Rethink Anger: Giving Up Rage and Contempt
by Jamie Maxim

March 24, 2022

Relational Connection

Rethink Anger: Giving Up Rage and Contempt

By Jamie Maxim

March 24, 2022

I know, you might be thinking, I haven’t flipped my top like that angry character in Pixar’s movie Inside Out. This article is for you.

Here is a truth we all must wrestle with: Everyone has anger issues, we just don’t express them in the same way. David Powlison said this about anger in his book Good and Angry:

At its core anger is very simple. It expresses “I’m against that.” It is an active stance you take to oppose something that you assess as both important and wrong. You notice something, size it up, and say, “That matters . . . and it’s not right.” You encounter something in your world that crosses the line. Anger expresses the energy of your reaction to something you find offensive and wish to eliminate.

We all encounter stuff in our world that “crosses the line” and lights us up, whether we express it outwardly or we stew on it and become cold shouldered.

Jesus has something to say to all of us about anger.

In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

We Are to Give Up Contempt

The Aramaic word for “insults” literally means to call someone “empty-headed.” That is: numbskull, nitwit, blockhead, bonehead, jerk, or brainless idiot. (I have been called all of them at some point—sometimes affectionately, but this is no laughing matter.) The term “fool” refers to those who have denied the existence of God, and as a result have fallen into patterns of evil. Psalm 14:1 is a good illustration when it says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Jesus is not talking about a ladder of offenses that gets progressively worse, he is saying animosity is not a reflection of kingdom living. These words put together express that someone is worthless. They demote a person to the level of a nobody. We are carrying out the spirit of these words when we say things like, “He’s worthless, he doesn’t deserve to live. I wish he were dead. I would not shed a tear if he suffered.”

Jesus is saying we should shun any whiff of being condescending toward others. We are not to devalue others. Let us guard our speech when others seem to mess up our plans but under our breath we grumble, “I oughta…!” Or when a defiant child runs away, parents in annoyance can say, “Just wait till I …, I am going to….” Telling our children they are untalented, unwanted, worthless, or good for nothing flies in the face of what Jesus is teaching. Remember, God did not say that about us, rather he sent his Son to die for us.

There is no place for the Christian to treat anyone as if they have no value (regardless of how they have chosen to educate their children, where they choose to live, how they spend their resources, etc).

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If anyone should know the value each person in this world has, it should be Christians. No one is worthless. Our heart’s inclination is to see where God is working in the lives of others; to see the potential of what God can do. Though we should not condone sin, we are to have this truth at the forefront of our minds: God sent his Son for them and we have an opportunity to communicate grace.

When the temptation toward unrighteous anger is upon us, we must run to Christ. We need the promises of the beatitudes. Blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the peacemakers. This radical call is not meant to crush us, rather, when it comes to anger, Christ’s radical call for righteousness is meant to drive us to Him for grace. May the aroma of Christ and his righteousness penetrate every relationship we have.

To continue in further study on anger, I recommend the book Good and Angry by David Powlison.

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