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"Get Over It!"

Exodus 20:13
Matthew 5:21-26
Ephesians 4:26-30

Jim Davis

A young girl who was writing a paper for school came to her father and asked, "Dad, what's the difference between anger and exasperation?"

The father replied, "It's mostly a matter of degree. Let me show you what I mean." With that the father went to the telephone and dialed a number at random. To the man who answered the phone, he said, "Hello, is Melvin there?" The man answered, "There is no one living here named Melvin. Why don't you learn to look up numbers before you dial them?"

"See," said the father to his daughter. "That man was not a bit happy with our call. He was probably very busy with something and we annoyed him. Now watch . . ." The father dialed the same number again. "Hello, is Melvin there?" asked the father.

"Now look here!" came the heated reply. "You just called this number, and I told you that there is no Melvin here! You've got a lot of nerve calling again!" The receiver slammed down hard.

The father turned to his daughter and said, "You see that was anger. Now I'll show you what exasperation means." He again dialed the same number, and when a violent voice roared "Hello!" the father calmly said, "Hello, this is Melvin. Have there been any calls for me?"

Anger seems to have become our national pastime. We have battered women. We have drive-by shootings. We have movie heroes who are "lethal weapons who die hard." We have a world full of angry people. Have you noticed how anger fills our world? Look at the genocide in Bosnia, Croatia and Africa. In our country we hear of road rage, postal workers going "postal," employees going berserk and students killing other students for the sheer thrill of it. We see seething anger in homes that are falling apart.

The news media loves to play to our anger by showing one group how it is being deprived of its rights by another group. This is a great sensationalizing tool of mass media, as well as politicians.

It's only natural, in such a world, to long to escape from the hassles of dealing with angry people. A more worthy goal, however, is to affect this age of rage as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

John Maxell says ministers spend 20% of their time dealing with conflict within churches. John Maxwell also said, "Coping with difficult people is always a problem. Especially if the difficult person happens to be yourself."

Anger in the form of bitterness, hatred and malice has extreme destructive power. One leading psychiatrist feels that anger is the greatest single problem in life. The Bible agrees: "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." (Proverbs 14:29-30 NIV)

Anger can have a destructive effect on your health. "In fifteen minutes of anger one can use up as much energy as in an entire day of zestful work. Anger can disorder nerves and deposit poison in the blood." Anger, in forms such as envy, fear, and hate, can cause disease and death. Anger can destroy relationships, and can destroy one's spiritual and emotional peace. "Unresolved and unconfessed malice will always hinder our efforts to portray the personality of Jesus in our daily living. If anger is a problem in your life, you can make the decision to change, but you must seek God's help. (Ephesians 4:22, 23, 31, 32. "Anger" by Tony Bland. Pulpit Helps, Oct 1987. Page 1.)

A nice old gentleman of seventy-five got a good report from his doctor after his medical examination, and the doctor asked him how he kept in such good shape.

"Well, Sir," he explained, "when I got married about fifty years ago, my wife and I made an agreement that if I lost my temper she would stay silent and if she lost her temper I would leave the house and go for a stroll. I credit my good health to the well-known advantages of walking.

"You Shall Not Kill."

Moses states the sixth commandment succinctly, "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13 (NIV) Jesus sought to internalize and personalize Moses command as he equated murder with anger.

Matthew 5:21-26
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (NIV)

A newspaper reported a tragic incident of violence that took place in a South American country. A peasant killed his best friend while they were arguing about political differences. A retired chief of the army, one of the country's finest intellectuals, had occasion to question the killer. "Why did you do it?" he asked. "You fought about politics, but why did you kill him?" In chilling words, the peasant answered, "We began peacefully, and we argued. I killed him when I ran out of words."

This tragedy calls to mind Jesus' words in Matthew 5 about the close connection between anger and murder.

Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold

Jesus speaks of progressive levels of anger in the foregoing verses. The first level he speaks of is a temper that flashes and subsides quickly. He simply says, But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." Paul speaks of this anger, "Be angry and sin not." (Ephesians 4:26) It is possible to be angry and not sin when we refuse to allow our anger to control us. Jesus said that this kind of anger can make us subject to judgement if not controlled.

