Monday, October 5, 2009

Respectable Sins - Anger and it's weeds (Ch 15-16)

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges

Chapter 15 - Anger and Chapter 16 - The Weeds of Anger

There is a lot in these two chapters. All worth thinking through though. Chapter 15 looks at anger itself and then chapter 16 looks at other things that can result from our anger. So, Bridges says anger is defined as
a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism. I would add that it's often accompanied by sinful emotions, words and actions hurtful to those who are the objects of our anger. (p121)
Bridges makes the point that no one causes us to be angry - it is our choice to become angry. I have posted about this before, from the perspective of being an angry mummy. I have read a few things on anger this year, and each time it has been helpful to acknowledge that I can choose my reaction to things, whether I get calm or angry.

Bridges addresses this point too:
How can we handle our anger is a God-honouring way? First we have to recognise and acknowledge our anger and the sinfulness of it...Then we need to ask ourselves why we become angry. Was it because of our pride or selfishness or some idol of the heart we are protecting. If so, we need to repent not only of our anger but also of our pride, selfishness or idolatry. (p125)
Secondly, we turn to words of God to remind of how we should be, eg:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph 4:32)

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col 3:12-14)
Third, we must ask for forgiveness from those to whom we have shown anger.

Fourth, we hand over to God the occasion of our anger, trusting God that he is in control of all things, even unjust situations that spark us to anger.

Bridges also spends some time talking about anger towards God. I found this section quite interesting, he says
It is never okay to be angry at God. Anger is a moral judgment, and in the case of God, it accuses Him of wrongdoing. It accuses God of sinning against us by neglecting us or in some way treating us unfairly. (p127)
This made me think. I have heard it said (as you probably have) that's it OK to be angry at God, better to be angry at him and tell him, than to turn away from him in anger. I guess what that idea is actually focusing on is our attitude, rather than our anger - it is saying that we need to be able to come to God in all our circumstances, rather than going elsewhere. However, I can see Bridges' point here - anger at God does suggest that we do not trust him and that we think we deserve a better deal on earth than we are currently getting.

Chapter 16 moves on to look at the weeds of anger, the other things that spring from it, he includes:
  • resentment - anger held on to, often internalized
  • bitterness - resentment that has grown into ongoing animosity
  • enmity and hostility - a higher level of animosity than bitterness, often expressed openly
  • holding a grudge - planning, although usually not following through, revenge
  • strife - open conflict or turmoil, often with groups rather than individuals
So, Bridges asks "how can we deal with our anger so so that it does not being to sprout these noxious weeds?" (p133)
    1. We must look to the sovereignty of God - he allows what happens to us to happen, it may be for our growth, or to prepare us for something else.

    2. We should pray that God will enable us to grow in love
    Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Pet 4:8)
    [love] is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Cor 13:5b)
    3. Learn to forgive as God has forgiven you
    it cost God to forgive us. It cost Him the death of His Son. No price can be put on that death, but God paid it so He could forgive each of us of the enormous spiritual debt we owed to Him. (p138)

    Some things to think about:
    1. When do you struggle with anger?
    2. Are you able to pray to God about your anger and ask forgiveness of those to whom you have shown anger?
    3. Do you have anger towards God? Has this chapter made you think about that differently?
    4. Which 'weeds' of anger are you cultivating? What are you going to do in order to change?

    Next: Chapter 17 - Judgmentalism


    arthurandtamie said...

    Hi Wendy

    I'm enjoying this series! Thanks for posting it.

    Does Bridges suggest what you should do when you do feel angry with God? I'm just wondering how we ought to read books like Lamentations in Bridges' framework. I've found it striking how strongly the writer expresses his anger at God, (even though that's accompanied by reminders of God's love).

    Also, Bridges said that to handle anger you need to admit the sinfulness of it. I take it then, that he views all anger as sinful? What does he do with that verse in Ephesians about being angry but not sinning?


    Wendy said...

    Thanks for the comment Tamie - sorry it's taken some time to reply - school holidays, etc!

    These were issues that struck me too as I read the chapter.

    Bridges suggestion for anger with God is:
    1. trust in his sovereignty, wisdom and love
    2. bring our confusion and perpexity to God in a humble trusting way
    Also, he says to remember that God is a forgiving God, and our anger was paid for by Jesus death on a cross (all p127)

    But I felt the tension you felt too - I was thinking about Job, because there are times when he certainly sounds angry at God - and God in the end corrects him, but does not seem to suggest he reacted wrongly. And many of the Psalms seem to express anger at God for the injustice of the way the evil prosper (for eg). It does seem though that all of theses expressions of anger in the bible are mixed with expressions of God's love and faithfulness, so that you can almost see the writers' thinking unfolding.

    Don't know whether than helps at all!

    As for anger and it's sinfulness - he does not specifically address Eph 4:26 - which I also would have appreciated, however regarding 'righteous anger' he says this:

    "how can I know if my anger is righteous anger? First, righteous anger arises from an accurate perception of true evil - that is, a violation of God's moral law. It focuses on God and His will, not on me and my will. Second, righteous anger is always self-controlled. It never causes one to lose his temper or retaliate is some vengeful way." (p122)

    He comments that the Bible does give some ags of righteous anger (eg. Jesus cleaning of the temple), but they are few. "The main focus of the bible's teaching on anger deals with our sinful anger, our sinful reactions to other people's actions or words".

    I find Jesus cleaning of the temple interesting, because I cannot imagine anyone else doing what he did in the temple and it being called 'righteous' - instead we would say they lost their temper, or were too cruel. So even what Jesus did righteously, perhaps we in our sinfulness, cannot?

    Hope that gives you something else to think about!!