Anger actually isn’t always a bad thing, but sinful anger can be as destructive as a fire. It doesn’t start from the outside but begins from inside of us, and we may not even realize it. In this message, we learn where anger comes from, what it leads to, and how to heal from it.
Welcome, friends in the room, friends in Houston. I know you guys are meeting. Welcome, friends in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the other 13 Live locations. Fort Worth tonight is also gathering. So, depending on where you are, welcome everyone and everybody just tuning in from online. It has been a minute. Gosh! It is good to see you guys.
Hey, I'm going to welcome you into something that happened recently in my life since the last time we were all together. I do pretty much the same thing every single day after I get home from work. I go into the house, I kiss my wife, I kiss my kids, and then I take our 130-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback on a walk. Now, I don't walk and I don't run, so I have a longboard. Yes, just like that 14-year-old you grew up with.
I take him on a longboard. We have a shock collar. Don't email me. He never gets shocked. He's like a big baby elephant that you have to take on a walk once a day. I take him on one lap around the block. I get on the longboard. No leash. He just follows right behind me. I finish it, and then we go inside.
A couple of days ago, I was doing that. Took the lap with the dog, and I went up to the house and was about to go inside, and I smelled smoke. It was like 6:00 at night. There's a difference when you smell somebody grilling steaks. It smells like hickory, like, "Man, that smells great." And then we've all smelled what is clearly like, "Something is burning around here, like, significantly burning."
So I began to go, "Is something on fire somewhere on our house?" I began to look around the outside, the perimeter of the house, because that's not a good thing anytime that happens. Where is this smell coming from? I mean, a really strong smell. I get around the house, and I don't see anything, so I begin to wonder, "Is there something wrong with the neighbor's house?"
I go over. I'm in my alley behind my neighbor's house and between my house, and I see smoke clearly coming up from their backyard. Not just any smoke, like, "Oh, maybe they're doing s'mores. That's what people do in June." Like, a thick, white, billowing cloud of smoke. Clearly something is burning over there. I'm beginning to go, "What is possibly going on?"
I come up to the fence, and I didn't want to just open their gate and go into their backyard, like, "Hey! It's the neighbors; we're coming over" if they were just… I don't know what they could have been doing, but I couldn't see. So, I go up to the fence, and I begin to try to peek over and see what's going on, hoping there's no one sunbathing nude or something going on, which clearly, if they're doing that and they have smoke, they have more problems than we can talk about right here.
Anyway, I began to try to look over the fence, but it was too tall. It was a really high fence. It was one of those moments where…guys, at least you've all experienced this…when you were a kid, you threw a ball over the fence and you had to hop over. I'm jumping up to try to hold myself for a second just to see, and I keep jumping up to hold myself, hoping no one is looking out the window, like, "Who's this psychopath who is jumping over our fence?"
All I can see is smoke. I mean, thick, white smoke. I can't see the fire. As far as I could get up there, I couldn't see what was down below. So, I take the dog, the baby elephant, take him back home, put him inside, and I'm talking to my wife. "Hey, I'm going to go check on… There's something burning in the neighbor's yard." By the time I got back over there…maybe they had seen me jumping over…someone had put the fire out. I still never quite figured out exactly what was taking place back there.
The reason I start there is because in that moment, I know there's a fire that is taking place. Fire is not necessarily one of those bad things where, anytime it's present, you're like, "Hey, this is an emergency. We need to make sure we put that out." Fire can be a great thing. It's not inherently a bad thing. A fire in a firepit in your backyard can be awesome. A fire moving through your property, burning the fence or burning your house, is an incredibly destructive thing. But it's not always, necessarily, a bad thing. It depends on what the source of the fire is, on why there's a fire there, on what it's burning.
What does it have to do with seven deadly sins? Tonight, we're going to talk about a deadly sin that is very similar to fire in that it's not inherently, every time it's there, a bad thing (there are plenty of times when it's appropriate to be there) but if unchecked or if there for the wrong reason or expressed in the wrong way, just like a fire, is incredibly destructive. That deadly sin is anger. Anger is one of those things that, inside of your life, is not always a wrong thing. There are appropriate times.