Scripture gives some advice for dealing with the anger common to being human. "The Bible does not say anger is forbidden. God got plenty steamed more than once." Two scriptural guidelines: 1) Warm up slowly. Solomon says, "Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:9 NIV). 2) Cool down quickly, Paul says, "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath . . ." Ephesians 4:26.) ("Do real Christians get mad?" by Dean Merrill. Christian Herald, Sep 1988. Pages 36-42.)

Aristotle made this wise observation: "Anybody can become angry--that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way--that is not easy!"

A second level of anger is revealed in the word "Raca." This is a burning smoldering brooding unforgiving anger that is seeking revenge for wrongs done. This type of anger gives outward expression as we refuse to get over it. The idea behind this is that in your anger you hold the person who has wronged you in contempt. It becomes evident in a sarcastic tone of voice. Allowing this anger to reign gives place for the devil to do his damage. It is a growing anger that will bring us under judgement.

Ephesians 4:26-32
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

In these verses in Ephesians, Paul writes of stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, and anger with one stroke of the pen. These are the consequences of unresolved anger. Stealing may seem out of place in these verses, but there are many angry persons out there trying to get what they think the world owes them. I have personally discovered, if you are expecting the world to pay you back for the mistreatment you have received, you may never get repaid. To demand that the world repay you or to wait for repayment will allow the world to steal your life from you. When we blame our circumstances on others we become powerless over our circumstances. We become enslaved to our circumstances when we wait for someone else to change our circumstances. Waiting on the world to make it right is the worst thing we can do because we must keep a firm grip on our circumstances to keep the world indebted to us.

There is a third degree of anger revealed in the word "fool." Jesus says, "But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." This is not a prohibition against the word fool. Jesus said, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25) It has to do with relegating a person to the position of a morally worthless person, a scoundrel. It has to do with looking upon this person with distain. I think this is what is involved in racism.

Anger seeks to create distance between us and those we are angry with. Calling the person Raca or stupid or an idiot is an effort to destroy that person's self respect as we seek to bring him/her to shame. We endeavor to create a desire in that person to crawl in a hole and die. Calling the person a fool is an effort to destroy the person's reputation as we seek to destroy the value others might place upon that person. We seek to create a desire in others to do the person wrong.

When we allow our anger to grow, we begin to think that the world would be better off without the person we are angry at. To us they might as well be dead. We have no regard for the person or the problems they might be facing.

In God's sight anger is bad, long lasting anger is worse, contemptuous speech is worse and malicious talk that tears others down is even worse. It puts us in danger of hell fire, a place prepared for the devil and those who give him a foothold in their lives.

We Must Get Over It!

Constantly we hear about unresolved anger. Have you ever been told to "Get over it"? Usually you are told this when you are angry. There is a single concept running through Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:21-26 and Paul's statement in the above verses. The concept is, don't let your anger consume you. Jesus says, " . . . settle matters quickly with your adversary . . ." Paul says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." Resolving the conflict in our lives is crucial. Jesus says, "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

It is important to resolve our anger because, "The man who flies into a rage always makes a bad landing." (Will Rogers) Anger paves the road that we must tread; it hurts us more than those we are angry with.

Most families avoid conflict, burying the hurt and anger, but those negative feelings eventually get expressed. The link between behavior and heart disease is how you handle negative emotions, specifically your anger. The way a married man handles anger can affect not only his own health but also his wife's, and a wife's anger-suppression can have an even greater effect on her husband. In a study of 192 couples, 75% of the men who died from cancer had spouses who suppressed their anger. Women whose husbands suppressed their anger had a greater risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. The researchers explained that suppressing basic emotions tends to alter the balance of daily routines, creating stress and disrupting sleep, etc. Men seem to be more vulnerable because they are dependent on emotional support from their wives. ("When spouses grouse." Psychology Today, Jul/Aug 1992. Page 18.)

We must be reconciled to God and each other. Complete reconciliation to God is not possible without a willingness to be reconciled to others as well. Whenever someone has been grieved, angered, or wounded, or the situation involves broken vows, unkept commitments, or violated persons, we're to make an attempt at reconciliation. It doesn't matter whether you are the one offended or the offender. Jesus made it clear that neither kind of anger is to be tolerated.

Matthew 5:23-24
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (NIV)

Reconciliation is a requirement for Christians. Jesus emphasized the importance of oneness in the church. Jesus gives the power to break down the barriers between us. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:11 that in the body of Christ no distinction is to be made among those from different segments of society, that all are one in Christ. He has accomplished, by His blood, the means to that oneness; our responsibility is to live out that truth in our daily lives.

