David Marvin | 06.18.19
Although anger itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are good and bad ways to handle your anger. Anger doesn’t always look like outbursts of rage, it can often reveal itself through more subtle self-destructive behaviors. In this message, we discuss the source of anger, it’s side effects, and ways to overcome it.
Although anger itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are good and bad ways to handle your anger. Anger doesn’t always look like outbursts of rage, it can often reveal itself through more subtle self-destructive behaviors. In this message, we discuss the source of anger, it’s side effects, and ways to overcome it.
What's up, friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, northwest Arkansas, Phoenix, wherever you're listening in from? We're continuing this Mood series tonight. Anyone ever been in a relationship with someone where you feel like they're not trying as hard as you are? Hopefully it's not the person you're here with tonight. I'm not even talking necessarily in a dating relationship. I'm talking about a friendship.
A friend of mine recently moved up and took the position of a pastor in Fort Worth. My best friend in the world, best man at my wedding, really close, college roommates, spent so much time together. Ever since he has moved up there, it has been that we've missed, haven't been able to connect, and I have felt at times like, "Dude, I feel like I'm trying harder in this thing than you are. What is the deal?"
Recently, there was a concert. I'd gotten tickets for him and his wife to join my wife and me. "Let's go to it." At the last minute, he had to bail. Then the series of phone tag continued to take place. There was a shower that we threw and hosted for a mutual friend of ours, and they couldn't come to that either. It just felt like one thing after the next.
At some point last week, I had this breaking point where I left him a message and basically was like, "Hey, dude. I feel like there's something going on or you're not trying as hard in this relationship right now. What's the deal?" Then the next couple of days go by and I don't hear anything, and then at some point I got a phone call. I couldn't call him back. It's kind of the end of the week by this point, and I am starting to feel all kinds of frustration, like, "What is the deal, bro? I thought we were boys, and we have not been able to hang. What is the deal?"
Father's Day rolls around, and little did I know that our wives were totally unaware of this, and they had planned a special day of like, "Oh, here's what we're going to do to celebrate. We'll take the kids, and we'll let them go hang out and go to the batting cages, go to Topgolf, do all this stuff." So my Father's Day surprise was, "Hey, conflict resolution." So I get a chance to go and hang out with him.
What had happened in that situation was some hurt had festered inside of my life, and it began to turn into an anger or resentment. I'll come back to that story in a second. It began to create this… Honestly, as I was told, "He's coming over to do batting cages," part of me was going, "I don't even know that I want to go do Topgolf and batting cages right now. That doesn't sound like fun. It sounds like we need to work through some stuff before we do that."
It began to create this wall that started with a hurt that turned into anger that began to turn into resentment. I start with that story tonight (I'll pick up that story and finish it in a second) because we're continuing this Mood series, and we are covering the emotion of anger. Oftentimes, anger starts with hurt, and it turns into that.
Like few emotions you're going to have in life, the power of anger to impact your relationships is tremendous. It has the ability to destroy relationships. It is the reason some of you don't talk to your parents. Some of you don't talk to old friends from high school. Some of you switched best friends in high school or college like nine different times because hurt turned into anger and then turned into resentment. So we're going to cover what God's Word says about this topic.
Now, just to loop everybody in, in case you're like, "Dude, we're talking about anger. This feels so not relevant to me. Is this just relevant to the guy who goes home and is angry and punches holes in the wall? The Hulk, basically? The rage man?" No. Anger is one of those emotions… It can lead us at times to have explosions, but there are others of us in the room who don't act out in aggression; you act out in passive aggression.
You act out not in explosions but this implosion on the inside. Some of the most angry people… On the face they're like, "Everything is fine. This is great." I hate them. I hate all of them. That's how some of you express your anger. It's just this internal dialogue. We showed the feelings wheel the first week, particularly for the guys. By the way, this is not in your Bible. This is totally just a helpful tool. Take it or leave it. You'll see inside of that the idea of anger is connected to all kinds of these different sub-emotions that can be connected to it.