The Bible says God is angry at times, specifically at injustice in our world. You can't love someone and not experience anger. If I love someone and someone is hurting them or abusing them, I would rightly feel anger, righteous anger, toward that person. We're told that God feels that. There are appropriate times to have anger. It's not always bad. When you look at the news and see what happened with George Floyd, you should appropriately feel anger. That is wrong, not okay. There are appropriate experiences of anger.
At the same time, there are also not appropriate expressions of anger. There's sinful anger that can take place. It depends on the source or the cause or what's taking place. Tonight, we're not talking about righteous anger; we're going to talk about the deadly sin of sinful anger. Really, all of them can be toxic, but this one in particular… The effects are seen and are rippling all throughout our culture of anger being experienced and not knowing how to express it.
What we're about to talk about tonight… I promise you this: if just Christians would apply the things we're going to look at…myself, you if you claim to be a follower of Jesus…if just we would apply the teachings of Jesus as it relates to this, our world would change. It's one of the things that it's impossible to not look around… People are angry about corona. People are angry about their job.
People are angry about the fact that they can't work. People are angry about the fact that they are working. People are angry about the fact that we're meeting right now. People are angry about any list of things. Oftentimes, sinful anger can grab our hearts, and anytime it does, it is devastating and destructive. This will destroy your marriage if you allow it to. It'll destroy your relationships if you allow it to, but it doesn't have to.
So, we're going to look at three things in the Scripture. What is the root of anger? I think it'll surprise you. Then we're going to look at the results that the Scriptures say over and over, if you don't deal with your anger, will take place. Then we'll look at the remedy God uniquely provides in our world, unlike any other remedy our world has to offer.
First, the root of sinful anger. Let me ask a few questions before we go in there. The challenge with anger is it kind of masks itself. Most people are like, "I'm not angry; I'm just frustrated. I'm not angry; I'm just disappointed." It kind of masks behind these little things. But here are some ways that you may know you're angry.
Is there anyone in your life that a part of you hopes they fail or suffer? You have some anger and bitterness buried in your heart. Is there anyone whose name, when you bring them up, makes you upset? Thinking about what they did makes you upset. Anger and bitterness have taken root. Is there anyone who you would avoid in public or you wouldn't want to go to that party or that dinner if they were around because of something that happened between you? There's anger.
Is there anyone you're waiting…maybe it's a family member, maybe it's a friend, maybe it's an old roommate…to let back into your life until they apologize and say what they did or pay back for what they did? There's anger that has taken place. You can't always tell on the outside. A lot of times, the most angry people are totally internal, and they just replay tapes over and over in their heads. They have these constant battles going on in their minds.
They wouldn't think of themselves as angry because they're not very vocal about it, but there's anger buried in their hearts, oftentimes leading them to keep those feelings to themselves, which only makes it worse. So, the root of sinful anger. Where does it come from? Jesus says in Mark 7:21: "For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come…" Wait a second. Thoughts come from your heart? Jesus, I think you mean the mind.
The Bible over and over, when it talks about the heart and the mind, just kind of talks about the control center, the command center of your operating system, if you will. So, thoughts come out of the heart. What's surprising is what he mentions next. Here are the evil thoughts that come out of your heart: "…sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly."
Wait a second. Jesus, those are all actions. What do you mean that those are evil thoughts? Jesus says every evil action comes from an evil thought that has taken place in the mind, and all of that comes from the heart. "All these evils come from inside and defile a person." Jesus says sinful anger, what leads to malice, what leads to murder, comes from within the heart.
Typically, when I get angry, when I get upset, I usually don't think, "Oh man. There's something going on inside of me." I think, "This person lied to me. This person took credit for something they didn't do. This person cut me off in traffic, and they need to learn how to drive." I think the expressions of anger come from the outside, and Jesus says, "No, no, no. Anger comes from within."