Forgiveness is the first essential element of reconciliation because it places upon each of us the responsibility to get over it. Forgiveness forces each of us to learn to love one another as Christ loves us.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, there are those who will refuse to be reconciled to us. Paul tells us in Romans 12:18 that we're to do all we can to effect reconciliation. There may come a time when only prayers of relinquishment (releasing the person to God's care and instruction) and intercession (praying for those who have mistreated us) will bring us peace.

To me Joseph is one of the most outstanding persons in the Bible. His arrogance over his God given dream led him to be sold into slavery. When Potiphar’s wife was seducing him, it was his sincere desire not to sin against God that sent him to prison. His suffered at his own hands as well as the hands of others. However, Joseph sought to see a greater purpose behind his difficult circumstances. In doing so he accepted responsibility for his own actions.

Genesis 50:15-22
When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father's family. He lived a hundred and ten years. (NIV)

Joseph realized that God intended whatever happened to him for good. But those verses are not the most touching verses about Joseph’s life. These are:

Genesis 41:50-52
Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, "It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." The second son he named Ephraim and said, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." (NIV)

Joseph says, "God has made me forget all my trouble" and "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." Joseph was able to do this because he kept his life focused on God’s purpose for his life. He reminds us "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Stress-management consultant Donald Tubesing says that stress is our response to the situation, not the situation itself. He gives this example: "If you get stuck in traffic, you can work yourself up and yell at anyone who beeps his horn. Or you could view the time you're sitting there as the only uninterrupted 15 minutes you'll have all day."

John Curtis, founder and director of the University of Wisconsin Stress Management Institute, says, "I believe 90 percent of stress is brought on by not living in the present moment--worrying about what's already happened, what's going to happen, or what could happen."

The advice of these stress management experts can be helpful. Our best counsel, however, comes from Scripture.

Psalms 37:7-11
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-- it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. (NIV)

How to Get Over It

John Ortberg, in the Discipleship Journal reminds us of some biblical precepts to follow in overcoming our anger.

Turn the other cheek. Jesus loved to teach by contrasting conventional wisdom with the wisdom of the Kingdom. While conventional wisdom says strike back, Kingdom wisdom says offer love in return for hurt.

Be quick to listen, slow to speak. When someone is angry with us, our first impulse is usually to justify or explain our behavior. The Kingdom response is to seek understanding through listening. We might actually learn something!

The story is told of a young man who had been cruelly insulted by a former acquaintance. Full of indignation, he determined to go at once and demand an apology. A saintly gentleman laid his hand on his shoulder and said quietly, "Son, let me give you a word of advice. An insult is like mud: it will brush off much better when it is dry! Wait until you both have cooled off, and then the thing can probably be settled quickly. If you go now, you'll quarrel even more."

Turn away wrath by giving a gentle answer. The more we try to defend ourselves, the more an angry person attacks. Watch, however, what happens when you actually agree with something your attacker says. It is disarming and defusing.

Search your heart. Practice what Alcoholics Anonymous calls taking a "ruthless moral inventory." Examine your typical responses to angry people. Do you hide from confrontation when you should be facing it? Do you confront in every little situation when you should lighten up instead? If you know where you err, you have a better chance of making changes.

Don't make friends with angry people. The next time you're with an angry person, observe how you are affected. Do you leave angrier than you arrived? That's because anger is contagious.

Practice! Practice! Practice! Living in the age of rage takes skill, and skill comes through practice. Let Jesus teach you how to deal with angry people, then practice what He preaches. It's worth the effort because you can count on it-- angry people will be around for a long time to come. ("It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world" by John Ortberg. Discipleship Journal, May/Jun 1995 Pages 62-65.)


We are still talking about the sixth commandment, "You shall not kill." Anger seeks to destroy those around us as it destroys us. There is a sure way to control our own words and emotions, but we must focus our lives on God

We live in a world where we need to take responsibility for our personal response when wronged. Like Joseph in Egypt, we need to learn to see a greater purpose behind our difficult circumstances. We must see God’s work despite our difficult circumstances. When our anger stems from a mistake we made or a sin we committed, we must realize that our God is a God of second chances. When our anger stems from what others have done to us, we must seek to reconcile ourselves to God as we seek reconciliation with those who have done us harm.

Psalms 4:1-8
Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (NIV)



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