2/16/2014

Overcoming Anger: Matthew 5:21-26

My sermon, Overcoming Anger is based on Matthew 5:21-26. Linked below are resources that may help you in your struggle to overcome and to mend relationships. 

This passage is about getting right with God and with family and friends. First Jesus reminds the crowd of what was told to them by Moses. The he goes on to claim his authority and tells us what he has to say. They already know not to kill. Jesus puts a deeper meaning onto the words.

The crowd is essentially told that it’s not enough to simply not kill a person. The vast majority of us withhold this impulse all of our lives. This should be enough to fulfill the law of the prophets right?

No.


Jesus wants us to go a few steps further. He wants us to put aside our grievances and make things right with one another. In so doing, we make things right with ourselves and sets us up to have a better relationship with him.

He even goes so far as to tell us that if we remember something when we’re at the altar, that we should leave our offering. His instruction is that we should go and settle our differences with the other person and then come back to give our offering.

We are reminded that an offering presented without a clean heart can’t be offered joyfully. Jesus expects our offerings to be presented with gladness. A half-hearted offering isn’t really an offering at all.

God wants us to present our offerings with glad hearts. You see, sin is forever crouching at the doorway to overtake us. Hurt and anger keep us from being able to love ourselves, one another and God. Addressing the anger frees us so that we can love each other more and ultimately, we can love God even more. Doesn't that sound like something we should all strive for? 

Sometimes the first person that we have to settle our differences with is ourselves. This means taking responsibility for our mistakes. When we blame others for our shortcomings we hurt ourselves and those around us. The anger becomes a destructive barrier that keeps us from the ones that we love and from God. 

An example of  how destructive anger can be is found in Genesis 4:3:7
  • 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
There is a price to be paid for not settling differences. Going back to Genesis 4:8-9 we can see how high the price might be.
  • 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
Cain clearly blamed Abel for his own shortcomings and was angry. He grew angry enough to slew his brother in what is the first recorded act of domestic violence in the Bible. It is an example of how the sin of anger can kill when not addressed. 

Is it any wonder then that Jesus told the crowd to be reconciled to one another first, and then come back and leave the offering?

So how can we deal with anger and mend relationships?

  • Pray about the situation first. Don't do anything until you feel a sense of peace. From a spiritual perspective, rushing in too soon can make matters worse.
  • Begin with the positive. We all have traits that are more positive than others. Acknowledge those first. People are created in God's image. Remembering this reference point does two things. It helps you control your emotions and it helps infuse God into the situation. 
  • Control your emotions. The American Psychological Association suggests deep breathing, cognitive restructuring and other techniques to help bring your emotions under control. 
  • Get professional help any time you think that it may be needed. This is not a weakness, admitting that you may need help is a sign of strength. It demonstrates your depth of commitment to the healing process.
It's important to know not all relationships can be healed. Healing has to be offered by both parties. Sometimes it's not safe to reach out to the other person. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has information about healthy relationships, abuse and safety planning. They can help you with the intricacies of a dangerous relationship. 

Ultimately, professional help may be able to help you have a better relationship with yourself, family and friends and most importantly, with Christ.

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