About anger

Tim Keller, the pastor at my church, Redeemer, is working through a series on Proverbs this fall. Each week deals with another one of the main life issues that Proverbs addresses - trusting God, lust, greed, etc.. A few weeks ago, the topic du jour was anger.

God does all things as part of his perfect plan, and before time, I know He planned that I would hear that sermon on that day. I think that, sometimes, we can most clearly see the beauty of His plan in action in the midst of our greatest moments of conviction. That's what this sermon was for me. What follows are my notes from the sermon. I'm going to listen to it again as I type them out, in an effort to fully round out my notes. They’re long and probably largely unstructured, but I wanted to type them out all the same (blogger won't allow for normal notation tab functions to group sub-texts, so you'll just have to make do).


Tim Keller: The Healing of Anger
October 17th, 2004 - Redeemer Presbyterian Church, East Side Morning Worship Service

Text: Proverbs 14:29-30; 15:1,18; 16:32; 19:11,19; 24:28-29; 25:21-22

29 A patient man has great understanding,
but a quick-tempered man displays folly.
30 A tranquil heart is life to the body,
But passion is rottenness to the bones.

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension,
but a patient man calms a quarrel.

32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

11 A man's wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

19 A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty;
if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause,
or use your lips to deceive.
29 Do not say, "I'll do to him as he has done to me;
I'll pay that man back for what he did."

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you.

- What is wisdom? In 1st Kings 3, Solomon prayed for a heart that could determine right from wrong. Wisdom is not less than being moral and good, but knowing what the right course of action is in vast majority of situations that the rules do not address. You will not become a wise person until you learn how to handle anger in yourself and others

The 4 things you must know about anger to be wise:
I) Dangerous Power of Anger
II) Basic Goodness of Anger
III) Why Anger Goes Wrong
IV) How it can be Healed

I) Dangerous Power of Anger

- Anger: the dynamite of the human soul - can disintegrate and destroy:

A) Your body (v. 30 - passion is rottenness to the bones) - it has been medically proven that anger is far worse on your body than any other emotion - leads to heart disease and all kinds of physical ailments

B) Community (v. 18 - a hot-tempered man stirs up dissention) - when you get angry you throw words around like weapons - words have an enormous power

C) Your wisdom (v. 29 - a quick-tempered man displays folly) - after you cool off from anger, you feel like a fool, because you were - your view is distorted and you make foolish decisions

D) Your will/ability to make smart choices (v. 19 - if you rescue him, you will have to do it again) - of all the emotions, anger is the one most like an addictive substance - it leads you into denial / hides itself. Denial leads to more anger, more problems, and therefore even further anger to remain in denial about it. (Citation of a Psychology Today article that quoted a letter to a newspaper counselor about her advice to a mother to let a child kick the furniture to get the anger. The writer spoke of her younger brother who grew up kicking the furniture and now kicks not only the furniture, but now his wife and kids. 20-30 years ago, venting your anger was the cure. Secular psychology is beginning to see the addictive nature of anger.)

II) Basic Goodness of Anger

Slow anger (v. 32 - He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty) - the ideal is slow anger, not no anger, or blow up anger

- it is a sin to never get angry, and it is a sin to blow up in your anger

- Eph 4:26 (Paul) "be angry, but sin not" - an imperative: not "you will be angry" but "you should be angry (sometimes)"

- John Chritensen (early American preacher) - perfect summary of anger: "He that is angry without cause sins, he that is not angry when there is cause, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices."

- Slow anger is an attribute of God - Ps. 103:8

- Exodus 34 - Moses asks God to "show me Your glory," God responds "I will declare My name for you...I am the Lord, slow to anger."

- Many New Yorkers have an issue here: "I believe in a God of love, not a God who gets angry." If you never get angry about anything, you don't love anything. Anger is a love response to a threat to the object of your love.

- Becky Pipper: "Think how we feel when we someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might towards strangers? Far from it. Anger isn't the opposite of love, hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference. The more a father loves his son, the more he is angry at the drunkard, the liar, the traitor in his son. And if I, a flawed, self-centered woman can feel this much pain and anger over someone's condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them."

- Love in its uncorrupted origin is moving to deal with a threat - anger is love in motion to deal with a threat toward that which you really love (to disintegrate the threat) - to see what your heart loves the most, you need only ask what you are defending.

- Romans 1: God is continually angry because He loves us; in the Gospels, Jesus (continually perfect) was angry at the moneychangers in the temple (John 2), angry at the religious leaders (Mark 3), angry at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11) - Greek words describing his emotions were incredibly strong (bellows, snorts with anger) - He gets angry but sins not.

- Individualistic cultures emphasize personal rights and over-value anger as something that should be expressed, whereas Moral/Traditional cultures emphasize the family and see anger as something that should be repressed. The Biblical approach sees both the Basic Goodness and the Dangerous Power

III) Why Anger Goes Wrong

- (v. 28-29): anger disproportionate / inappropriate to the cause - our anger is disordered.