In other words, you can be angry and it could look like, "I'm humiliated right now." You can be angry and feel like, "I was really disrespected in that moment." It can lead you to be critical of others. It can lead to jealousy. It can lead to all of these types of different emotions. So we're going to cover what God's Word says about anger. In case you're wondering, "Does this really apply to me?" here are some scenarios where it's a good chance that you are angry.
Is there anyone inside of your life that you would be a little bit happy if things weren't going great in their life? Like, if they failed or they didn't get the promotion or they didn't get that new car or their boyfriend broke up with them, you would be like, "Oh, I'm so sorry." Yes! You probably have some hurt that has turned into anger or resentment in your life. Is there anyone in your life whose name is like Voldemort? It is the name that shall not be named.
You bring it up, and it's like, "I don't even want to talk about this person right now. I thought you knew that we're not good." You probably have some anger or hurt that has turned into resentment. Is there anyone you would avoid in public because of something that happened between you? Is there anyone that you're waiting to let back into your life to have a relationship, and you won't let them back in until they apologize? There's probably some hurt that has turned into anger and is impacting your life.
Do you often battle a lot of thoughts in your mind going on, where you find yourself trapped in like, "What are they thinking about me?" You're prone to negatively interpreting what they're thinking. There could be some anger that has turned into resentment in your life. Are you prone to keep all of your feelings to yourself? There could be some anger and resentment that has taken place there. All of them may be reflections that there's anger going on below the surface.
The last thing I would say is unlike very few emotions, this one will hurt your relationships now, will impact your future marriage that you're going to have, your ability to resolve and work through resentment and hurt and anger and prevent it from becoming bitterness, and really impact the rest of the trajectory of your life…your work environment, your overall relational satisfaction, ability to keep relationships with friends.
We're going to look at what the Bible says as it looks to the source of our anger, some of the side effects that the Bible says, "Hey, if you allow anger to be a part of your life in any way, these are the things that are going to take place," and then the solution that God clearly lays out in the New Testament as it relates to dealing with our anger.
The first comes from Mark 7:21. Jesus says, "For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come…" Jesus says the evil thoughts you have, the evil thoughts that lead to actions, don't flow from external circumstances; those flow from your heart. What types of evil thoughts or actions? "…sexual immorality, theft, murder…"
"What do you mean? Murder is a thought?" Yeah, anger can lead you to a place where you begin to think, "Man, I just wish they were not in my life" to the point of murder. "…adultery, greed, malice…" That is just a word for being mean toward someone. "…deceit, lewdness, envy, slander…" That is just talking bad about somebody. "…arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person."
1._ The source of the sinful anger in your life comes from your heart. Particularly two places: from the fact that every single one of us has a sinful heart, the Bible says, and then the other place it comes from is hurts that get lodged. When I say _sinfulanger, let me explain why I even have that included in there. Let me qualify by saying the Bible does not say anger is a sin.
It says anger is an emotion that was given to us by God, like every emotion, and it is possible to be angry and not sin. God was angry. There is such a thing as righteous anger, but for the purpose of the next 25 minutes, I'm going to focus in on sinful anger, because I've never met somebody who's like, "I feel like the biggest problem in my world is too much righteous anger that's leading me to do all kinds of godly things." That just isn't usually the type of conversation I get into.
So, we're going to focus on sinful anger. You can trace the source of that sinful anger, the Bible says, all the way directly to your heart. If you just focus on your external behavior, you're not addressing the root of the problem. What do I mean by these sinful areas? The heart is sinful, and it can lead to anger expressing itself.
Sometimes it looks like selfishness. The reason you're angry if you have road rage is because there's something in your heart. There's a selfishness. "Hey, get out of my way." I want to get where I want to get on time, and I just get so angry about it. There's a selfishness. There's a sinful aspect of your heart that leads you to anger.
Another way it can flesh itself out is entitlement. Some of you are angry at God because you feel entitled to being farther along in your job, in a different city altogether, in a married relationship, in any relationship, and you have this anger because it's coming from a sinful entitlement that you have. Envy can lead us to anger. We look around in comparison and feel like, "Man, everyone else has the things I should have, and I'm angry about it. I'm angry at them. I'm angry at God."