You may go through life, and it'll trigger it. Stress will trigger your anger. You're really overwhelmed at work, and all of a sudden, you explode on your roommate or lash out at a friend. Jesus would say that's not because of the stress; that's because you have something broken inside of your heart. The root of your anger comes from within. If you don't fix that, you cannot fix your anger.
Jesus' baby brother James at some point in his life trusted in Christ. We don't have time to go into that, but how crazy is that? His little brother. He writes a book called the book of James. In the fourth chapter of that book, listen to what he says about what causes conflict, causes division, causes fights. "What causes fights and quarrels among you?" "James, let me give you the answer. She was mean. She was hurtful. They didn't respond. They didn't invite me to come." Nope.
"Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill." James is exaggerating. All of us go, "No, no, no. I've never killed." The same expression that leads to killing someone is anger, hatred, bitterness. James says all of that anger doesn't come from the outside, it doesn't come from what was done or wasn't done against you; it comes from within.
Hebrews 12:15 says, "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Think about this. It's so brilliant. Bitterness is like a root that will come into your life, and as it grows, it begins to impact your life. Why is that brilliant? Because what's a root? The roots of a plant, the roots of a flower, are something beneath the surface. You can't see them, but they're impacting everything you can see on the surface.
The author of Hebrews says that's what bitterness is like. It's this thing that is beneath the surface, and it just gets buried underneath there. Somebody called you a name in sixth grade, and every time now anybody insults the way you look on the outside… There's a root of bitterness that's growing underneath. You can't see it, but it's buried there, and it's affecting everything. Just like the roots of a flower affect everything you can see above the surface, that root of bitterness is going to affect everything above the surface in your life.
If you want to deal with sinful anger, it involves dealing with it at a heart level. The temptation will often be to think that anger is something that is caused by other people around us, as though I'm justified in what I did because of the actions they took. My roommate… All of a sudden, I come home. We've been sharing a room for a while.
I've told them so many times, "When you wash the dishes and you get dishes in there, make sure you don't leave it out, because your little crusty noodles end up caking to the outside of the metal, and it's disgusting. What am I, your mom right now?" You think you're angry because of that. Jesus says, "No, no, no. Anger comes from within."
This would be your and my heart, and inside of it has the potential and the capacity to carry around anger, and then something triggers it. A roommate all of a sudden fails to clean up the dishes they had or they borrow your clothes without even asking, and all of a sudden, Boom! And it pops out. It's not because of something they did. What they did just triggered the anger that is already inside of your heart to come out. This is the way the Bible talks about it.
You'll be going along, and road rage. People are driving, and you think it's because "We're going up 75, and we're in gridlock here. Everyone, if you could just learn how to drive!" And you explode. You think it's because people don't know how to drive. "If we could all just drive 70, people, the problem would go away." Jesus says, no, the anger is already in there. Those are just triggers that are bringing it out to the surface.
At work, you snap and you respond to a coworker or to your boss or you lash out with an email because they got credit for something they didn't do or you lash out because you didn't get credit because of something you did do. Jesus says something really profound and really necessary if you and I are going to experience freedom from anger, which is knowing anytime that anger pops up, it's a heart issue. It's underneath the surface.
There is a way to address it, and if you do not address it, it, like any fire that seeps out, will continue to burn and bring destruction to everything it touches. In the room, all of us have certain levels of anger that are buried in our hearts, and all of us also express that anger in different ways. There are at least two categories of people in the room.
There would be people, when it comes to getting angry, who would be what you would call an exploder. This is the guy who gets upset and punches a hole in the wall, where very clearly it's like, "Yes, he has an anger problem." Very easy to see. This is the girl who gets upset and just goes on a rampage online. She is Keyboard Karen, going to everybody's comments, being like, "I can't believe you…" It's clearly like, "Man, she's clearly angry."
