"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).
In Ventura, CA, I worked with a young lady named Stacy Myers. Out of nowhere, she began to experience headaches which her doctor diagnosed as migraines. The doctor prescribed migraine medication and, for a while, it worked. Problem solved, so it seemed.
Six months later, the headaches came back ferociously. Stacy was completely disabled and confined to bed because the pain was so harsh. An MRI revealed a cancerous brain tumor the size of a walnut. Thankfully, it was operable and after a year or so, she was able to return to work in a limited capacity.
Initially, doctors only treated the symptom, not the cause. I think we also do the same thing with anger. When someone gets angry, we work to calm them down. If we're successful, we then go our merry way without asking an important question: Why?
Why do we get angry? This graphic from the Gottman Institute illustrates that most of the time, anger is a symptom of a greater, more deeply-seated emotion or set of emotions. Anger is simply the alarm bell that tells us something is broken and needs to be fixed.
As you can see, there are dozens of emotions that can trigger anger. Another doctor I researched online boils all of these down to three primary anger-triggering emotions. We will address these in the sermon this Sunday. Here are the three: HURT, FRUSTRATION, and FEAR.
Right now, our society is in upheaval. A lot of people are angry. We might even say they are filled with RAGE. What's the cure for the violent rage we are experiencing in many of our major cities? Well, many cannot see the rage. They deny it exists. Others believe that the cure is to throw the anarchists in jail. It seems to me that neither of those options is working.
Perhaps we should ask WHY people are so angry.
Many of the violent protesters are angry out of frustration. Four hundred years of oppression in a country that claims to be "free" is frustrating. They see society as favoring the upper-middle and upper classes. Some of those same people may feel hurt because no matter how hard they try, they cannot seem to get a leg up in the world. They feel hurt when they perceive unfairness in societal systems. Are the systems unfair to certain segments of the population? Maybe. That possibility is certainly worth examining.
Most of the rage-filled protesters are angry out of fear. They fear another four years of a Donald Trump presidency. They fear what they perceive as out-of-control police brutality on certain groups of people. They fear that societal change is not happening fast enough.
The general public is angry, too. They fear that all this rage, chaos, and violence could filter into their neighborhoods. If it can come to Kenosha, WI (population 100K), it can show up anywhere!
Maybe anger hits much closer to home with you.
Your spouse has said hurtful things to you and you are angry.
Your rebellious child shows you no respect. You get angry with the child because you fear losing your relationship with them.
The demands placed on you by your boss frustrate you. You are angry about that.
Here's the point of all this. When we get angry, we need to understand that there is something much deeper going on. There are underlying emotions that must be fixed, discussed, and worked through. Otherwise, the anger just keeps coming back until something tragic happens. Anger is the symptom, not the cause.
How should Christians deal with anger? The Bible has quite a bit to say about this emotion. In the verses at the top of this blog, James gives us three things we can do immediately when we become angry.
First, be quick to listen. Mom calls this "counting to ten." Wait. Listen to the Spirit. Listen to Jesus. Listen to the person who is making you angry. Listen to yourself to determine why you are angry.
Secondly, be slow to speak. We've all said things in the heat of anger that we later regret. Words said in a fit of rage are rarely constructive. Instead, they are destructive and hateful. So, put your tongue on pause.
Finally, be slow to get angry. Anger is not a sin as long as it's under control. But out-of-control anger is sin, especially when it causes us to lash out verbally or physically. Hurting another person is never okay if we're playing by God's rules (and we are!). We must be slow to get angry--WHY?--because "anger does not produce the righteousness required by God."
God is not happy when we allow our hot-tempered anger to get the best of us. As we saw in the last series, God wants to guard our hearts and minds with His peace.
There is much more to be said about anger. I hope you will make every effort to be in worship IN PERSON or ONLINE for the next three weeks. I have a feeling that between now and November 3rd, we're going to see RAGE taken to a whole new level.
"Fools are quick to express their anger, but wise people are patient and control themselves" (Proverbs 29:11, ERV).