Stress and the need for approval from others can be a huge trigger for anger. That is the biggest trigger in my life for anger. I can feel overwhelmed and stressed about things, and at the source or root of that I'm really just worried about what other people are thinking about me, how successful or how impressive I am in life. If I can't accomplish those things, it can lead to anger, because there's a sinful part of my heart. I'm going to tell you why that's so important.
The second area is not just the fact that all of us come into this room with a broken heart, that when sin entered the world it entered the human heart, and you can trace back all the anger and sinful expressions of it to the heart, but you can also trace it to the fact that along the journey of life, there will be people who hurt us and do things to us, and inside of that hurt it can get lodged if it's not dealt with in a healthy way.
That hurt from somebody betraying us, somebody lying to us, somebody doing something that just hurts us can get lodged into our heart, and it becomes something where it turns eventually into anger, turns into resentment, and we begin to hold it against those people. Hebrews 12:15 says, "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root [or the root of bitterness] grows up to cause trouble and defile many."
The Bible says bitterness can be like a root inside of your life. It's such a genius analogy, because what's a root? It's something that's below the surface that even though you can't see it on the outside, it's impacting what's above the surface. The Bible says if you allow hurts from other people in your life and you don't handle them God's way (we'll talk about that), then it becomes like this root that grows, and even though not everyone can see exactly what's underneath, it's impacting what's above and on the surface, and it leads us to lash out, to respond in anger, to wall off, and shut other people out of our lives.
The two sources of the anger or resentment or bitterness or any of those different things inside of your life comes from the heart being sinful and from harboring hurt inside of your heart. Undealt-with hurt grows. Anger is a signal that there is something there that should be addressed. Let me explain it this way. There are two types of people as it relates to a very specific thing, and that is something called the "check engine" light in your car.
I got into my wife's car not long ago, and we were driving along, and all of a sudden, the "check engine" light was on. I was like, "Your 'check engine' light is on. Do you know that? Have you known that?" She was like, "Oh yeah. It has been on for a while." Some of you in the room are kind of like my wife where you're like, "Oh yeah. It's fine. It basically is like I'm low on gas. I'll fix it at some point. I'm sure everything is fine."
Then there are others of us who are like, "The 'check engine' light is on. The car could totally shut down. You may have an oil thing. It could total the car. Do you know that?" Do you guys know that? That's just for free. Either way, whatever perspective you have on that, here's what we all agree on: the "check engine" light is a signal that there's something below the surface or beneath the hood that needs to be addressed. That's why it's on.
Human emotions, we've said, and anger in particular, are signals to you and to me. If you get nothing else out of this entire series, it should be this. Hopefully a lot more, but at least this. Every time you feel something…anger, for example…it should be a signal to you, "There is something going on inside of my heart that I need to address."
You need to learn the art of whenever you're feeling something, beginning to wonder and ask, "Why am I feeling what I'm feeling? What is going on? What is the 'check engine' light, which is this emotion, telling me, and why am I feeling the way I'm feeling?" Learning the skill, if you will, of monitoring your heart.
What do I mean by monitoring your heart? Here's what society will help us do. Everyone in this room has been raised to monitor their behavior. From very early on, you were taught, "Monitor your behavior if you want to be successful in life at all." At elementary school it's like, "Hey, if you're good, you get to put the green sticker on. If you're bad, you don't." If you move on to middle school, you get demerits. "If you don't behave, you're going to get in trouble."
Everyone is taught to monitor their behavior. In fact, as a society, we have collectively said, "You're going to learn to monitor your behavior or we're going to monitor it for you." That thing is called prison. In prison, you no longer get to choose your behavior anymore. If you can't learn to monitor your behavior, we're going to put you in prison.
