This week I’ve been restudying Matthew 5:21-26 in preparation for a sermon this weekend. It appears that anger has taken root in our culture and even in the Church. What can we do about that?
My thinking is that this crisis is the result of an inadequate discipleship process in the Evangelical Church over the last few decades, which has been principle-driven to a fault. Certainly, Scripture is full of principles to be learned and practiced. Where we’ve fallen short, in my opinion, is not helping people to integrate those principles into practices.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –1 Thessalonians 5:23
This passage is not meant to be a singular proof text, it is one of many biblical texts that indicate God wants access to, not only WHAT we do but WHY we do what we do. Our spirit, soul, and body represent the overlapping distinctives of our human nature. Embedded in these distinctives are our intellect, will, and emotions. One of the late R.C. Sproul‘s descriptions of the sanctification process is the ongoing “mending of all human imperfection,” which will be completed at the Second Coming of Jesus. In the meantime, we are constantly learning principles and (hopefully) putting them into practice to strengthen our spirit, soul, and body through the teaching, convicting, and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The idea of integrating emotional health into the sanctification and discipleship process is learning how to manage our feelings and emotions in appropriate ways. One example of a failure of effective discipleship would be the guy (who might even be a pastor or a church leader) who knows the Bible really really well, yet is prone to outbursts of anger. This becomes confusing to people both inside and outside the church and waters down both our witness and effectiveness.
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health is what occurs when my feelings are being placed under the power of the cross in an ongoing way so that they are acknowledged as present (as opposed to denying them), listened to for what they communicate about me, expressed adequately and appropriately to others, and acted upon in ways that are appropriate and (begin to) reflect the character of Christ. They exist, but they no longer dominate my behavior. I begin to respond more than I react and when I blow it, I own it and apologize. My emotions are recognized and given their rightful place in the course of godly conduct.
With the above in mind, please take some time to consider if anger has taken-up too much residential space in your soul…
Anger Self Evaluation Questionnaire
The following inventory can help you in the recognition process as you seek to determine whether your anger is reaching a destructive level in your life.
- I become impatient easily when things do not go according to my plan.
- I tend to have critical thoughts toward others who don’t agree with my opinions.
- When I am displeased with someone, I may shut down any communication with them or withdraw entirely.
- I get annoyed easily when friends and family do not appear sensitive to my needs.
- I feel frustrated when I see someone else having an easier time than me.
- Whenever I am responsible for planning an important event, I am preoccupied with how I must manage it.
- When talking about a controversial topic, the tone of my voice is likely to become louder and more assertive.
- I can accept a person who admits his or her mistakes, but I get irritated easily at those who refuse to admit their weaknesses.
- I do not easily forget when someone does me wrong.
- When someone confronts me with a misinformed opinion, I am thinking of my comeback even while they are speaking.
- I find myself becoming aggressive even while playing a game for fun.
- I struggle emotionally with the things in life that aren’t fair.
- Although I realize that it may not be right, I sometimes blame others for my problems.
- More often than not, I use sarcasm as a way of expressing humor.
- I may act kindly toward others on the outside yet feel bitter and frustrated on the inside.
Scoring: If you recognize 4-8 of the above, your anger is probably more present than you would prefer. If you identified with 9 or more boxes, there is a strong possibility that you have an ongoing struggle with anger or rage, whether you are aware of it or not.
(Adapted from “The Anger Workbook,” written by Dr. Les Carter and Dr. Frank Minirth)