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What Do I Do with Anger?



We have an anger problem. As followers of Jesus, how do we overcome the culture of contempt we live in? As we continue in our series, Passion City on the Hill, Ben brings us a convicting and practical word about dealing with anger and resentment.

Key Takeaway

In the family of God, we are called to live differently. Jesus outlines for us the way we handle anger. We admit our wrongs and ask for forgiveness when we've hurt someone. When we have been wronged because God has given us grace, we can extend that grace to others. God takes care of the penalty. Sin is costly, and the debt will be paid either by the blood of Jesus on the Cross or by a life forever separated from Him in Hell.

What do we do with anger?

Anger can be an addiction. Addiction, in any form, drugs, alcohol, or sex, is an intimacy disorder. It's a pathological experience with mood-altering substances and actions that we turn to so we don't have to feel anything uncomfortable.

We have a problem that we are powerless to manage. What we went to for help has now become the problem. We need someone who is bigger than our problem and bigger than our power.

The 12 steps of alcoholic anonymous was born out of this. The two men who created it realized that external rules couldn't fix their addiction, but through internal work and letting God extend grace and forgiveness, they found healing. Every principle is deeply rooted in the Word of God. The 12 steps sound a lot like the Sermon on the Mount. We admit our need for help and that we have a problem, we mourn that, we admit our weakness, and we hunger and thirst for upright living.

In the context of grace, we don't have to bury shame. In light of grace, we can ask God to help us become who we're supposed to be. We take a moral inventory and then make amends.

If last week was about admission of need and God's grace, then from here on out in this passage God will tell us how grace works itself out in us becoming a responsible moral agent.

Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus is quoting the Old Testament not to minimize it but to emphasize where it's pointing. It's human nature to want to do the minimum. How many times do I have to work out to get the body I want? How many cheat days can I have?

Jesus deepens the meaning. The bare minimum is that we don't murder one another, but Jesus goes upstream to see where it starts. It starts with anger, resentment buried in us, and hate. He's not saying you can't ever be angry. It's actually the appropriate response to injustice and exploitation. We want a God of wrath when we see abuse in the world, but His anger is holy and righteous because it's rooted in love. Ours is often because of a bruised ego.

Jesus takes it from murder to insult. Again, it's ok to call someone a fool. It's a technical term. A fool is a person who divorces action from consequence. Jesus doesn't use it to dismiss people; He uses it to pray for people. He knows that contempt leads to condemnation. When we hold someone in contempt, we are saying that we want the person who insults us gone. We want them dead. We just don't want to go through the inconvenience of killing them, so we cancel them instead.

Jesus is saying that contempt is like the fire of hell. Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom. In the time of the kings, people would worship the god Molech thereby sacrificing their children. God HATES this practice; He hates the disregard for human life. When Josiah became King, because he feared God, he purposely defiled that place by throwing trash in it and setting it on fire. In Jesus's day, that was still going on. It was a noxious, smoldering, burning trash heap and became a symbol of eternal judgment. Jesus is telling us not to harbor anger and contempt towards each other and devalue the lives of others.

Genesis says we are made in the image of God, the only other place that it's brought up is saying that we don't murder each other and we don't speak cruel things to each other. We do not physically hurt or verbally hurt others as the family of God.

The Solution - Matthew 5:23-26

1) If you're in church and realize you have an issue with someone, leave your act of worship and go make it right. God so values other people that He says you have to make things right before you worship Him. Part of worshiping is valuing other human beings.

2) If you're going to court, make it right as fast as you can. It'll only get worse from there if you don't.

Jesus is saying, "Get on it early because it costs too much to wait."

What is Jesus saying?

1) Make it personal. Look and be aware of who you've hurt and where you've put hate and anger out into the culture. Own it and be honest. It's hard, but it's healing. Say, "I'm sorry." Yes, they might have done something to contribute, but as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

2) Make it theological. You might think you can't forgive or ask for forgiveness, but think about God's grace. They may reject it, and they may not realize how much they hurt you. That's true, but God is asking that if you've been a recipient of grace, you will be a conduit of it as well. As a function of worshiping God, apologize to them.

  • This sobers us - we have to do it. He tells us to. We don't want to show up in His Presence having blown Him off.
  • This comforts us - God will deal with the offender. No one gets away with anything. Every offense must be paid for. It will either be paid for with Jesus shedding blood on the Cross or their life in Hell.

3) Make it eternal. How we treat people affects us forever. We are called to cultivate a place of grace and kindness.


" If we harbor resentment, it's a toxin in the culture. It's spreading a poison among us."

Ben Stuart

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Scripture References

  • Matthew 5:21-26
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.