Most of us learn not to just follow every instinct we have and to kind of check and monitor our behavior, but rarely do people learn to monitor their heart, to stop and ask, "Why am I feeling what I'm feeling?" When I was waiting for my friend at that Topgolf, I was sitting there beginning to dress and beginning to go, "Man, why am I feeling like this right now? What is going on inside of my heart that makes me feel this way?
I feel like I'm trying harder than he is. Maybe it's because I've placed unrealistic expectations on him. He has a ton going on. He has little kids. Is there something I have done to place unrealistic expectations? I think also I've associated quickness in response time to intimacy in a relationship or closeness in a relationship. What is going on beneath the surface?"
Anytime you feel anger, frustration, resentment, that should be a signal to you. There's something going on there. Some of you men don't like women or are resentful toward women or look down on women. You should go, "What is that inside of me?" There are women in the room, and you're angry and bitter toward men, and that resentment should signal in you, "What is going on in my heart?"
When you get angry at your boss, when you get angry in a dating scenario, when any emotion comes on a scene, learning the art of going, "What is going on inside of my heart? What would God's Word say about this emotion? What are the lies I'm beginning to believe? What are the things in general I'm believing?" and addressing those by monitoring your heart.
If you get nothing else, the skill of every time you feel something, that should be a signal to you. There's something going on underneath the hood or in the heart that needs to be addressed and aligned with God's Word. Involving community, if you have a Community Group, which hopefully you do. Involving them if you're at a place where you're like, "I don't know exactly what I'm feeling or why I'm feeling what I'm feeling right now."
If you fail to address at a heart level what you're feeling, you're failing to address the root of what you're feeling, and the root will lead you to why you're feeling it. So, the first thing you have to know if you're going to have any victory inside of this and, really, emotions in general is that the source of sinful anger comes from the heart.
The second thing comes from Matthew, chapter 5, where Jesus further talks on this topic. He says, starting in verse 21, "You have heard that it was said…" It's in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching, basically, his first sermon ever, and he launches into several topics, one of them being anger.
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry…" Or your translation may say angry in the heart. "…with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment." Jesus says, "Everyone thinks the standard is 'As long as you don't murder somebody, you're good.' I've come and am telling you that the standard is not murder; the standard is you being angry. If you hold on to anger in your heart, you are just as liable and subject to judgment as the person who has murdered."
Then he says in verse 23, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you [that there's something between you two] ,leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift[at the altar]."
Jesus says if you are sitting in church and you're raising your hands and you're like, "This is how I fight my battles" or "There's another in the fire," and it hits you, "Oh man. I have some beef with him, with her. I'm holding something against a Christian brother or sister," you should put your hands down, you should walk out, you should call them, and you should attempt to address the scenario or attempt to be reconciled to them. Think about how crazy that is.
The God who's there says, "You can't be okay here, vertically, unless you are okay horizontally. I want you…" Think about this. "…to prioritize your horizontal relationships before me. In other words, you can't be right and you can't have this being the priority of your life if you are not okay with other brothers and sisters who are Christians, so I want you to go and first be reconciled to them." Because anytime you allow anger to sit inside of your heart, it creates a wall in your relationships. It creates damage in your relationships to one another, and God says it walls you off from him. "First address them before you come and deal with me."
2._ The side effect of sinful anger is harmed relationships._ Every time anger sits and is not dealt with in the right way, it turns into bitterness, and it always puts a barrier up. It always hurts the relationships. Maybe, for you, this looks like with a parent. We've all experienced this in so many different ways. We could talk for hours about examples and illustrations, where we get hurt and it turns to anger and we begin to put up barriers. We begin to keep them at a distance. "I'm going to begin to wall that up."
Maybe it was with a parent. You have a dad who walked out and divorced your mom or you have a mom who walked out and left your family. That created hurt, and it has turned to an anger, and you begin to keep them at a distance. Maybe you have a resentment or an anger toward a parent. You're like, "My dad never came to my sports games all throughout growing up," and that hurt has turned into an anger and resentment.
