find a screwdriver to unlock the door but it also typically means she’s doing something she shouldn’t be doing—like drawing all over the walls which is always a ton of fun for a parent. But, when you tell her, “No!,” she has a breakdown. Sometimes she throws a tantrum, but more often she goes completely limp like a noodle and melts into the floor. I swear, it’s almost like she’s catatonic. Don’t even try to talk to her in that moment, either. She is two years old but a master at the cold shoulder and icy stare. I have literally had to drag her around the house because apparently when she is told, “No!,” Sadie’s legs completely lose the ability to function properly.

Now, of course, when she does this to me, I don’t mind because I know she is really trying to tell me, “Dad, I love you. Dad, I have such a beautiful plan for your life… and it’s for you to serve me and do whatever I want you to do.”

Now, we might laugh, but the unfortunate reality is that we never quite grow out of this, do we? It’s just more obvious in my two-year-old’s heart than it is in my thirty-two-year-old heart. And, what is deeply deceptive and problematic about our anger is that we convince ourselves the anger we hold onto more closely resembles the love of the Father than it does the anger of the rebellious child. We know there are positive sides to anger—good qualities of anger—and, of course, we persuade ourselves that we possess them. Everyone else, though? Well, they’re just whiny, little children. Oh, friends, how woefully easy it is to confuse our self-righteous anger for righteous anger!

How woefully easy it is to confuse our self-righteous anger for righteous anger!

See, before we jump up and say no, not all anger is bad, we need to recognize that the vast majority of the Scriptures pertaining to anger are a warning of its danger! Our anger is more often because of our selfishness than it is a result of our surrender to God’s higher purpose for our life. Friends, can I just be honest with you for a moment? As I observe our interactions with one another and our social media pages today, I’m confronted with your anger. And, I’m convinced that you’re more often angry because you’re selfish, not because you’re godly.

I’m convinced that you’re more often angry because you’re selfish, not because you’re godly.

Now, maybe you’re listening to this and thinking you’re not an angry person, but hear me: anger has many faces to it. It can be a vicious stare. It can be silent revenge. It can be angry words. It can be turning your back on another and writing them off entirely. It can be unexpressed bitterness. It can be violent rage. It can be a trembling anger underneath that forced smile. Just because you don’t have visible outbursts, don’t deceive yourself into thinking there is no anger within you. 

Choosing to be unoffendable out of love is ministry.

And, Proverbs warns us that we are fools if we allow our anger to be our first and immediate response. Someone once said, “Choosing to be unoffendable out of love is ministry.” It’s how we serve one another. Offense will assuredly come your way, but you can choose to be slow to your anger. You can choose to let it go. Remember, offense is an action, but offended is always a choice—more specifically, it is your choice. May we choose to be slow to anger because here’s what we read in Proverbs,

[Proverbs 14:29] Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

[Proverbs 15:18] A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

[Proverbs 16:32] Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Not only does Scripture caution of the anger within us, but it also gives warning against provoking anger in one another. Friends, if you’re a provocateur, you’re no better than the angry person! You know what you’re doing, and God sees what you’re doing, too. Now, this doesn’t mean we never share a word or that we won’t do something that might anger someone, but, friend, let me ask you: did you enjoy getting under their skin? Did it make you feel superior to provoke an emotional response from them? How did it feel for you to get the final word in? Christians, listen to me: we’re not called to win fights; we’re called to win hearts. People may not always enjoy the things we say or do, but it should be clear that our intention and motivation was to love them and not anger them. Here’s what Proverbs has to say about the provocateur:

[Proverbs 15:1] A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

[Proverbs 19:11] Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Friends, we need to extinguish the flames of sinful anger—whether that be the anger we hold within ourselves or the anger we provoke in others. I’m not so convinced that anger management is the solution. Can the fire really be managed anyway? Once the fans in Boston realized the danger in 1894, their objective wasn’t to control the fire. The objective wasn’t to just let it burn, only in a confined space. No, it overtook them far faster than they could imagine, and it had to be extinguished. And, so it is with our anger. The heat of our anger will overflow and ensnare those around us. And, Jesus didn’t mince words about the consequences of provoking others and tempting them to sin. We read in Matthew 18:7,

[Matthew 18:7, NIV] Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

and, again, wise Solomon cautions us in Proverbs, 

[Proverbs 22:24] Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, [25] lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Look, there are some of you who have been living in anger for some time. If you were to be honest with yourself today, you’ve been angry for all the wrong reasons—for self-serving reasons. You’re not angry for the things that anger the heart of God. You’re not angry for the things that violate His Law. You’re angry because your law has been trespassed. See, anger doesn’t just come out of nowhere. In one degree or another, anger is a response to whatever endangers something we love. But, the problem with our anger is that it is motivated by our love for our control, our love for our reputation, our love for our comfort, our love for our convenience, our love for our thinking, our love for ourselves. Your anger today feels right because it is still directed toward dealing with what feels to be real and tangible threats to the things you care deeply about. But, the problem, as St. Augustine would put it, is that, ”The root of our sinfulness is disordered loves.”