Then there are the imploders. This is a much more difficult-to-see expression of anger. This is the person who doesn't explode outwardly. They get hurt, and they just shut down. You hurt them in a relationship and they totally withdraw. This person ends up behaving passive-aggressively toward you. You thought you were friends, and you're like, "Why didn't you invite me to the party?" and she's like, "What?" and she just behaves in a way where she's passively aggressive. Meaning, on the outside it's passive, but there's clearly anger and hurt that have taken place, and just as angry and hurt and seeping with bitterness can be that person.
Often, if you are an imploder, you deny your anger. Somebody hurts you, and you don't have time to totally process it all in the moment. They're like, "Hey, I'm sorry. Did that hurt you?" and you're like, "No. No. Everything is fine. Just please leave me alone for the rest of my life." You harbor that anger, and you're going to carry it around. You may not lash out at the person who hurt you, but you'll carry it around, and it will come out even on people who have nothing to do with that hurt. The root of all of it is at the heart, and there is a way to address it.
Ultimately, the results of what happens from sinful anger are the same every single time. Jesus says this in Matthew 5:21. This is in the Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon Jesus ever gave. Just picture it. It's called the Sermon on the Mount because he taught it, we're told in Matthew 5:1, from a mountainside. Jesus is sitting there early in his ministry, very first message he ever gives, thousands of people gathered around. See it.
This Israeli, 30-year-old rabbi shows up, and he begins to teach and blow everybody's categories in this sermon. This is one of the things he says: "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 with a brother or sister _ [or person] _ will be subject to judgment." That phrase subject to judgment is just out of step with God's command, has fallen short of what God commands.
In other words, Jesus is like, "You put the line at murder. 'As long as you don't murder, no anger problem.'" Jesus says, "No, that's not where God puts the line. Anyone who holds anger in their heart is out of step with God." The word anger in this context, or being angry, is not the word like you had an angry thought, a one-off occasion. It's the word to dwell on or focus on that anger, continue to replay it, not deal with it.
In other words, it's not an anger you feel in a moment; it's an anger you fuel or feed over time. You keep replaying, you keep replaying, and the more you replay it, the more you continue to not believe more and more the best about someone; you believe the worst and worst and worst and worst. Jesus says when you do that, you are just as guilty and just as off as the person who murders.
Then he says in verse 23, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar…" That would be like if you're going to church. "…and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar." You go to church. "You turn graves into gardens." "Yes, I will." And you realize, "Man! I think Becky was hurt by the tone of that email or my text message or what I did."
He says, "In that moment, when you realize that, I want you to leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled in that relationship. Then come back and offer your gift." Why would you say that, Jesus? Because Jesus knew the result of sinful anger, every time, is a broken relationship. Every time sinful anger takes place in a heart, every time we allow it to exist in our hearts, the damage that's going to take place is damage to us and damage to our relationships.
I'm not even talking about, like, "Oh, Becky hurt me in that moment, so now I guess Becky and I are just going to be off." You harbor that bitterness, and it's going to show itself back up in a lot more relationships than just that one, because the result of sinful anger in the heart is always broken relationships.
Jesus says something really profound. Think about this. Maybe you're here and a friend invited you and you're not even sure where you are in faith. What Jesus just said to his audience… How category-blowing was this? "I want you to prioritize over giving any sort of sacrifice, over coming to church and worship… I want you to prioritize your horizontal relationships with other people above this one." In other words, "Hey, we're not going to be good if you continue to live not good with other people."
If you continue to hide behind, "They hurt me, and they need to come apologize to me. I may not have been the best in that moment, but if anybody is at fault, it's them," Jesus would say you just recognized that you're off with someone, and you should go seek that person out, because if you don't, a broken relationship will take place there, it'll take place in your future, and in a way, it disconnects you from rightly relating to God.
Some of you were really hurt by your dad. I love you. I see you. I love this group. I love this generation. I believe in this generation. As a bigger brother in life, I'm telling you, you have to forgive him. Holding on to that is only going to hurt you. You know what? If I knew your story and I knew what happened, I would be angry too, but you holding on to that… That anger is not going away, and it's going to keep following you.