Maybe you have parents that you're like, "Nothing was ever good enough for them. Everything I did, they had these unrealistic expectations. It was exhausting, and it hurt, and I'm angry about it." You don't even realize it. None of this happens consciously, where we're like, "And now I'm choosing to be angry about it." It just sits there, and it begins to place a barrier relationally between the two of us.
Maybe it's with a boss at work. You just feel disrespected all the time. You feel like, "I'm hurt by that, and now I'm angry, and now I don't even want to work for this person. I'm looking at LinkedIn all the time. When I go to my job, that's what I do." They've disrespected you. Maybe they dismissed your idea in front of everyone. Maybe they gave the promotion to the guy who has only been there for six months. You're like, "I've been here for three years. Are you serious?" It has created a hurt that has led to an anger, and it has created a barrier and a distance.
Anytime hurt is undealt with or is not dealt with in God's way, that hurt turns into an anger, it turns into a bitterness, and that bitterness begins to build a wall. It's like this. In our relationships, every time somebody hurts us, we begin to build a wall, and it's a wall that separates us from them. Some of you guys have friendships… I mean it. You've switched around with friends so many different times, because as it relates to them being your friend, they've just hurt you, and you don't even realize it.
Each time they hurt you, you didn't address it. You didn't talk about it. You didn't bring it to them. You didn't extend forgiveness. You were like, "I'm just going to hold on to that. This is just the type of person you are. I can't believe you didn't invite me on that vacation with all of my friends." They're like, "Oh, I didn't know you liked the beach."
"Who doesn't like the beach? Are you serious? You went without me, and you deserted me. Then I found out I wasn't even included in your wedding party. You got engaged, and you're going to get married. I'm not just not a bridesmaid; I'm not even in the house party. Are you serious? Not the house party? That's like the B-level bridesmaids. I didn't even make that?" If you're not from Texas and you're listening in, a house party is like the B-level bridesmaids. You still have to buy a dress, but… It's kind of like, "We're close, but not that close."
"I'm not even in that?" You begin to build the bricks. You're like, "You don't even follow me on Instagram. This is ridiculous. You don't even know I'm dating someone now because you don't follow me on Instagram. I am just upset." I begin to put these bricks in place, and one by one, I just decide, "Hey, I'm not going to have any relationship." "Then I heard that you talked bad about me that one time."
It is heavy to carry bitterness around. Just one by one by one. "The fact that you didn't text me back. I texted you about having dinner plans this past weekend, and I know you saw it because I saw the little dots pop up. I know it was there. And the last time we hung out, I paid for your meal, and you didn't Venmo me. It was only $8, but it's the principle of the thing. And my birthday came up, and you didn't even wish me a happy birthday."
All of a sudden, one by one, that bitterness is like bitter bricks, and it creates a wall. The sad and crazy thing is that on the other side of that wall is not just your friend or your parent or a coworker. God says, "You can put me over there too. The intimacy you're going to have with me is going to always be hindered until you get right with them."
This is what I mean by some of us just have friends… We've gotten so good at building up walls. "Hey, if you do me wrong, I'm done with you." So we just move on, and we don't talk to them for another six months. We don't talk to them for another couple of years, and then all of a sudden, that roommate I was so close with… Man, they kind of betrayed me. I'm upset about that dating thing that happened, and now we just don't talk anymore, because one by one…
The crazy thing about this is these get easier to put up every single time. All of a sudden, you're like, "Of course you don't call me back. You don't even think about it. This is just who you are." Even more dangerous, some of us have friends who will help us build the wall. They will help us be like, "Yes, they don't ever call you back. That's just the type of person they are. Put another one on there." It is tragic.
Satan loves that we build the wall. He loves that we cut people off. His whole goal is to divide you, to separate you, to see the church divided. It doesn't happen and these walls don't get built overnight. It's just one by one by one. We begin to put them up and put them in place, but there is a solution, the Bible says, to deal with the hurt that turns into this resentment that builds this wall.
Ephesians 4:26 says, "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. […] Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice [or evil intent] . Be kind and compassionate to one another…" Paul just said, "Get rid of all anger, all bitterness, all brawling," if brawling is your thing. "Get rid of all of that and replace it with being kind and compassionate."