“The root of our sinfulness is disordered loves.”St. Augustine

See, friends, I don’t think the problem is just our anger. The problem is that our love is disordered and, as a result, we have become angry about the wrong things. And, when you get mad about absolutely everything, you will lose the focus and the energy for the things that actually matter. You will forget your First and True Love, and the things He holds dear to His heart.

I don’t believe the Lord has come to make as unangry Christians or to teach us how to manage our anger. No, He has come to do a grander work within us and through us. He has come to redeem our anger and save it from glorifying the kingdom of self.

Righteous anger must be ENCOURAGED.

So, that means, yes, we need to extinguish our sinful anger. But, there is a righteous anger that we need to encourage within us. He has come so that our disordered love for self and the things of self may be redeemed and restored to love for Him and His Law. You will never be able to extinguish the sinful anger of self until you can humbly pray, “Lord, not my will be done, but Yours.” Isn’t that often the deepest source of anger, anyway? We want things to be done the way we want them to be done! But, friends, we are called to be surrendered to a higher purpose than our own. And, I’m deeply persuaded that our problem regarding anger is not just that we are often angry for the wrong reasons, but that we are not angry often enough for the right reasons.

See, there is a perplexing command we find throughout the Scriptures. We first read it in Psalm 4:4, where the psalmist records,

[Psalm 4:4] Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

The Apostle Paul would echo these words again in his letter to the church in Ephesus, by saying,

[Ephesians 4:26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil. 

Make no mistake: the beginning of these verses are an imperative. Be angry. It is a command to be angry. And, this is can be rather puzzling because we just spent a great deal of time talking about the dangers of our anger. So, come on, what is it? Is it wrong to be angry? Well, sometimes. Is it wrong to not be angry? Again, the answer is sometimes.  Even looking back to the Proverbs we read through earlier, we see that they don’t even state, “Do not be angry;” rather, we must be slow in our anger. Friends, be angry, but it matters what you’re angry about and how you’re angry about it. The early church father John Chrysostom, once wrote “It is true that he that is angry without cause sins, but he who is not angry when there is cause also sins (and perhaps to an even greater degree).”

“It is true that he that is angry without cause sins, but he who is not angry when there is cause also sins (and perhaps to an even greater degree).”John Chrysostom

As Christians, when we are confronted with the brokenness and evil of this world, passivity cannot be our response. Suffering must not be okay with us. Injustice must not be okay with us. Immorality must not be okay with us. A righteous anger will violently yank us out of passivity towards the issues God cares deeply for. So, if it is wrong to be angry sometimes and if it is wrong to not be angry at others times, how do we discern this? A simple litmus test is to ask yourself the following question: How much of your anger is the result of you angrily defending the law of God? Frankly, our anger more often aligns itself with our political platform than does His kingdom platform. How much of the anger I’m holding onto involves me being angry at people or perhaps even angry at God rather than angry with God? Am I even pausing to consider the Lord in my anger, or am I chiefly concerned with myself?

Look, Scripture is quite clear what is needed to honor the Lord. He explicitly states what is required of us when we read Micah 6:8,

[Micah 6:8] He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

As Christians, we are to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. We must ask ourselves, then, what is it that will cause me to act justly? And, friends, is it not by righteous anger toward the perversions of justice which cause the innocent to suffer and the guilty to go free? We must ask ourselves, what is it that will cause me to love kindness? And, again, friends, is it not anger toward the suffering and marginalization of those around us in this broken world? What about humility? What is it that will cause me to walk humbly? Does it not mean that if I’m to have the very heart of God within me that I would love what He loves and hate what He hates? Does it not mean that righteous anger is merited when I glorify my preferences above His purposes? Does it not mean a righteous anger ought to burn when I choose to trample on and ignore and am apathetic towards others so my convenience and my comfort may not be disturbed?