- Augustine: Disordered Loves - we take good things into ultimate things, instead of loving them, we look to them for the ultimate comfort only God can give. Ex. of romantic love - turning the need for the other person into an absolute necessarily disorders the love.

- Disordered love creates disordered anger:
A) Disordered in its causes: we are angry for ourselves, not injustices done to the oppressed. We get incredibly angry over causes we shouldn't be, and we do not get angry over causes that we should be.

B) Disordered in its proportions: our anger usually feels uncontrollable

C) Disordered in its goal: ordered (loving) anger seeks to do surgical strikes against the anger (like a parent seeking to destroy the foolishness in a child). Loving anger goes after the problem, not the person.

- Levels of Disorder:
1) Things that make us angry every day

2) Things we haven't been able to forget or forgive (heats up level one - like a man
slighted by a woman who is more prone to be easily offended by all women)

3) Things we've decided we need instead of God (family, job, etc) - the bedrock anger of self-pity against God Himself (heats up levels 2 and 3)

IV) How it can be healed

A) Have to admit you are angry: get in touch with the reality of it – you must own and admit it. People commonly say: "You deserve anger, but I'm not angry" (really means "You deserve anger, but I'm above you"). Even owning up to your anger is an act of vulnerability / weakness. Refusal to do this not only prohibits reconciliation, but also heats up level 2 angers, and creates a "root of bitterness" (Heb. 12) - roots become shoots become trees become forests. You become utterly controlled by your anger.

B) Analyze your anger: (24:28-29) - (self talk) - Angry person speaking to himself - anger is not so much because of what you've lost but because of what you tell yourself that you are defending (most often your pride / ego / self-esteem). Citation of Jeremiah 45 (KJV) "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." We must question what is so important to us that we get angry - this question identifies our idols. (Example of mother who had God's love as an abstract idea but son's love as an idol - couldn't forgive anything that would come between her and her son's love)

C) Transform your anger: (15:1; 25:21-22) - When you experience anger, don't be angry back, but rescue the enemy from the anger. Wisdom literature of ancient world goes over the top in using this redemption language with enemies. Example of dealing with a child's disordered anger: a) give into it - evil wins, b) fight back in anger - evil enters your life as well, or c) surgical strike: get mad a the foolishness in the child, insist on the truth gently, and absorb the anger and the pain.


- Proof that we are mad at God - when He became human, we were angry. We got our angry hands on Him, and He absorbed our disordered anger and said "Father, forgive them." He took not only our undeserved anger but also the cup (ref. to OT cup of anger) - the anger we deserved: ultimate example of loving the sinner and hating the sin - the ultimate surgical strike - taking this into our lives will heal the level 3 anger.

"Jesus said: 'Love your enemies, that you may be children of your Father which is in heaven.'

Of course you say, 'All this about loving enemies is not practical. Life is a matter of getting even, of hitting back, of dog-eat-dog. Well, maybe in some distant utopia the ideal will work, but not in the hard cold world in which we live.'

My friends, we've followed the so-called practical way for a long time now. Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered into hatred and violence. We are going to follow another way: we will not abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of our strength we will continue to rid the nation of the incubus of segregation. But we will not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we will love the segregationist. This is the only way to build the beloved community.

To our most bitter opponents we say 'We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will continue to love you. We cannot obey your unjust laws, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as it is to cooperate with good. But throw us in jail, we will still love you; send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community and beat us, and we will still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down.

One day we will win freedom, but not only for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and so our victory will be a double-victory. The great military leaders of the past have gone, and their empires have crumbled and burned to ashes, but the empire of Jesus, built solidly and majestically on the foundation of love is still growing. May we solemnly realize that we shall never be sons of our Heavenly Father until we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us as He did for us."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.


witw said...

Good stuff! Man, Proverbs is just full of powerful insights. Well, I guess the whole Bible is, but Proverbs just gets me again and again. The Bible study I was in did Proverbs last year and it was life-changing.

I really liked this quote: "He that is angry without cause sins, he that is not angry when there is cause, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices."

And definitely your pastor hit on something I'm really learning in my first year of being married - "to see what your heart loves the most, you need only ask what you are defending." It's weird how I get so much more angry in arguments with my wife than with anyone else, because I care about her so much more. But then in my anger I can hurt her so much more too (see your point on feeling like a fool after you are angry).

That was more than I was planning on typing, but I will definitely be pondering this some more.

Dawson said...

I know this is long after you posted this, but thanks for putting this up. I've been using it.

West said...

was the MLK quote part of the sermon?

David said...

IIRC (if I recall correctly), yes, it was quoted as part of the sermon.

pj said...

Thanks for this, David. I just listened to the sermon and this saves me from having to outline it!