Anger and Forgiveness

Lord Jesus you are the ultimate example of living a godly life help us to find truth in your word today. Help us to be a people who are convicted in our sin and seek to turn to you. Help us to grow in our understanding of anger, brokenness, and forgiveness. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Our passages today gives us an overwhelming message of anger and forgiveness and how we are to manage them in a godly fashion. Today I want to share a story of a woman who had survived the horror and evils of the Holocost. For the purposes of this sermon I will not go into explicit detail due to the wide age range of our church members. However if you are older I encourage you to read accounts from survivors, it will break your heart and cause you to long for the Lord to come. 

So her name was Doris and she was at the train station after being separated from her father and brothers a soldier noticed her and her identical twin sister clutching to her mother. She was taken along with her sister away from her mother to never see her again. They were taken to an area where medical testing was being done. Having identical twins was very exciting to the doctors so they were examined thoroughly and placed in appalling circumstances. The girls were chosen for a study to inject them both with live illnesses and see if possible vaccines would work. The one sister became very ill and died before Doris’ eyes. She too became so extremely ill and crawled across the filthy disgusting floor. She decided that she wasn’t going to die but rather fight to live for her sister’s sake. Eventually the war was ended and Doris managed to be freed from the concentration camps. 

Later in her life she went about sharing her story in order to bring honor to so many lives of her family that had been lost. One day she was finishing a talk and noticed a man that looked rather familiar. He approached her at the end of her talk and introduced himself as one of the soldiers placed in charge of her during her time in captivity. She had remembered him in the exam rooms when she had been thoroughly embarrassed and mistreated. The soldier asked her for forgiveness for what he had done. Doris felt all the pain, sorrow, anger, and fear that came from those horrific years and longed to run away. She knew she was free to turn away or withhold forgiveness but something in her wanted to be free. Doris decided to forgive him despite all the sorrow in her life and what came next she never could have imagined. All of that sorrow, pain, and weight was lifted and she felt free. Doris experienced profound freedom in the act of true forgiveness in the face of evil and profound mistreatment. 

To many people anger would be the only possible response to this situation. It would seem just and right to retaliate against the man who had caused so much suffering in her life. Many people would think that she would feel more empowered to reject him and yet today we hear in our scriptures that true freedom exists with forgiveness. How can something that seems to be such an opposite of how we naturally feel and respond give us freedom? How come so many of us in this world feel such anger and rage on a daily basis? 

We are currently living in such a time of extreme emotion and in our public arenas we are not seeing much self control or self government but rather public officials of every affiliation are responding in very visceral and raw ways of speaking. If you have been alive long enough, think back 35 years and what television and radio were like? Did you ever hear people speaking angrily or rudely? Did people scream at each other in public? Not so much, but as time has passed people what we find acceptable for public discourse has changed. You can look back over the last 20 years and see more and more of a stewing anger rising up in people and coming out in how we conduct ourselves in public conversations. 

Our reading today from Sirach immediately starts out with words of wisdom. This comes from the Apocrypha and while it is not a part of the canon of scripture we read it with a desire to learn from its wisdom much like we do a book from Tim Keller, N.T Wright, or Charles Spurgeon. 

So right away we hear, “Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will hold them fast.” The Christian who is on the way to the Father walking with Jesus needs to seek a life free of anger, rage, and wrath. We are not supposed to remain angry but rather we are to seek ways of growing in our responses, growing in our ability to choose something different. 

Early on in my adult years I thought I was a rather calm and kind person, however when I had children I began to see how selfish and angry I was as a person. My anger began to flash out as  I worried about our finances. My anger flashed out when my husband left his dirty clothes on the floor yet again. My anger flashed out when my kids did not do what I asked them to do. Anger became this huge ugly part of my life. For those of us who turn to the living God and give our lives over to following in the way of Jesus we are not meant to be slaves to our emotions. We are not meant to be controlled by our hot anger or desire for restitution. God does not want us to live in bondage to sin and to be angry all the time is to sin. 

Do you throw out harsh words in moments of stress? Do you throw things, hit things, or drive really fast when you are angry? Do you think unkind, hurtful conversations in your head to another person? Do you hold on to grudges against another person and hope to see their ruin? Do you like, promote, or encourage others who seem angry and volatile with their words? I think all of us if we are honest and human, can claim some of these things to be true about us. For we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need help from Jesus to change. 