That sounds so easy, Paul. Really? Just be nice? That's your solution? No. He says how you can do that. "…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." The remedy for all of the anger, all of the things you hold on to, all the bitterness that marks your life, all the resentment that's beneath the surface… There is one remedy, the Bible says, and that is through forgiveness, making the decision, "I'm going to choose to forgive this person."
3._ The solution for the sinful anger in your life, for the broken relationships in your life, for the times that somebody did you wrong in your life is forgiveness._ Making the decision, "I'm going to choose to forgive, just as God in Christ has forgiven me. I'm making the decision to forgive." So what is forgiveness? Well, let's talk about what it isn't.
Forgiveness is not excusing someone's sin. "Hey, you cheated on me, and that was okay. You lied to me, and that was okay. We're just going to excuse that." That's not what God does at all. He doesn't excuse someone's sin and say it's not that serious. It was so serious it put Jesus on the cross. So, it's not excusing it and saying, "Hey, it's not that big of a deal."
It's not forgetting. Sometimes people say, "Forgive and forget." You don't forgive and forget. In order to forgive, you cannot forget, because it's choosing, "I know the offense that was created, and I'm choosing to forgive." I'm going to tell you what forgiveness is in a second, but the two other things it's not… It's not denying hurt or anger. If you've been hurt or sinned against, you shouldn't deny it. God gets angry over sin.
Forgiveness is not conditional, and it doesn't require the person to ask for it or to own their part or to even be present. Forgiveness is releasing the demand for justice to God. Forgiveness is deciding, "I am releasing the demand for justice over how I was wronged, how I was hurt, what was done to me. I'm going to trust God with that.
I am choosing to forgive. Every sin that has ever taken place either has been paid for on the cross by Jesus or will be by the person for all of eternity. So if they're a believer and they've trusted in Christ, I am choosing to release any need for justice or vengeance to God. Ultimately, that's in his hands, and he'll account for it. I am choosing to let go of the debt." What does forgiveness look like practically? If that's what it is, how do you do forgiveness practically?
The first thing the Scripture says is to overlook an offense if you can. It says in Proverbs 19:11, "A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs says it is a glorious thing if somebody does something that offends you and you're able to be like, "Hey, I believe the best. It's okay. I'm sure they didn't mean it." If you can overlook it, it's a glorious thing, the Scripture says.
How do I know if I can overlook it? Can you overlook it? If you find yourself replaying the tape or rehearsing the conversation and thinking about that moment again ("I can't believe they did that") and re-thinking through the scenario again, there's probably a good likelihood you cannot overlook it. If you replay the tape one time, two times, three times, you should move toward reconciling with that person.
So, the first thing is if you can overlook it, overlook it. If you can't, the Bible says you and I are to move quickly. How do you extend forgiveness and deal with anger, deal with the bitter bricks that are in your life? The first thing is whenever one of those bricks pops up and I'm tempted to put it on there, I'm going to move quickly to deal with it and extend forgiveness to that person. It says, "Don't let the sun go down on your anger" in Ephesians 4. We just read the verse.
Does that mean literally don't let the sun go down on your anger? I don't know. I don't think so. I think he's just saying, "Move quickly." Here's why I think probably not: If you lived in Alaska during the summer, you would have the entire summer to not deal with any anger. The sun never goes down. It can't be literal. Then people in Alaska are like, "Yep. I've got till September, and then I'll deal with this." He's just saying, "Move quickly. Keep short accounts."
If there's something that happened, if you got hurt by something, move quickly. Don't try to put it away or dismiss it if you can't. Most of us, honestly, are peace-fakers; we're not peacemakers. When somebody hurts us, we need to move in the direction of "Hey, this hurt me when you did that." Move quickly. Keep short accounts. If everyone in this room just did this, it would change the world. How many people sit on something…? "I've been thinking about this for six months."
