During our adult bible study on Sunday mornings we are reading through a book by Jerry Bridges call “Respectable Sins – Confronting the Sins We Tolerate“. This week we looked at the sin of anger. Very often we tend to tolerate this sin because we believe anger is justified in many cases and in certain situations. Although the bible does provide some examples of righteous anger, the main focus of teaching is on our sinful anger, and our sinful reactions to other people’s actions or words.
Today we looked at the chapter in the Bridges book titled “Weeds of Anger”. One of the first things Bridges points out is the scripture we have all used to provide justification for our anger. You know the verse in Ephesians 4:26:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
According to Bridges, the apostle Paul is not granting us permission to be angry, let alone commanding it, as the imperative mood might suggest. Rather, Paul takes for granted that we will become angry, and he is telling us how to handle it. Basically Paul is saying “Don’t hold on to your anger. Get over it quickly.” As Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show liked to say “Nip it in the bud.”
Also in this chapter, Bridges leads the reader to look at some of the long term results of anger, what he calls “weeds of anger.” He chooses the term weeds because it emphasizes something we dislike that takes root and is often difficult to get rid of. Bridges discusses five noxious weeds that spring up from unresolved anger. The fives weeds are:
1. Resentment is anger held on to. This anger is often internalized and arises from the heart of a person who is ill-treated in some way but is not in a position to do anything about it. This type of anger is difficult to deal with because the person experiencing this often continues to nurse his wounds and dwell on his ill-treatment.
2. Bitterness is resentment that has grown into a feeling of ongoing animosity. Where resentment may fade over time, bitterness continues to grow and fester, developing into an even deeper root of for this weed.
3. Enmity and hostility are essentially synonymous and denote a higher level of ill will or animosity than does bitterness. Where bitterness may to some degree be marked by polite behavior, enmity or hostility is usually expressed openly. It is often manifested through denigrating or even hateful speech toward or about the objects of the animosity.
4. Grudge, as in holding one, is mentioned in the bible five times. The two most profound occurances are mentioned with Esau hating Jacob, and Joseph’s brothers toward Joseph. It is the mindset of taking revenge against someone who you perceived has wronged you. Even if you do not take action against them but plans are made within your mind to do so, it is still a sin.
5. Strife describes open conflict or turmoil between parties, usually between opposing groups as distinct from individuals, such as “church fights” or “family feuds.”
Now Bridges does not just analyze these “weeds of anger”, but he also provides a biblical approach for dealing with this sin.
First, we must look to the sovereignty of God. God doesn’t cause people to sin against us, but he does allow it, and it is always allowed for a purpose. Most often He allows it for our own growth in Christlikeness. God intends good. If we actively reflect on this truth of God’s sovereignty it can provide the tool for successfully pulling the weed out at the root.
Second, we should pray that God will enable us to grow in love. In 1 Peter, Peter keeps emphasizing the importance of brotherly love, that is the love toward fellow believers. In 1 Peter 4:8 he writes:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Peter’s words mean that love enables us to overlook a lot of sinful actions of other people. But this love that overlooks an offense does not just happen. It comes as we pursue it diligently in the dependence of the Holy Spirit.
The third direction is to learn to forgive as God has forgiven you. The author Jerry Bridges points out an outstanding verse to help us learn and practice forgiveness. This is found in parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. The first servant mentioned in this passage is one who owes the king some ten thousand talents. This debt (ten thousand talents) was effectively the much more than the typical servant could learn in many lifetimes. It was just an impossibility to repay. This servant pleaded withe the king to have patience with him so he could repay the debt. This was a very optimistic servant. There was no way he could repay the debt and yet the king had pity on the servant and forgave him the debt. This same servant had a fellow servant that owed him roughly one-third of a years wage. This second servant pleaded with the first servant for patience as well. But the first servant had no pity on him. He had not learned anything from the king, and had the second servant thrown into prison. This parable easily parallels the sin we owe to God which we could never repay, compared to any sin another person could do against us. God has forgiven us all of our sin through the death of his son of the cross. We need to learn that lesson from God. We need to learn to also forgive. Not only did the king, God, forgive the debt we could never repy but the cost of such forgiveness was the life of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. Nothing ever wronged toward us could ever compare to this. Forgiveness is huge.
In conclusion we need to remember the three principles Bridges provides in this profound chapter to help us deal with the sin of anger. A firm belief in the sovereignty of God, a diligent pursuit of brotherly love that covers a multitude of sins and does not keep a record of wrongs; and a humble realization that, compared to my brother’s sin against me, I am the ten thousand-talent debtor to God.
November 11, 2008 at 10:18 am
Yep – this book has been quite an eye opener for me. I love that we are studying things that God uses to grow me closer to Him.
November 11, 2008 at 11:17 am
Great stuff to be sure. I love the studying together too.
November 14, 2008 at 12:11 pm
I just got this book. Even reading the table of contents was convicting.