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June 5, 2018

Using Anger as Your Ally: Part 1

“Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” Ephesians 4:26-27 (MSG) 

For most of us, anger is a real problem.  Our world is filled with hostility and rage, and it seems to be boiling over everywhere you look.  Road rage, school shootings, fights in stadiums over seats and parking spots, anger is the number one destroyer that rips relationships apart!  But, anger can be used as an ally to take relationships to a deeper level!  The trouble is most of us get angry over the wrong things and for the wrong reasons!  Jesus got angry and used His anger constructively to correct gross injustice and help others connect with God.  Nehemiah used anger as an ally to unite a nation in rebuilding and restoring their national identity.

Halfway through the process of rebuilding the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah hears the protests and complaints of fellow Jews who were being exploited and abused by their own brothers and sisters. The problem threatened to end the entire project of rebuilding the nation.  It was his anger that motivated him to act on their behalf and confront those who were violating the law of God and exploiting their own people. In Nehemiah 5: 6-13 we pick up the story and what happened:

“I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, ‘Each one of you is gouging his brother.’ Then I called a big meeting to deal with them. I told them, ‘We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?’ They said nothing. What could they say? ‘What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you? I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop. Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.’ They said, ‘We’ll give it all back. We won’t make any more demands on them. We’ll do everything you say.’ Then I called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word. Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, ‘So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn’t keep this promise—turned inside out and emptied.’ Everyone gave a wholehearted ‘Yes, we’ll do it!’ and praised GOD. And the people did what they promised.” Nehemiah 5:6-13 (MSG)

Understanding how to use anger as an ally could change your life and relationships forever!  Nehemiah’s example shows us how.

First, think before you speak!  In verse 7, Nehemiah said,

“I got really angry when I heard their protests and complaints.  After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet….” 

If we are to use anger as our ally rather than our nemesis, we must engage our minds before we open our mouths.  We must think before we speak because words are powerful.  The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue in Proverbs 18:21. Once spoken, our words cannot be taken back.  Nehemiah didn’t overreact or spew out angry threats.  He carefully considered what he should do and, after thinking it over, he confronted the issue.  Do you do that when you are angry?  What is it that really gets you steamed?  How do you handle your anger?  Do you stuff it and clam up?  Or do you blow up?  Consider Nehemiah’s first response when he got really mad and think before you speak.  It will make all the difference as you confront the issues that threaten your relationships and take them to a deeper level.

Anger is not the problem.  It’s how we deal with our anger.  I love the way The Message paraphrases Ephesians 4:26 and 27.

“Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

When we realize that anger is not the problem, we can take the next steps in using anger as our ally.  We’ll look at those steps tomorrow.