The third thing is that when you go and you discuss and say, "Hey, this hurt me," or you bring up the hurt that took place, the anger you're holding onto, you need to own your part. Jesus says in Matthew, chapter 7, "Before you do anything to address the sin in someone else's life, you need to first own your part. Own everything you can about the situation."
For some of you, maybe the thing you need to own most is you've been holding on to being hurt or being sinned against for years, and you need to go tonight, tomorrow, quickly, and say, "Hey will you forgive me? You hurt me like six months ago, and I've been holding on to that, and it has impacted the way I see you, the way I think about you; honestly, the way I talk about you, my likelihood to attend things if you're around, because, honestly, it just hurt me."
You need to ask for forgiveness for holding on to that if they're a believer, because the Bible says you are to move quickly. Do not give the Devil a foothold in your life. By waiting and prolonging, you are giving him a foothold. So, move quickly on your part, and then when you go to them, focus on two things in particular. When you're talking to them, like, "This is what happened, and this is when you hurt me," focus on two very, very specific things.
When you go to them, you don't focus on their motive and "You always do this type of thing." You focus on two things: The very specific action they did. "You did not call me back." Then the specific emotion it created in you. "When you did that, it made me feel like you don't care about me." I'm going to focus not on, "You're a bad apple. This is the type of person you are." Don't say statements like, "You always" or "You are," but focus on "When you did X, it made me feel X."
"Whenever you did not invite me on that trip with all of our roommates, it made me feel like you don't care about me. It made me feel alone." Address the very specific behavior they had. Don't attack their motive. Don't attack their character. Just focus on the very specific behavior they had and then what it made you feel inside of you.
Finally, the fifth component of what it looks like to forgive someone is to extend grace over and over and over. In Matthew, chapter 18, Jesus is asked the question by Peter, "How many times should I forgive someone? Up to seven times if they've sinned against me?" Jesus says, "Seventy times seven." Some of your translations have a footnote on it that the Greek is unclear whether he's saying "seventy-seven times" or "seventy times seven times seven," as in on and on and on, that there is no end.
There's no limit God puts on it, because you're to forgive like God in Christ forgives you, and he doesn't have some limit of "All right. You've just reached 77. I guess that's it. We're done." Over and over, as believers, you are called to forgive. You are commanded. God says if you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. Think about that.
As painful as the hurt is, as long as you've carried it, as deep as the scars run, there's a God who's there who says, "I want you to work toward healing." As long as you carry anger around, you're going to build up walls in every direction, and eventually, you're going to wall yourself off. The wall comes over here, the wall comes over here, the wall comes around, and you make a prison for yourself. The way you tear down the wall is one brick at a time.
"Hey, you forgot to invite me. I'm forgiving you. You didn't show up, and you weren't a part of my sports games, and I'm forgiving you. I'm not going to hold on to that anymore. I'm choosing to make the decision I'm not going to carry this." How long are you going to carry it? For real. How long are you going to be angry at what happened when you grew up? How long are you going to hold it against your friend from high school? How long are you going to hold it against your sibling? How long are you not going to call your parents back? I want you to answer that.
Some of you have some business tonight. The God who's there says you need to leave here right now, leave your gift at the altar, and you need to go be reconciled with the people in your life. You're carrying around the hurts, and the only way you're going to break down those barriers… The God who's there hates that there are barriers. The Scripture says in Ephesians 2 he came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility between people.
Satan loves the barriers. He wants you to think right now, "You're the victim. You were harmed. You can't do anything about it. You should be angry." He wants you to hold on to that, and when you do, it makes every relationship you have… "It's a lot easier. I'm just going to put these bricks back on. That's just who I'm going to be. Until they own it and they deserve it, I'm done with those people."
There is a freedom God offers, and the freedom comes through choosing, "I'm going to forgive. Even though they didn't earn it, even though they don't deserve it, I'm choosing that I'm not going to let this define my life." If you're in a dating relationship… This is so huge. We're about to land the plane.