As someone who has no skin in the game other than I care about each one of you, you have to deal with that hurt. Some of you have a past job, and you weren't treated right there, so one day, you just went MIA. You were like, "I'm going to do ghosting to my work. I'm done. I'll leave the computer. I'm not coming back here anymore. I've been updating my LinkedIn profile, and I have some leads. I'm going to run that direction, because you guys don't appreciate me, and ain't nobody got time for that."
You decided you were going to let that hurt rule your life. You may need to call up your old boss and say, "Hey, I didn't act like God would have had me. The way I responded to how I was feeling or the hurt I experienced was wrong." You need to forgive and make the decision. I'm going to talk more in a second about what that looks like.
Some of you are angry, understandably, at men because you were sexually abused. It wasn't your fault. That type of action angers the heart of God. It was wrong, it wasn't deserved, and it wasn't okay, but you have to work through that hurt and that anger. I hate that you feel that, and it's really understandable you feel that, but if you keep holding that, it is not going away. God loves you. He doesn't want you to go through life holding on to that pain and anger. It's not hurting them; it's hurting you and will continue to hurt you.
I don't know what experiences… Maybe it's family or a sibling or a past roommate or a boyfriend who cheated on you, and you're understandably really hurt, but if you hold on to that bitterness, it'll continue to grow, to add more experiences like it, and like a fire, will eventually make its way out and hurt any relationship that's in your life.
When I do marriage counseling or I agree to marry someone, I ask the same question. I ask it every time. I ask both the groom-to-be and the bride-to-be. "Is there anyone in your life you've not forgiven? A parent? Past relationship? Is there anyone that you're harboring, holding to bitterness on?" If they say, "Yes, [so-and-so]," I tell them I won't do the wedding until they've worked through that.
It's not because I don't love them. It's not because I don't care about them. It's because I love them so much I want them to make sure they enter into marriage with the footing of "I'm not going through life holding on to hurts and bitterness and anger and grudges." Because if you hold on to hurts before you get into marriage, you're going to hold on to them when you get in there, because you're already used to it. "This is just what I do. When somebody really deeply hurts me…"
It's almost always the case, the answer to that question, if someone says, "Yes, I haven't forgiven this person…" Do you know what it is? It's not "Oh, you know what? The grocery clerk at Trader Joe's was like, 'Oh, you can only have one bag,' and I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' This is the person I'm angry at." It's never that person. "It's my dad." "It's my mom. She walked out." "It's my sister." It's some intimate relationship.
I lovingly look and say, "If you can't work through that and forgive that person, you're not ready to marry him or her, because that intimate relationship that really hurt you…" That's generally how you get hurt. It's a father figure. It's a mother figure. It's a sibling. It's my own blood. That's why the pain is so deep. You will have the same experience with your husband or with your wife. Listen to me very closely. If you have not forgiven people (this is as lovingly as I can say it), you are not ready to get married.
Eighty percent of you will get married by age 35. Statistically speaking, that's true. Statistically speaking, what else is true is 50 percent of you will get divorced. Why? Because people go through life, and they hold on to these hurts, and they feel justified in these hurts, and "I can't believe they did that," and no one ever says, "You need to deal with that pain. You need to deal with that hurt."
Then they take it into marriage, and then the most intimate human relationship you can have… Anyone know what that is? It's not your sister. It's your spouse. The most intimate relationship you have, and then they hurt you, and how deeply intimate it is also equates to how deeply painful it will be when they hurt you. And they will hurt you, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not intentionally. It's just a part of being married to another sinful human being.
So, if you haven't worked through it and you're the person who's like, "Man, when I get hurt, I hold on. I hit the ejection button. I get out," you are not ready to get married, because when you move in that direction, marriage is one deep hurt after another and having to choose, "I'm not holding on to this grudge." What do I mean? Imagine with me. I saw this illustration. A friend of mine shared it with me, and it's such a great illustration, especially for this group as it relates to marriage.
