How to Handle Anger (A Study on the Sermon on the Mount)

Matthew 5:21-26

Dr. S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, wrote, “What a person eats is not as important as the bitter spirit, the hates, and the feelings of guilt that eat at him. A dose of baking soda in the stomach will never reach these acids that destroy body, mind, and soul.”

Anger is dangerous. It is destructive to ourselves, others, and our relationship with God. Anger can lead to judgment, cause rifts between people, and hinder our ability to worship God.

Anger in and of itself is not a sin. It is a natural emotion created by God as a part of our makeup, but it can become a sin if not processed correctly and quickly.

Jesus got angry on at least two occasions when expelling those in the Temple who were cheating those bringing sacrifices. He was also angered by the religious leaders who tried to lead the people astray with their traditions. How we handle anger determines whether we sin or not.

The reasons for anger vary, and are many. Someone curses us. We find out someone is talking about us behind our back. Someone cheats us or steals something valuable from us. The boss fires us for no legitimate reason, or we get laid off. We discover someone is flirting with our spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Or we are standing in line at a retail store and the person in front of us has thirty coupons and hasn’t checked the expiration date!

Religious leaders taught murder was avoided by obeying the Sixth Commandment. But Jesus said being angry or calling a person a fool is murdering. Anger and slander take something just as murder takes a life. We can take a person’s dignity and reputation.

Admit It

Admission seems like a simple solution, but we don’t usually like to do this or admit we were wrong. We’d rather hold it inside and allow it to fester. When we do, it harms us physically, spiritually, and relationally.

Our humanity makes it difficult for us to admit anger. The human mind is often deceptive. Our pride gets in the way. We tend to hold anger inside and refuse to admit we are angry.
Anger has a destructive nature. It destroys physically and spiritually. We can actually become ill, develop ulcers, and have toxic hormones released into our bloodstream. Anger can even lead to death.

Anger grieves God’s Spirit because our bodies are temples of God’s Spirit. Anger places us outside the will of God and in a place where he can’t use us fully. God won’t bless us, and we’ll become a spiritual mess.

The cure for unjustified anger is simply to admit it: to God, ourselves, and others. After all, we know, God knows, and most of the time others know.

Correct the Injustice

Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”

The sacrifice was an atonement for sin and designed to cover guilt. It was not a substitute for restitution.

We often do the same thing. We come to God’s house and try to worship, but we can’t because we harbor unconfessed sin, possibly anger. We try to clear our guilty conscience by religious acts, not reconciliation. But religious acts cannot make up for reconciliation. We must make the attempt at reconciliation but sometimes it is not possible.

The psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
We need to correct the injustices quickly. Jesus said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.”

Correcting our anger will not always avoid the consequences of our actions. Anger can lead to murder. I may later repent and be sorry. That doesn’t mean my jail time will go away. Even though forgiven, the presence of anger damages our relationship. Paul wrote, “Be angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).

Ask God to Transform Your Heart

What we normally have on our minds when others wrong us is revenge. We want to get even for being hurt. Hurting people hurt other people. We want to inflict pain on the one who has caused us pain.

Rather, we should ask God to change our heart, our mind, and our ambition. God will change us from within and give us the ability to do what seems impossible—even when the person does not return the forgiving attitude.

Martin Wiles
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