Before you get married, you have to deal with this stuff, because if you are holding on to bitterness right now, you're going to get into marriage, and you are going to, over and over and over again, be deeply hurt by someone you deeply love, and you have to be able to forgive someone. Billy Graham said that what makes a great marriage is two great forgivers. It is so true, because it is one wound after the next and choosing to forgive. I want this so badly for you.
This is a huge part of my story. I entered re:gen about a year ago because anger is something that has marked my life. I struggle with anger. That doesn't always look like outbursts and freaking out, but it looks like there's just an anger inside of me. At some point, I just said to my community, "I think I need to go to re:gen. I think I need to address this." It was by beginning to go, "What is at the source and at the heart of why I'm angry? How is this anger impacting my life, and what is the solution to taking the steps?"
The solution is the same for me as it is for you. You have to forgive. Some of you have parents, like me, you have to forgive. Some of you have siblings. You have relationships. You have an old dating relationship. How long are you going to carry that stuff? The way you can be free and tear down the wall is by choosing, "I'm not going to let that define me anymore. I'm choosing to forgive." That's the only way.
We can't see the walls in your life, but if we could, some of you guys are walled off in every direction. Ultimately, the call on your life is to choose to forgive like God forgave you. How did God forgive you? If you're a Christian, every single time you've ever sinned, there was a brick, as it were, put between you and God himself. Every sin you had created a division, created something that was unbridgeable for you.
Every time you've ever looked at pornography, every time you've ever gotten wasted, every hit you've ever taken, every time you've lied to somebody, every time you've ever misrepresented or slandered somebody or talked bad about somebody, every time you've ever missed the mark of perfection or failed to do all that God calls you to, it was like a brick got put in the way of a relationship with God.
Jesus came in, and the Scripture tells us he decided, "I'm going to choose to pull over the dividing wall, and everything is going to break down." Jesus stepped in and gave us a perfect example of there is a path, and he took all of that forgiveness. He didn't just push it over; he took it on himself to give the perfect example. Whatever harms have been done against you, they pale in comparison to what you and I have done against God.
The Scripture says holding on to this bitterness is going to hurt you. One person said that forgiveness and choosing to forgive is like unlocking a cage and unlocking a prisoner and discovering the prisoner was you. How long are you going to be a prisoner? The God who's there is calling you.
If you want to experience freedom, it is possible, but there is only one way: by choosing, "I'm releasing the demand for justice to God. He paid for it or that person is going to pay for it for all of eternity in hell, and that's a far worse thing to experience than anything they could have ever done to me. I'm choosing to forgive."
Or you can carry it and build the walls in your life. The more you build, the more you're going to build, and the more people you're going to shut off, including God himself. The reason he's going to feel distant at times is because he's saying, "There's distance in your relationships. You're going to feel distant with me as long as you're there." Let me pray.
Father, thank you that the dividing wall of hostility you tore down with the cross, that you took every sin we've ever committed, every decision we've ever made to worship ourselves, to pursue idols, to pursue worldly, fleeting things, the approval of other people around us, and a million other ways we have sinned against a perfect, holy God. You took all of those things, and you forgive us. You paid for them all.
I pray tonight specifically for men and women, for friends in the room who have never forgiven. Even as I talk, they know, "I need to forgive that person. I'm holding them at a distance, and I've never really worked through this. On the surface, nobody can really tell, and I try to be nice, but I'm holding it against them."
Right now, wherever they are, that you would meet them there and they would make the decision, "I'm not going to hold on to this anger anymore. I'm releasing it to you. I'm entrusting it to you, the God who paid for everything I've ever done, everything that has ever been done against me. I want freedom." That they would have that.
I pray that you would break up every couple in this room that wants to move forward without dealing with the anger, the bitterness, the resentment from their past and maybe even from their present, that they wouldn't take those things in and bring a marriage of people who are just constantly filled with bitterness and resentment toward one another.
Would you fill our hearts with love and compassion toward one another and rid us of all anger and malice and all of the things that don't honor you, and do so by allowing us to forgive one another as you in Christ have forgiven us? We worship you now in song, amen.