It is good in these moments to be angry for the Lord Himself is angered by sin. So, it matters greatly with what or with whom you are angry. Friends, are you just angry, or are you angry with God? Honestly, I’m not so interested today in talking about what angers you. It’s time we start asking what it is that angers the Lord, and then letting everything else go. Our anger must be about something bigger than ourselves. But, it also matters what your anger looks like. Our anger must not look like the world’s anger. Our anger is but a way station, never the destination. It is not the place where we live. It is not our home. It is not our goal or our chief aim to determine what it is we ought to be enraged by today. 

Our anger is but a way station, never the destination.

Friends, there is nowhere in Scripture where it tells us that the world will know we are Christians by our anger. But, I fear that when the world looks to the church today, they see a bunch of cranky people. There has to be a different destination than just that for the believer. We are to be known for our love—love toward those who think vastly different than us. Love toward those who intend to even do harm to you. Love toward those who have embittered you. Love toward the politicians and lawmakers over you. And, you might be thinking, “I don’t know if I can do that!” And, friend, that’s what makes it godly. Look, anyone can love someone who is like them, but it is the power of Christ within you that transforms you and enables you to love those on the other side of the aisle. Remember, you were once on the other side of grace, too, and yet it was God’s love that led you to Him. So, what ought to be the result of our Christian anger? I want to look at a verse we started with during this whole series. The letter of James has come to be known by some as the Proverbs of the New Testament because it is full of such wisdom. So, we read in James 3:17,

[James 3:17, NIV] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. [18] Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

See, the wise person’s anger will be pure in motive. It won’t be self-seeking. It will genuinely care for the other person but chiefly be consumed by care for the Law of the Lord. It will love peace. Some of you love to be angry. You can’t admit it to yourself, but it’s true. You love the opportunity to give a piece of your mind and to shut other people down. Some of you love to argue. Love peace more than your anger. Your anger ought to consider the person on the other side of you and be submissive to the Lord within you. Your anger should be full of mercy and good fruit, having the intention to always create a way back for the other person. There’s some of you so angry at another person right now that no matter what they do, they could never be restored in your sight. Everything they do is tainted by the anger who hold against them. You’ve made redemption in your eyes impossible for them. Remember, the standard by which you judge you shall be judged. May your anger be full of mercy. 

How you are angry matters. Paul’s command to be angry and do not sin in Ephesians 4, continues on by saying,

[Ephesians 4:29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Let me ask you, does your anger look like that? If not, I gotta tell you, your anger belongs to the kingdom of this world. Too many of you are using your anger to destroy another person. Too many of you are using your anger to shut another person out, to belittle them, to estrange them. Too many of you are comfortable allowing your anger to wound another. What is the fruit of your anger? That’s how we know whether it is self-righteous or righteous anger. Pastor and author Paul David Tripp once wrote, ”Will your anger propel you to be a healer, a restorer, a rescuer, and a reconciler? Or will your anger leave a legacy of fear, hurt, disappointment, and division?”

Proverbs shows us the fruit of the wise person. We see the fruit of righteous anger in Proverbs 29:11, where it says,

[Proverbs 29:11, NIV] Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Anger is a way station—not the destination. But, there are some of you listening today who have made an extended stop along the way. If you were honest with yourself today, the anger you’ve been holding onto is not the result of you loving justice, being kind, or walking humbly. Your anger is more about self-preservation than His glory. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to break our hearts for what breaks the heart of God. Again, if you were honest today, your anger does not lead to the beautiful grace of God. Your angry outbursts have been ugly but if people could see deeper into what you hold within yourself, they would find an even uglier version of that anger. The Lord wants to redeem your anger today. He wants to correct our disordered loves and save us from not just the kingdom of self but to the kingdom of God.

Our hearts must be EVALUATED.

But, our sinful anger needs to be extinguished. Righteous anger needs to be encouraged. And, as we begin to move to a conclusion today, let’s really get to the heart of the matter here. See, I think there’s too many of us who think we’re angry because of everything going on outside of us. I mean, look at the world right now! There’s just so much to be angry about, right?! But, your anger is not so much about what is going on outside of you as it is actually rooted in something deep inside of you. Proverbs 4:23 warns us to

[Proverbs 4:23] Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.

This leads us to our third and final point for this message: our hearts must be evaluated. It’s time to put everything on the table and get real honest with ourselves. Is my anger self-serving or God-honoring? Is the anger I feel fueled by the gospel of the Republican or Democratic party or by the gospel of Jesus Christ? Am I indifferent to suffering and injustice if it doesn’t directly affect me?

