Anger, Murder, and Following Jesus

1391171_98402089On Sunday we looked at the teaching of Jesus where he calls his Kingdom followers to root anger out of their hearts. This is where Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said that murder is wrong, but I tell you anger is also wrong”.

And as we explored this topic we realized why anger is so destructive. It is destructive because anger stops reconciliation. Anger fuels grudges, bitterness, and a prison of our own making. The point is that as followers of God it is not enough to simply refrain from committing homicide, while harbouring seething rage in our hearts. To do that is to miss the point.

Christians are to be a different community, called to live differently than those around us. But how can we live differently if we harbor anger, let it direct our actions, drag others into courts, refuse to reconcile, and hold onto our own self-righteous anger. And yes, all anger is self-righteous in a way. Because anger arises when our will is opposed, blocked, or stopped. We get angry because we don’t get what we want. The point isn’t that anger is wrong in and of itself. Anger simply points to the fact that something we want (which may be very good) is being stopped. The point is that if we harbor anger in our hearts, no longer is anger alerting us to a situation, it starts to direct our actions and attention.

The point is we cannot be the church God calls us to be, if inside of us our hearts are brimming with anger and resentment. We need to learn to deal with it, to root it out, and to not harbor anger against another.

Stanley Hauerwas writes: “Jesus’ life makes possible our reconciliation with the Father and with one another. That reconciliation creates a community of reconciliation, a  community of peace. So we should not be surprised that Jesus admonishes us not to harbor our anger at our brothers and sisters, but rather we are to seek reconciliation with them. He does not say that we are not to be angry, but rather that we are not to come to the alter of sacrifice unreconciled to one with whom we are angry.”

The point is that if we are following Jesus, we are following someone who practices reconciliation, and then so must we. We cannot hold onto our anger, to stoke our rage, or to let contempt take hold of our hearts. We need to be people who root it out, and pursue reconciliation. This was the main point on Sunday – root out anger, and pursue reconciliation.

We left ourselves with this challenge on Sunday to rid ourselves of anger, and work at reconciliation. We want to take this teaching of Jesus seriously. To examine the places where anger has taken root, to ask Jesus whom do we need to pursue reconciliation with, and how can we live as people of peace in the world. This is indeed a practical everyday challenge, but one that could truly change how we live and how we are seen in the world.

I want to close with a rather lengthy but a very poignant quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who summarizes the idea and makes it personal:

Anger is always an attack on [another’s] life, for it refuses to let him live and aims at his destruction…Every idle word which we think so little of betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy.

So long as we refuse to love and serve our brother and make him an object of contempt and let him harbor a grudge against me or the congregation, our worship and sacrifice will be unacceptable to God…Let us therefore, as a church, examine ourselves ….There is only one way of following Jesus and of worshipping God, and that is to be reconciled

Sermon Notes: 

Big Idea: Root out anger and pursue reconciliation

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • “The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • “The whole sermon is not about how to be better individual Christians, it is a picture of the way the church is to look” Stanley Hauerwas, Will Willimon
  • Now the point is that we can follow the rules and still entirely miss the point of the rules
  • The root of murder is anger, and anger is murderous in principle. One has not conformed to the better righteousness of the kingdom simply by refraining from homicide. D.A. Carson
  • Anger stops reconciliation
  • This teaching is about overcoming the anger, that leads to murder, and learning to be people who reconcile
  • We cannot be the church God calls us to be, if inside of us our hearts are brimming with anger and resentment
  • Jesus followers are not to insult each other. Reconciliation must be a first priority in the family of God’s people, or else the worshipping community will be no different from the world at large where festering pride and resentment lead people to drag each other into court and throw each others into prison – Dallas Willard
  • Root out anger and pursue reconciliation
  • Rid yourself of anger, and work at reconciliation

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Would you say you ever struggle with anger? Had you ever thought of anger in this way before? How has anger stopped you from reconciling before? Whom do you need to reconcile with this week? How might you go about trying? Who can help you and support you as you pursue reconciliation?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about anger, and how about in God’s kingdom it isn’t to be there. Ask someone being angry has ever hurt their feelings. Ask if when they were angry they ever hurt someone’s feelings. Ask them if there is anyone they need to reconcile

Challenge for this Week Rid yourself of anger, and work at reconciliation

What If We Just Did What Jesus Said?

walking-away-1418812-mOn Sunday we are really exploring a radical question. What if we just followed Jesus in what he said?

We are beginning to explore his teaching on the Sermon of the Mount and will be seeking to actually practice it. Because here is what I believe: the teachings of Jesus aren’t primarily to be debated, to be forgotten, reworked, or skipped over. They are to be practiced.

