Christ’s Kingdom, Our Anger
Anger is a powerful emotion with powerful consequences. Even among Canadians, who are considered some of the friendliest people in the world, anger is still an epidemic. Anger affects our closest relationships most powerfully. According to a 2014 census, 68% of all police-reported violent crimes were committed against a family member. According to the same census, 1/3 of Canadians will experience violent abuse before the age of 15. Anger is a powerful emotion with powerful consequences.
What is anger?
According to Rod Wilson, the former president of Regent College, “anger is love under threat.” We experience anger when someone or something we love is under threat. Tim Keller also makes a connection between anger and love, “in its uncorrupted origin, anger is actually a form of love.” In our passage, Jesus is not outright condemning anger since he gets angry. (see Mark 3, John 2) Jesus isn’t condemning anger but inviting us to a transformed life with transformed anger. When our lives are transformed by Christ and his Kingdom then our anger will burn for him rather than simply burning those around us.
How does Christ transform our anger?
He invites us to look within ourselves rather than just at our outward actions. Jesus begins with the Old Testament passage, “You shall not murder” and tells his disciples to look instead at their internal state of anger. If we’re full of internal anger then even if we don’t commit external murder we’ll still commit murder a thousand times with our heart. Rather than just a radical change in action, Jesus invites his disciples to a radical changing of the heart.
David asks God to do the same to him, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Living the Christian life is more than just doing the right things. Life in the Kingdom isn’t as much about following rules as it is about following the rule, the reign, of God in our lives. Following God’s Kingdom is primarily about our hearts, and who we love. Do we ultimately love and burn for Him, or do we love and burn for ourselves?
The second way, that Jesus invites us to respond is by taking a small step forward. After inviting us to examine not only our actions but the inner state behind our actions, Jesus offers an example of what it would look like how someone to live our their Kingdom transformation. He says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Dale Bruner says that here Jesus showing a simple step of response for people who are transformed by the Kingdom. When Christ gets a hold of our heart and we begin to want His Kingdom first then we are led to respond through action. Jesus uses the most extreme example – worship. Worship is fundamental about relationships – being brought into relationship with a loving God and then turning to love others. If there is something burning inside of you or in another that is hindering the flourishing of the relationship then Jesus says drop what you are doing to repair the burned relationship. Anger is a powerful emotion with powerful consequences so drop what you’re doing to repair the relationship – whether it was caused by your anger or theirs.
What does it look like for you to take a small step towards anger that is Kingdom transformed? To use your anger to seek reconciliation rather than revenge?
For some of you, the first step today will be acknowledging that you have anger. It may even involve acknowledging that at times your anger is out of control and that you need help. Ultimately our anger can only be transformed through the life and power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself promised that he is not only going to make all things new at a later time, but that he wants to begin to make all things new right now. As he promised in the Book of Revelation And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5) Those who are in Christ are a new creation, they are a people who are being made new right now. Jesus not only forgives our sins, but also transforms us and our anger into a force that burns for His Kingdom.