(Sarah Oliva taught at The Big Table Carlisle from Matthew 5: 21-26 – the passage where Jesus teaches about law-keeping as it relates to murder and anger, taking life and giving life, forgiveness and reconciliation. This is part of what she shared in her message.)
I’ve had a funny relationship with anger. I was never prone to outbursts in my teen years, but after a few years of marriage, I realised that it was a natural go-to for me when I became angry.
The anger continued, becoming more regular in rearing its ugly head, to the point that I visited Relationships Australia to do a course where I could learn about anger, seek to change my thinking and paradigms around anger, and manage it better.
Don’t get me wrong, the course was useful. I was more able to recognise when I felt angry; my head felt like it would explode, my heart would race I would feel anxious and short of breath. I could also recognise what kind of situations triggered anger: feeling short of time, feeling unable to meet my task requirements, feeling out of control in regards to how things SHOULD be done, feeling embarrassed because I hadn’t done things properly, feeling embarrassed socially and so the list goes on.
Ultimately, though, while I’ve been struggling with these angry outbursts for the last few years, I have also been praying and repenting. I think I know the right things to do, and I am trusting God that through having prepared this message on anger from Jesus’ sermon to His followers, that I have turned somewhat of a corner.
You see, the other night we went out, and I hadn’t eaten all day. By the time we got home at 9 pm, I was starving and Tony wasn’t able to meet my outlandish demands at which point I became very angry. In our household, we sometimes dub this ‘hangry‘: the angry that comes from extreme hunger!
I was angry to the point of yelling, acting uncontrollably, and acting with murder in my heart. I am hopefully over-dramatising and it’s clearly embarrassing for me to confess this. A moment came, somewhere in the ‘h-anger’ where I knew that my behaviour was completely unacceptable but, not prepared to admit my wrongdoing, I stomped off to bed alone and unhappy.
When I awoke the next morning, I knew that something had changed in me. It may have had something to do with the fact that I had been reading the scriptures that said, ‘If you have anger (this killing infuriating anger), then you may as well be a murderer’, and I was finally getting a true revelation of that. I had been murdering many good things in my life: my children, my marriage, my husband’s respect for me, my reputation amongst my neighbours (who are sure to have heard my angry outbursts) and so on.
This time, though, I knew that I was a murderer. My evil heart was not righteous (as I occasionally imagined), it was indeed sinful. I cried. For a little while, and thought, how can God possibly forgive me? Fortunately, because of His continued faithfulness in my life, I was able to shake that off quite quickly and say: “No Sarah, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You have been forgiven and I am no longer angry with you”.
You see, God has every reason to be angry. His anger isn’t without cause; his anger is justified. His anger is righteous. Mine isn’t, but His is. But God, in His great mercy and love, decided to send Jesus, that God’s anger towards that evil, sinful heart I have, (yes me), FORGAVE ME and made me alive to the Law of Spirit and Life.
I sought His forgiveness again, (though all forgiveness has already been given to me: for past, present and future sin), and I found freedom and liberty.
The first thing I did was seek to reconcile with Tony (who was already out reading His Bible), who, as he has many times before, was also gracious and forgiving. This time it was different, though. I received his forgiveness as someone who knew they really needed it. This time, I knew that my anger was not justified. My anger was not righteous. My anger was without cause and resulted in ‘raca’ and ‘blockheadedness’*.
This time, I knew I was forgiven for the sinful wretch that I am, and I am totally down with that forgiveness; eternally grateful.
I am trusting that God will remind me day by day that I am no more special than my family. No, I am trusting that He will remind me that my family are equally as precious as I am. Who they are, the way they behave, the way they ‘make errors, or don’t do things properly, or cause me to be late’ and so on, all of these things should be a reminder to me as I continue to grow in this revelation of the grace and love of God in my life in this area.
He is always working in and through us, to bring us to a greater revelation of who Christ Jesus is in our lives, that we can truly live in unity and love toward one another.
*Raca comes from the Aramaic term reqa. It was a derogatory expression meaning “empty-headed”. The only time it is found in the Bible is in Matthew 5:22