Anger is a bulwark against denial.
FEBRUARY 28, 2023
Anger is a bulwark against denial. I’ll explain, on this edition of Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life, a program all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching that’s honest, straight-forward, and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth, that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. We’re talking about anger in its important place in a healthy Christian life. My friend Brant Hansen, probably wouldn’t agree with this. I loved his book on anger, and we interviewed him on our talk show. And he’s right. Anger is often an expression of self-righteousness. He said, when I suggested that maybe we were supposed to be wusses. He said, oh no, we still do the right thing, but you don’t have to be angry about it. And the way you’re not angry is to recognize that God wasn’t angry at you. And therefore you don’t have to be angry at others. And I agree with that. However, there is a place for anger in the healthy walk of a Christian. It is said that when Charlamagne, the Roman Emperor who had a lot to do with Christianity’s growth, first heard about the crucifixion of Christ, he was angry. And he said, if I had been there with my troops, I would not have allowed it to happen. Well, I’m glad he wasn’t there because preventing the crucifixion would’ve been the mother of all tragedies. But nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that anger at a totally innocent man being executed would be inappropriate. You see, anger is a bulwark against denial. I remember my surprise when a weeping lady in a, and she was a church leader, sat across from me in my study across from my desk, and her tears were a surprise given that she was almost joyful. But what really surprised me was her response to my question about her tears. She said, I hate her, and she said it forcibly. I just hate her. Who? She said, my sister. And then she told me the story of her sister’s betrayal and it was major. That was when some changes started to take place, but only after her anger. Now, she still had to repent of it. It still was in that sense, a sin. It still reflected her own self-righteousness, but Christians need to allow anger to free them to look into the reality of the way things really are. While I was writing that last sentence in the book, I got a call from a young man that I loved, like a son. His grandmother recently died and he asked me how he could forgive her. He told me that all he ever wanted from her was her love, and she never gave me that. I told him that he needed to express his anger to God, and to be honest about it. I told him that it was hard to fix something with someone who had died. You can’t go across the street and sit down and have a cup of coffee cause they’re dead. If this was two years ago, you could have gone to your grandmother and told her how she had hurt you, but you can’t do that now. So, you have to go to God. He wasn’t comfortable with that because he was supposed to love his grandmother, and I suggested that God knew his real feelings and it would be wise not to hide from the one place where he didn’t have to hide them. I didn’t tell him in the phone call, but I was suggesting that he lament. Genuine lament has an element of anger to it. Honest anger is medication, by the way, and a cure for denial. It’s a necessary ingredient to our response to terrible things like sexual abuse and broken and hurtful relationships and cases of great injustice. But it’s not just personal, it’s also bigger than that. Injustice anywhere should be a cause of sadness, but it is also a legitimate cause for anger. There is a tendency for some Christians to look at the world through rose colored glasses, and I do that sometimes too. And that Pollyanna syndrome can kill off honest lament because it’s a form of horrible denial. Norman Vincent Peale was the guru of positive thinking. A lot of you don’t know who that is cause that’s been a lot of years ago. And the titles of his sermons mostly reflected that positive attitude. Dr. Peale would often travel during the week, speaking all over the country. And he would call his secretary on Wednesdays to give her the title of the upcoming Sunday sermon, and that title would be used in the church’s newspaper ads. Then when Dr. Peale would get back to New York, he would get out the paper, check the title he had submitted, and then preach on that subject. It doesn’t work that way for me, man. It takes hours and hours, well, at any rate, he was a very glib preacher and he could preach on almost anything. Some of his friends, and one of them was my friend. Some of his friends once played a joke on Dr. Peale. They had one of their secretaries call the newspaper after Dr. Peale’s secretary had. Dr. Peale, she said, has changed the title of this sermon for Sunday and wanted me to have you change it for the advertisement. The new title is How to Be Happy Though Fat. And my friend told me that when Dr. Peale got back to town and checked out the title he had submitted, he was kind of puzzled, and thought he must have been very tired when he submitted that title. However, my friend said this absolutely happened. Dr. Peale actually preached that Sunday on how to be happy though fat. It is, I suppose, hard to be happy if you’re fat and don’t want to be, but it is silly to be happy though wounded, afraid, treated unjustly, reading the daily headlines about war and murder, destruction and hatred. Anger is a preventative. It enables us to look at the world the way the world really is, and it opens up the door to genuine lament. But there’s more, there’s a lot more. Anger not only prevents denial, it is also a point of identification with what it means to be human. I’ve often thought, and I’m blushing as I say this, that if I could just stop smoking my pipe, then I would have pretty much gotten my act together spiritually. I know that’s silly and God already told me that a long time ago. He did it by showing me the depth of my sin and doing it until I asked him to stop and cried uncle. I told him it was enough, and if he didn’t stop, I would die. Frankly, it made me angry until he told me, welcome to the Human Club. Frankly, I don’t have anything that reflects our inability to remain pure more than anger, that’s because anger is often unplanned, it’s embarrassing, it’s surprising. Anger can be a gift. It is a reminder that real people get angry with both legitimate and illegitimate anger. As we are going to see later, one of the important steps to freedom and lament is repentance, repentance properly understood. Freedom comes after genuine repent, repentance. As my friend said, lament was hard, and a journey into grace, repentance, and wholeness. In that sense. Freedom, Freudian slips, can be a gift. That old joke of the woman who said to her mother, I hate you because you are arrogant, condemning, and mean, and then apologized by saying, I’m so sorry, that was a Freudian slip. I meant to say, pass the salt, is of course, beyond a slip. However, in a lot of things we said, but didn’t mean to say, anger we expressed when we meant to be a really nice person. And harshness we expressed when we meant to be gentle. All our ways in which we can see and identify the anger that is much a part of simply being human. And simply being sinful. Beware of those who are always smiling, nice, and civil. Not because they’re phony, but because they’re living in denial. You think about that. Amen.
Anger is a bulwark against denial. Thank you Steve, for that reminder. Also, thank you for keeping the word bulwark alive. We’ve been taking a look at the Biblical foundations of Steve’s latest book, Laughter and Lament. And we will continue with that tomorrow. Will you join us? Well, just as Steve taught us, anger keeps us from living in denial about the hard times we’re going through because that does happen. In fact, you may be facing something tough in your life right now, stress, pain, worry. Well, believe it or not, Jesus identifies with you, and we know this is true because in John 11, Jesus weeps for the loss of Lazarus. But why did he weep? Well, Steve answers that question in a powerful sermon called When Tears Are All that’s Left. If you are going through it right now, could we send you this sermon on a CD, for free? Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Just ask for your free CD called When Tears Are All that’s Left. And finally, have you ever considered partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is pretty easy. You can charge a gift on your credit card, or you can include a gift in your envelope. Or now you can gift safely and securely through text. Just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Text that with 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.