I came across this brief story in this original location. It was written by Jonathan Gibson.
I have a little catechism I say with my son Ben on Sunday mornings. It goes like this:
Q. Ben, what day is it?
A. It’s the Lord’s Day.
Q. And what do we do on the Lord’s Day?
A. We eat pancakes!
Q. And where do we go on the Lord’s Day?
A. To church.
Q. And what do we do at church?
A. We worship the Triune God.
Q. And who do we get to worship with?
A. With Leila.
Leila is Ben’s little sister. She was stillborn at full term. One Sunday evening, while we all slept, she went from the silence of her mother’s womb to the sound of thousands upon thousands of angels singing her great Redeemer’s praise. And ever since she’s been singing with them. It’s why I love to go to church each Sunday—I get to be with my daughter for a brief moment:
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." Hebrews 12:22–24
Once we grasp this connection—between the church militant on earth and the church triumphant in heaven—it changes the significance of our Sundays: what it is we’re about to do, and who it is we’re about to join . . . after we’ve finished our pancakes.
Jonathan Gibson – Author of Reformation Worship
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9
This blog post is not aiming to review the March 4 sermon, but, as promised during the sermon, will provide four action steps that we can take to make our anger constructive rather than destructive.
Christians who eagerly live as “sons of God” have a heart to be like their Savior – people who walk through frustrating, broken situations and seek to be peace-MAKERS. Therefore the four peacemaking tools presented below (and drawn from David Powlison’s important book: Good and Angry) are passed to you in hopes that Jesus-empowered hope, healing, and happiness may become the new product of your angry situations.
Tip: The sermon focused on how to get our hearts and thoughts submitted to God when we are angry. If we skip the inward steps that Psalm 4 presents then we will have an extremely difficult (probably impossible) time making Godly use of these constructive tools.
HOW CAN ANGER BECOME CONSTRUCTIVE?
A few quotes from Powlison to set our direction:
It is possible to say “That’s wrong!” and yet express our displeasure in ways that prove truly constructive. Actually loving. Even beautiful. Jesus saw wrong, called it wrong, and called out wrongdoers. (p.71)
The typical bad angers are all versions of returning evil for evil. But where mercy flows, then mercy’s displeasure [anger] brings a powerful good…Jesus gathers up our angers, not to neuter our sensitivity to evil, but to redeem how we respond. (p.72)
[Constructive anger travels] exactly the same ground as simple anger…but unlike just getting mad, it says, “That’s wrong – and I will be constructively merciful in pursuing whatever is just, whatever makes things right, whatever does good. (p.73)
4 KEY ASPECTS OF CONSTRUCTIVE ANGER
Each of these implies active disapproval of what’s happening. But unlike the vast bulk of anger, each breathes helpfulness in how it goes about addressing what it sees as wrong.
1. Patience: In It For The Long Haul. Patience acknowledges that something wrong is occurring. True patience is not passive or indifferent to offense or hurt. It’s not just putting up with bad things. Patience is being “slow to anger” (James 1:19), and it is a direct reflection of our Lord (Exodus 34:6). To be slow to anger means you are willing to work with wrong over time, making peace instead of demanding immediate justice. Patience enables you to see the wrong more clearly and deeply than if you react quickly.
Patience is actively choosing to work slowly, purposefully, and constructively to solve things. We consciously hang in there with people over the long haul because our relationship matters more than my momentary rightness.
2. Forgiveness: The Willingness To Not Get Even. Forgiveness looks wrong in the eye, names wrong for what it is and feels the sting. Then it consciously acts “unfairly” in return. Anger is all about fairness (often very distorted forms of fairness). But forgiveness is mercifully unfair. You actively choose not to give back what seems fair or reasonable.
Forgiveness does not ignore or excuse what’s wrong. Instead it recognizes that a debt is owed, and it forgives that debt. Forgiveness means you don’t get what you “deserve.” Rather than giving back what’s fair, we act like God treats us (Psalm 103:8-13), and act for the good of another by deliberately releasing the debt.
There are many questions that Powlison answers about different forgiveness situations (p.82-87), but his (and our) key starting points are Mark 11:25 and Luke 17:3-4. If you forgive from the heart, then you become able to go constructively to the other person when it is called for.
3. Charity: Undeserved Acts of Kindness. Charity calls for the most difficult self-control of all: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate/hurt you.” That’s hard (impossible!) to do apart from Holy Spirit dependence. It’s unnatural. And it’s precisely what we love and worship about our Savior.
Destructive anger tightly grips a wrong, points it out, prosecutes it, punishes it. Mercy actively chooses to act generously toward a wrongdoer, rather than claiming a pound of flesh. Normal thinking says, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But if you do me wrong, I’ll hold a grudge or get even.”
God-empowered charity isn’t just niceness. It’s not just the right thing to do. It has a bigger goal: to live in and with the joy of God’s mercy reflecting out of my life. Constructive anger via charity shines very brightly in dark places. It is our privilege. Mercies received by us from Christ lead to having mercies to give away to others which may lead to peacemaking!
4. Constructive Conflict: Seeking to Redeem The Problem. Saturated in the peacemaking actions of patience, forgiveness, and charity, we seek to make right what is wrong. With an appropriate attitude, at an appropriate time and place, you actively choose to address the problem with the goal of healing, correcting, and/or putting an end to wrong. If you do this the right way then you are making the right kind of “trouble.” Your aim is not to crush the person, it is to crush the wrong for the good of the person, people or circumstance.
The word “redeem” defines our goal because it is connected with the heart of God. We aren’t just trying to get kids to shut up or get bosses to back off or get spouses to do better. We are seeking to make peace and health where open wrong, hostility, and destruction now operate. We want wrong to cease AND right to commence for the happiness and holiness of all involved. Powlison says, “This is the hardest and best work in the world” (p.96).
YOU ARE SENT!
What would God do in our life spaces if we commit ourselves to constructive anger? It’s what good parents and teachers keep doing with troubled and troublesome kids. It’s what good employers, workers, spouses and friends keep doing motivated by their own Gospel gratitude. We can be part of Jesus’ work of redemption by chasing constructive anger in everyday life.
If you desire more specific, daily wisdom for changing your anger contact me to obtain a copy of this 50-day devotional book. I purchased several copies knowing that the struggle with anger is so common.
by: Thomas Gold
Thomas is a pastor at RSBC. He yearns to join others in fighting for freedom from internal and external evil and pain. He is married to Janice and happy to be raising their six children together.