- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Roger Schellenberg at Church of the Spirit in Kingstowne, Va.
If angry looks could kill, would you be charged with murder this week? Jesus taught about anger in the Sermon on the Mount. He pulled no punches. "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment," Jesus said. "Whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be liable to the hell of fire" [Matthew 5:22].
Sounds pretty serious, right? Today I want you to know exactly how God views anger. When St. Paul says, "Put away all anger," it is a nice idea. But it's not something I can do. You and I will get angry. But notice that Paul opens by saying, "be angry, but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger." A Bible translation called "The Message" puts it this way: "You do well to be angry, but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry." The Bible teaches that anger is not a sin. Also, feeling ashamed for anger is just one more burden. But Jesus warns that anger can lead to acting improperly.
You can do many things with your anger. You may let it simmer inside of you or freely express it. Or you can be "passive aggressive," like praying that the police will catch that driver who just cut you off. Of course, these are thoughts of revenge and rarely lead to anything good. So how do we handle anger? It's worth deciding now, before you get angry, because then you won't be making the best choices.
I found a Web site that says deal with anger with humor. Take a laugh break, develop a silly side or practice laughing. And it gives this counsel: "Say to yourself, 'How would Seinfeld or Kelsey Grammer react to this?'" But that's not the question I ask, because I am a Christ follower. I want to ask, "How would God react, and what would He do in my shoes?" Luckily, God has walked in my shoes already as Jesus. As we've been learning over the last month, God's guidelines or "basic instructions," as we've called them, are not arbitrary rules given by some tyrant. They are the ways that lead us to a better life now and eternally.
Jesus offers some basic instructions on anger in the Gospel of Matthew [18:15-20]. He says, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of your are alone." We rarely do this. What's the natural thing to do? You tell someone else. You may tell many people, hoping to win sympathy or get them on your side. But you are missing the first step to end the anger and conflict, which is to go to the person alone. That's respect and integrity. On occasion, this simple and direct approach will be all that you need.
Jesus knew this would not always work, so He gave a second step: "If you are not listened to, take one or two others." Jesus said we should try mediators. You do this not to bring in some muscle to get your way, but to keep the channels of communication open. I've done this many times when there is an impasse and things will only get worse. That's when a third party, especially a person who is respected, helps.
Jesus says, "If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church." While this may work in our church life, it won't work with your boss. The Bible is reminding us that anger does not exist in a little bubble. It affects all our relationships at work and at home. Finally, Jesus gives a last resort that is much misunderstood. He said if the offender will not listen to anybody, "let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." It sounds like you get to dump them.
But that's not the point. Remember, Jesus kept company with Gentiles, tax collectors and sinners. He challenges us to keep the door open to the unrepentant and undeserving. Christ followers, who are forgiven, don't have the right to slam the door shut on anyone else.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cerelli at Francis Asbury United Methodist Church in Rockville.

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