I know a lot of you are like, "Dude, I'm not even dating," and you're angry at me because we're talking about marriage. I know you're not. I'm saying before you even get there, you need to know, if you hold on to that hurt, if you hold on even to that roommate, and "I can't believe he did that, and I don't talk to him anymore," you're the type of person who is going to hold on to hurt against your spouse, because you're going to get in there, and you're going to realize…
If you're dating in the room, you're like, "Not us, baby. We're together forever. It's amazing." There are going to be times where they deeply hurt you, and you're going to find yourself going, "I cannot believe that." If you're already making the practice of "Hey, I get hurt, I hold on to it," you're going to hold on to it, and the more you do, it's going to wall off and separate you from that other person.
What do I mean? All of a sudden, you're going to be around that special someone girl. Go there with me in your head. You guys got married. It was beautiful. You're probably not even dating, but just mentally, put a faceless person next to you, and you're like, "They look like everything I ever wanted. This is so great. They have the job we want, and we're married together." Go there with me. It just happened. You get married. Things are going great. Honeymoon. Everything is awesome.
Eventually, you're like, "Oh man. You brought debt into this relationship. We've got to get rid of your debt" or "We've got to get rid of my debt, so we're getting on a budget." Then she's going to show up, and she's going to say, "Hey, great news. I know you're going to be pumped for me. There was a sale at Nordstrom. They had these shoes, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh! It would be wrong to not buy these shoes, because I'm going to need shoes eventually, and this is the most affordable I've ever seen them before.'"
You're going to be like, "We're on a budget, babe. Why did you not follow the budget we agreed to that we set out on? You continue to do this. I'll tell you why. It's because you're selfish. You don't care about it." You will lash out, and you will hold on to that grudge. All of a sudden, that offense gets buried inside of your heart, and you begin to go, "This is just who she is. She doesn't care."
Same thing is going to happen to girls. You had weekend plans. When you were dating, one of the things you loved about him was he was flexible. He was just go-lucky. "He doesn't keep a calendar. He's not rigid, and I'm a little type A, so it really balances us out. I just love that about him." Then you get married. And you know what? You had a shower planned for a good friend, maybe a bridesmaid in your wedding.
She has a wedding shower coming up, and it's a couples' shower. You were going to go together, and he double booked. Because remember? You married a guy who is not rigid, doesn't keep a calendar, so he's a little flexible. You're like, "You don't even care about me. You knew how important this was to me." The thing that you were so like, "Oh, I just love that about him," all of a sudden, you're like, "You don't care."
Then one night, you come home, and one of you decides you're going to initiate sex, and the other person finds himself going, "Oh man. It has been a really stressful time. I'm really tired right now. I'm just not in the mood." I know what you're thinking. You're like, "No, he won't! I will always be in the mood. I'm going to marry someone with the same sex drive that I have. We'll always be in the mood." No, you won't.
You're thinking right now, "No, he's wrong. We totally won't." Nope. You're still wrong. Not going to happen. You are going to initiate sex, and they are going to say, "No," and you are going to feel offended, and you're going to go, "What, do you just think I'm fat now? Is that what this is about?" You're going to run there and think, "He doesn't care about me." All of a sudden, that offense continues to build and build and build.
Then, we didn't even introduce the in-laws. She has a really close relationship with her mom, so she calls her mom all the time. When you were dating, you didn't even realize it, because you didn't see her on the phone all the time because you didn't live together. She would call her mom every night after she got done with the date. She's driving home. She's calling her mom. You didn't even know it. They're really close, talk all the time.
Then you get married. You live together. You see it all the time. Sitting on the couch. You're like, "I thought we were going to watch this show," and she's talking to her mom, giving the update. And when she has trouble, when she needs advice, who does she call? She calls her mom. You had no idea. All of a sudden, you begin to think, "This woman doesn't even respect me. She doesn't care about my opinion. She just cares about her mom. She cares about what she thinks way more than she does what I think." All of a sudden, bitterness after bitterness.