In fact we are to seek ways to leave anger alone and to find another way. One of the things we are doing in our family is seeking to understand why we feel angry. When you stick eight people together and have them live 24/7 together anger is bound to come up. We know that anger is often a smoke screen for another emotion. This chart hangs in our house now and is seeking to help us think about why we are feeling angry. Some emotions that we can feel as we exhibit anger are shame, sadness, fear, frustration, guilt, disappointment, worry, embarrassment, jealousy, hurt, or anxiety. 

If we can learn to slow down think for a few minutes about what we are feeling before we react and choose another way then things can begin to change. Knowing what our triggers are for anger can help us to stop and calm down in the moment instead of after we have lost it. Knowing why we are feeling angry can take the power out of the emotion and give us the power to choose self control or self government.  

The reading today says that a sinful man holds these feelings fast to themselves. Anger is very similar to fire. When we build a good fire we are to use a bunch of small sticks to begin the fire then progressively add larger and larger logs. Anger is very similar to that in that every feeling that we have begins to increase our frustration and anger. The more we unload our anger the worse it gets. I know that there are many anger therapies out there that involve unleashing your anger on physical objects however how does that truly help you in the long run? Learning how to acknowledge what is going on inside your own head and heart and saying it outloud can free you from the bondage of anger. 

Freedom is found in Christ and at our baptism we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to come along us and help us. We are not alone as Christians to find our way to some random perfection. To follow Jesus does not mean you can never get angry again, however it does mean that we are to strive for holiness and strive to change our broken sinful nature. It is not okay to see any area of brokenness in your life and do nothing. Once God opens your eyes to see an area in need of healing you must seek out help to change. Staying the same and saying I can’t change is not an option. Located where we are we have two great resources for helping us sort out our anger or getting counsel. The first is Grace House Counseling Center which can really help with sorting through your feelings with a counselor. The second option is Christian Healing Ministries in which you can receive powerful prayer to bring about beautiful change in your life. 

The passage continues and says that if we hold on to vengeance to another who has wronged us we shall be given vengeance from the Lord and if we keep a record for another then a record shall be kept for us from the Lord. I don’t know about you but I would much rather stand in the place of forgiveness from Jesus and be washed clean by His blood. Holding onto anger towards others will only turn us into people who are angry and who do not heal. A truly powerful person is like the woman I spoke of in the beginning who had every right to despise that soldier however she chose forgiveness and received freedom. I think it is important to remember that those who follow Jesus have the heart of the Creator of heaven and earth. They have the ear of the most powerful being in all of time. Entrusting his plan for proper discipline of those who do evil can be trusted. God is large and will execute justice and you can trust Him to handle it. You may not see Him do it but trust me in that He will. So the question becomes what side do you want to be of the Lord? 

Mercy and forgiveness that we receive is meant to be mercy and forgiveness that we extend. Some of us have been hurt deeply and in ways too horrible to say out loud. Some of us could never imagine forgiving that person or those people. The Lord longs to work powerfully in your life. The Lord longs to set you free from the weight of anger and hatred. The Lord longs to give you a new life of peace and love. 

God will handle the details and provide justice for His people. We have promises in the scriptures that the Lord vindicates those of us who give our heart, minds, and lives wholly to Him. We can rest in His sovereignty and His goodness even in the face of difficulties. I was just reading Psalm 46 with the kids yesterday and in it we were hearing about destruction coming upon the land and yet God was there and with them. The phrase repeated multiple times was, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Even when difficulties arise in our lives and wicked people do evil things to us God is with us and mighty to save and bring about justice. Remember we will often not see it but God is providing justice for his beloved. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!” His goodness, mercy, and grace is for you who choose to confess your sins, turn to Him and be saved from your trespasses. 

The Lord is strong and powerful and will bring about justice. He can bring calm into your heart, mind, and life even when you want to explode or overreact. I love the fact that we follow such a loving God that He cares how we treat one another. He cares to help us find freedom and power from the broken areas of our life such as anger. The Gospel passage today shows the servant receiving mercy from the master and yet withholding from another person. The end result was swift justice for that faithless servant. God’s economy is one of forgiveness and extending that which we receive to others. He knows that we will love others more fully when we give grace and mercy away. Freedom comes when we trust the Lord to provide for us, to protect us, and to handle the situations of our life. 

So how is God challenging you today to face your own issues of anger? What is God wanting to change in your life so that you might be free of anger and free to extend forgiveness to others? I am praying for you as you journey with Jesus and know I root for each of you to draw closer to Him and to experience freedom from brokenness. We in the Klukas family are for you. So to God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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