Our guiding quote for this whole series is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Commenting on the sermon of the mount, with his usual succinctness and challenge he says:

“The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it”

And I think he is right. What if we just did what Jesus said? Dream with me a moment how might your life be different? How might your family’s life be different? How might your community be different? How might this world be different if we all got serious about following what Jesus said?

That’s why I’m excited for Sunday because I think it will start something in our lives so meaningful.

So before we get there why not take a moment and simply sit and read over Matthew 5 a few times. See what stands out, see what Jesus asks you to do, and then don’t forget to put it into practice.

Following

Beatitudes, Blessing, and The Best Sermon Ever

1336079_98421028On Sunday we looked at the most beautiful sermon ever given…and of course it was given by Jesus. We looked at the Beatitudes found in Matthew. These are beautiful promises, pronouncements, and announcements that blessing is being given by God. That in God’s Kingdom blessing flows. The beautiful thing about the Beatitudes are that they aren’t extra to-dos. The Beatitudes aren’t telling us what more we need to do to be blessed. The Beatitudes are telling us that God is about blessing, and he is giving it free of charge. Are you poor in spirit – burn out and broken? Blessing is for you. Are you mourning – experiencing loss and hurt? Blessing is for you. Are you trying to show mercy in chaos? Blessing is for you. This is the radical nature of the Beatitudes and of our God. That he gives blessing regardless of whether we deserve it, can earn it, or even appreciate it. God is about blessing and life.

And so on Sunday we really tried to rest in this reality. To help to do this we read and listened to the Beatitudes. We simply sat and asked God to speak to us through his promises in the Beatitudes. To help with this I read a targum (an expanded and interpretation added version) of Matthew 5:3-10. I simply invited the church to ask God to speak to them through it. And I’m going to invite you to do the same. Why not sit, read, and ask God to speak to you through it. And of course, my hope is that you  might experience some of the blessing God wants to give.

God blesses those who realize their need for him, Because with less of you there is more room for God.  When you’re are at the end of your rope, and your strength is failing, that’s when he shows up in a furious torrent of love and strength. When you’re lost and wandering in the desert, His love will chase and capture your heart leading you to his rest, presence, and purpose

God blesses those who mourn, who weep, who have lost, and feel broken. He will not let you break, he will not let your heart run empty of hope. When your heart is broken, healing is on the way – hope on the horizon. When your spirit is lost and low, God sends his Holy Spirit that mends the tears and wipes away the tears.

God blesses those who are gentle and lowly. When you’re simply content with just who  you are – no more, no less, the world belongs to you – because you belong to God. Those who place trust in God – and not others, will know great peace and victory over all things, and all evil.

God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for Justice. Who see the world as God sees it. For you will know righteous living flowing from you like a river, changing the tide of history. When you desire justice – You will be filled. When righteousness is your hunger, God will fill your soul – and loose the Spirit in your life.

God blesses those who are merciful because mercy will be abundantly theirs. When kindness becomes a habit, God’s presence becomes a never-ending reality. When you find yourself full of caring, you will find yourself cared for by the lover of your soul.

God blesses those who have a pure heart, for they will see God. For those who know Jesus, God’s presence is never far away but always right before your eyes ready to be seen.

God blesses those who work for peace, who stand up for reconciliation in the midst of chaos. You are invited into God’s family. Your peace and grace-filled actions mark you as God’s and God’s alone – You are his firstborn.

God blesses those who are persecuted, because the kingdom is yours – here today. When you are slandered, taken to town, and thrown to the dogs because of your love of Jesus, know that you do not stand alone – Jesus stands with you and stands up for you. When you are hurt -and you respond in grace, then the kingdom is fully alive in your life – bursting out sending light to dark places.

Best Sermon Ever Given

65671_5202On Sunday you will be hearing the best, most moving, and most beautiful sermon ever given.

I hope you’re excited, and I hope you also know me well enough to get that clearly it won’t be coming from me.

Instead I want to read and focus on the most beautiful sermon ever given, and of course, it was given by Jesus Christ. On Sunday we are going to be exploring and going deep into the beatitudes found in Matthew 5. We are going to not only explore Jesus’ teaching, but actually experience Jesus’ teaching.

So before we get there why not simply spend sometime with the best sermon ever given. Why not read over the Beatitudes found in Mathtew 5 a few times, and simply let Jesus speak through it to you. And come Sunday, that’s what we’re going to do too.

Matthew 5:3-10

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, 
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.