Be angry…just don’t stay that way.
FEBRUARY 23, 2023
Be angry. Just don’t stay that way. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown and this is Key Life. We are dedicated to the teaching that the only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still love them anyway. Steve is an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, we started talking about the subject of anger. You won’t find this subject in a lot of books on lament because well, Christians are not supposed to be angry, we’re supposed to be nice. The fruit of the spirit precludes anger. No, it really doesn’t. Paul said, be angry, but don’t let the sun go down on your anger. And you say, he didn’t say that. Yeah, he did. It’s Ephesians 4:26 and it’s a part of God’s word and it’s included because anger is a step toward healing. I told you yesterday about a woman I’d talked to when I was writing this book, whose husband had committed suicide and I told her, and I’ve said it in many funerals, the same thing. You ought to be angry, and if you’re not angry, you’re not ever going to get anything healed. We emphasize being nice so much, we miss a part of that, and anger is a part of the lament. I told the lady a lot of things more than just that. I told her nobody is ever responsible for the suicide of another person, and guilt and regret, as in I wish I had or I could have done something are not appropriate. But listen to me, anger is appropriate. Just after I had answered that letter and talked to that woman, I got an e-mail from a friend who was celebrating the date, that date. And he had been down some hard and dark roads, including a number of very difficult family and professional issues. One of the horrible experiences had been public humiliation. My friend had a prominent political office and just before, this really happened, and I get angry when I even say it. Just before an important election, he was falsely charged in a federal indictment. Later, after he’d lost the election, a federal judge dismissed the indictment as bogus, and today he is totally free and has been declared not guilty. And this was the day of that dismissal. During, as you can imagine, during the past few months of darkness, my friend was an illustration of almost everything that I’m talking to you about and writing in that book that we’re talking about. And I’ve learned so much from him. He often wrote about how difficult lament is and pointed out that we only learned to lament when our pain allows no other option.
Lament has been a journey for me
a journey into grace and repentance and wholeness.
On another occasion, he wrote.
If we don’t understand lament, we’ll never understand celebration.
When my friend wrote to me, it was different. You know why, he wasn’t so spiritual? In fact, he was really irritated and he wrote the indictment should have been dismissed three months earlier. Unfortunately, the federal prosecutors wanted to rub my nose in the false accusation for another three months. And I told him, good for you cause you’re never going to be truly healed until you express the appropriate anger that is a part of lament. I rejoice with my friend, but I was glad that he expressed the anger too. Do you know why? Lament without anger isn’t lament, it’s just whining. Honest anger is healthy and healing. Anger is also a significant element in lament and one of the reasons for the freedom that follows the lament. It’s important that we talk about anger, so we’re going to. By way of confession, I struggle with anger issues. I’ve often been accused of being an angry person. When I was young, especially, I’m better than I was and that may be God, or it may be just getting old. My anger has always come from a variety of sources, issues related to being an adult child of an alcoholic, church problems I could fix with a few funerals, my own ego, and of course the ever-present self-righteousness, but for the most part it was simply sin. Sin I’ve often repented of both the God and the people I’ve hurt. When it had to do with emotional issues, I’ve tried to work that through with wise friends who often help. As someone has said.
It is right to confess one’s sins, but it’s wrong to repent of one’s sicknesses.
But be that as it may, there is anger that is neither a sin nor related to emotional issues. The problem with repenting of anger too much is that we can be in danger of a repenting of something that is quite healthy and in fact, affirmed in Scripture. One of the reasons Christians are so often seen as weird is that we often think everything bad is our fault, including a locust attack on the other side of the world, and anger just compounds sin. So, repent of two things that aren’t necessary for repentance, our responsibility for the locusts and for the anger. Paul said that we should be angry, but not let the sun go down on our anger. And then he demonstrated that teaching by expressing some very strong and angry words about those who were perverting the gospel, he writes.
If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received.
And this, by the way, is Galatians 1:9.
contrary to the gospel that you received, let him be a accursed.
A good many of the Psalms of lament contain strong element of anger, as do the imprecatory Psalms. And everybody knows how angry Jesus was when he kicked the money changers out of the temple. At the end of his book, the writer of Lamentations speaks quite properly to a sovereign God. If you don’t see the anger in his words, however muted, then you haven’t read it right. This is what he writes, and this is Lamentations 5:19 through 20.
But you, O Lord, reign forever; your thrown endures to all generations. Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?
In other words, it’s your fault and I’m angry. And of course, Scripture speaks quite often of the wrath of God. So, given that as we have seen, we are created in the image of God, there are times when our wrath is quite appropriate. In the old but wonderful movie Network, the news anchor Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, has an emotional breakdown on camera and the powers notice that he’s coming apart. They also notice that the ratings start going through the roof, so instead of getting him therapy, they leave him on the air and collect the money. As his nightly rants become increasingly popular, it turns out that he wasn’t as crazy as everybody thought he was, when he expresses his anger at the world’s depravity. In one arresting scene, you maybe have seen the movie Bill tells people across America to go out in the streets and open the windows of their apartment, their homes, their workplaces, and shout at the top of their lungs, I’m mad as you know what, and I’m not going to take it anymore. Biblical lament recognizes that, it isn’t what it’s supposed to be, and that’s reflected in great sadness and a broken heart. However, authenticity shouts, I’m mad and I’m not going to take it anymore. And that is legitimate anger. Jesus didn’t die to make us nice. Jesus died to make us His. And being His is to cry where he cries, to laugh where he laughs, and to look over our Jerusalem’s, and to weep where he weeps, and to walk into our money changers parking lot and kick ’em out with anger. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown continuing to teach us the Biblical principles that formed the foundation of his latest book, Laughter and Lament. We’ll continue our exploration next week, but first tomorrow, it’s Friday. And you know what that means? Friday Q&A with Steve and our good friend Pete Alwinson. Don’t miss it. I’m not very good, I don’t mind being honest about my failures, but you know what keeps me from being more honest than I am? It’s not because I’m scared of losing my witness, it’s because I’m afraid of seeming like a failure. It’s because some people in the church are so darn judgmental, way more judgmental than the world. Well, that tasty little excerpt is from a brilliant article by Chad West called Be Not A Jerk. And you can find that article in the 2023 edition of Key Life Magazine. It’s new, it’s fantastic, and it is free. So, claim your copy right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that magazine. And if you’d like to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Again, just ask for your free copy of the brand new 2023 edition of Key Life Magazine. And finally, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is quite easy. You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or you can now give safely and securely by text as so many people are doing. Just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.