Overcoming Anger

Last Fall we learned about two contrasting paradigms for salvation -- the world's and God's.  The former revolves around ourselves, the latter around the throne of heaven.  The former ends in chaos and confusion, the latter in life eternal.  

The world's salvation plan fails.  But there are real forces that continue to draw people away from the life to be found in Jesus.  What are they?  And more important -- do we have a plan to battle them?

Evagrius of Pontus was a 4th century monk who identified eight powerful forces, also known as spirits or ideas, that consistently tempt people away from God.  But rather than be a passive victim or pious blowhard, Evagrius chose to respond with God's Word in scripture.  His written record of temptations and responses is called "Talking Back," and is influential in the new book by John Mark Comer, Live No Lies.   Over the next five weeks, we are going to look at all eight of them, and some of the weapons we can plan to use in battle against them.  

Ed Stetzer calls the era we're living in "The Age of Outrage."  To be sure, the emotional experience we call "anger" was once seen as a vice; an uncivilized and irrational response to life's problems.  But today, I would venture to say that many people consider anger not only acceptable, but even virtuous.  And there is a righteous place for anger.  It's a signal that something is wrong.  Sometimes it is justified and gives us the adrenaline we need to escape an abusive situation.  

But unprocessed, misunderstood anger becomes acidic and eats away at people...in the worse cases, anger eats away at whole nations in the form of war.    

Was Jesus ever angry?  Of course!  But the difference between his and ours is that his anger led to self-sacrifice for the sake of the very people he was angry with.  Is that what people do on social media?  

So, the Enemy of God loves unbounded, self-righteous, seemingly justified anger for one central reason: it disables us from loving our neighborthe most important command in all scripture second only to loving and serving God alone.  

BATTLE PLAN:  Matthew 5:38-42

The plan is simple -- instead of responding to injustice or insult visited against us, Jesus calls us to respond with self-sacrifice and grace.   (NOTE: this is not the case when a person is the victim of abuse.  If you believe you are the victim of abuse, please tell someone right away who can help you get safe and find help.)

Turn the other cheek does not mean "ignore."  Rather, it means let your attacker attack you again.
Offer your jacket as well as your shirt.  If someone steals from you, give them extra.
Go the second mile.  If someone forces you to serve them, serve them more than they expected.

Does Jesus command these radical behaviors so we can be miserable?  Of course not.  He commands them because they disable the anger in our hearts, in the hearts of our assailants, and finally -- and most important -- it reveals the shame of the attack.  In the face of injustice, victory is found not through anger, but through the kind of scandalous self-giving that Jesus demonstrated supremely on the cross.  Rome sought to shame him, but his death became their shame, his victory, and our salvation.

The next time you are tempted to indulge in your anger, consider our Lord and his response.  What can you give of yourself that disables the anger and disarms the Enemy?


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