Honestly, we don’t need to look any further than the hearts beating inside of our own chests to see the brokenness and depravity of this world. But, does your own sin break you? I mean, does it really break you? Is there a righteous anger at the sin harbored within you that compels you to action? See, I think we are too often distracted by the things without that we neglect that which is within. Instead of fighting with each other, we ought to be fighting for our hearts. Friends, your sinful anger is a result of something ruling over your heart that was never meant to rule over your heart. Your struggle over anger is actually a struggle over your heart. We want to rule our own little world, and we want it to act the way that we want it to act. And, when it doesn’t, I’m angry! Can I show you how this happens within us?

Instead of fighting with each other, we ought to be fighting for our hearts.

See, it starts with a desire: “I want ________.” Sin quickly turns this desire into a demand: “I must have ________.” This desire begins to control me a little more, and it mutates into a need: “I will have ________.” I want has become I must and I must has become I will. We convince ourselves that we cannot live without this certain thing. It distorts our relationships with those around us because when we need something we begin to expect those around us to give it to us: “You should ________.” We expect those around us that love us to meet our needs. But, when people don’t do as we please, it results in disappointment: “You didn’t ________.” And because we have been let down, punishment must be paid: “Therefore, I will ________.” This is how the things that are disordered loves within your heart manifest in anger toward God and those around you. And, if we’re not careful to evaluate our hearts, it can all happen while we are completely unaware. James reveals this to us in James 4, where we read,

[James 4:1] What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? [2] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. [3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Our lives were never meant to be lived in the pursuit of what I want and when I want it and how I want it and where I want it and why I want it. Our lives were meant to be a pursuit after the presence of God and His grace and His will for your life. Our loves have become disordered, and when our love is out of order so will our anger be. So, how do we expose our sinful anger for what it is? How do we encourage righteous anger within our hearts? We must return to our First and True and Only Love.

At the end of your pews, you should find a small bag with some prepackaged Communion cups. I’m going to ask you to grab one and pass it down the pew so each person may join us. If you’re at home and tuning into our live stream, feel free to get up for a moment and grab some elements. It doesn’t need to be the wafers we use here; you can use what is available to you. And, when you have your Communion elements, I’m going to ask that you hold onto them with me. And, I want to take you back to the last night Jesus spent with His disciples. We read,

[Luke 22:14] And when the hour came, [Jesus] reclined at table, and the apostles with him. [17] And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. [18] For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” [19] And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” [20] And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

It was shortly after this moment that Jesus found Himself in a garden with a few of His closest disciples, and He went a short distance to spend some time in prayer. And, in that moment, He knew the road that was before Him. He felt the betrayal of a close friend. He felt the darkness of that night. He felt the weight of His arrest. He felt the shame of denial. He felt the sting of the mockery and torture that awaited Him. He felt the nails driving through His hands and His feet. He felt the enormous burden of our sin. He felt the Father forsaking Him. He felt the pangs of death. 

And, in the stillness before those moments, a prayer left the lips of our Savior, and between His tears, He whispered,

[Luke 22:42b] “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

And, the challenge for us this morning is to follow after Christ. You will never extinguish the sinful anger of self until you humbly pray, “Lord, not my will be done, but Yours.” You will never encourage the righteous anger of God within your heart until you align your will with His will. Friends, we don’t just serve an Angry King. We serve a Good and Angry King. A King who was so moved by the brokenness and the wrongness and the depravity of this world that He stepped out of the comforts of heaven so that, in Him, the wrath of God would be satisfied. So that, in Him, we could be freed from the confines of our selfish little kingdom and our selfish little angers and live for His higher purpose. It is His blood and His body, signified by the elements you now hold in your hand, that have made it possible for us to love justice and to be kind and to walk humbly. 

Friend, could you be honest about the anger in you today? See, when we partake of the juice and of the bread together, we are, too, declaring, “Lord, not my will be done, but Yours.” And, this is a moment that ought not be taken lightly. The Apostle Paul, in speaking to the church in Corinth, admonished them, as I do to you today, to examine your heart. We read in 1 Corinthians 11:28,

[1 Corinthians 11:28] Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

So, what I want to encourage you to do this morning is not just go through the motions. Don’t just partake of Communion because it’s that particular Sunday of the month or just because you hold the elements in your hand. Partake of the elements because you desire for His will to be done in your life—not yours. This morning, as Pastor Emily leads us through one song, right where you are at, would you examine yourself? Would you open your heart to the work of the Holy Spirit? Would you be willing to let go of the anger? Would you be willing to lay hold of His will for your life? And, after you have evaluated your heart and are ready, you may partake of Communion where you are at. 

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