Then you have holidays. You were like, "Man, holidays are going to be great. I can't wait." Once you get to the fact that, hey, you now divide the __________ (31:39) on the holidays… You're like, "Are we going to Christmas at your mom's or Christmas at my mom's?" She's like, "Well, I think we both know your family is a little awkward and mine gives the best gifts. This feels really easy. Let's do Thanksgiving with yours." You're like, "Thanksgiving? That's like the B team version of holiday. You know my mom gave birth to me, right?" All of a sudden, what gets buried is anger, bitterness, and hurt.
Then, he ends up working late, and you had plans that night, and you're like, "I told you we had dinner with the Smiths. Do you not care about our family?" He's like, "Yes. What do you think I do at work all day? Just get a massage? I care about our family. I work really hard." Both of you go, "You don't care." "You don't care about our family." "You don't care that I work." And all of a sudden, step after step, it begins to grow.
Then, you introduce little ones. Those are going to be fun. They've got these little kids. They look like you. It's a little mini-me, a little girl. Princess dresses all the time. Super fun. They also don't sleep that great, so one of you is going to be what we call a light sleeper. What's going to happen is they're going to be the one who hears the children at night. Typically, this is always the mom. They have some weird Spidey sense.
They end up waking up in the middle of the night. They hear the kids crying up there, and they wonder, "Why don't you care about our kids? I'm always the one getting up with the kids, and I'd like a little help from time to time, because I'm up all hours of the night, and you don't even care. I kicked you six times last night, and you don't care about your children." It continues to grow and grow. Do you know what's weird? You get better over time as you do these things.
You begin to hold on, and little things that you're like, "How did that even become a thing?" become a thing. What do I mean? Eventually, after those little kids come, you're going to be… Sometimes things happen with the body and hormones. The wife will feel like, "I just don't feel as pretty as I used to feel, and I can't work out nearly as much because I have these babies all around me all the time who are just little milk monsters. I feel like I'm kind of gross."
Then you get this sale, and you get that dress, and you get that dress, and you get home. You're going to a banquet for his work, and you put it on. You're like, "Oh man. I just need some affirmation right now. I've been kind of gross for a while, and I just want to look pretty and just be affirmed." You ask your husband, "How do I look?" and he says, "Great." Men, she doesn't want you to say, "Great."
She wants you to say, "Oh wow! We are getting a babysitter. We are canceling the banquet. We're getting a hotel is what we're getting." That's what she wants you to say. But she doesn't hear that, so all of a sudden, she runs to, "Great? I look great? He doesn't even love me." One by one by one, your relationship begins to get walled off, and that offense after offense builds a fence between the two of you. It happens. It's happening. It's why the divorce rate is what it is.
If you can't learn to be the type of person who doesn't hold on and say, "I'm keeping this," you're not ready for marriage. If you're in a place where you're seriously dating and moving that direction and you haven't forgiven people in your life, you are not ready to move in that direction. Now is the time, whether you're single, dating, or wherever you're at, to begin to form the habit, "I don't hold on to these, because anytime I do, it's going to keep showing up and keep breaking down relationships."
Jesus says it happens every time, but there is a solution. Ephesians 4:26-27 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." I want you to listen to this next verse. The apostle Paul wrote this next verse from a Roman jail cell where law enforcement had wrongly arrested him for a crime he did not commit. He was waiting to be killed for the crime of being a Christian.
He wasn't sitting drinking a latte at some all-inclusive resort when he wrote what I'm about to read. It's pretty crazy. As he leaned back against the jail cell with scars on his back from being whipped, he penned down the following words in AD 60: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…" All_ bitterness, Paul? All of it. _"…brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." Which is just ill-will toward people.
How do I do that, Paul? "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." The remedy for sinful anger is forgiveness and making the decision to forgive. Now, what does forgiveness mean? This is a word that's really churchy that most people are like, "Oh yeah, I know what it means," and they don't. Like, "Forgive and forget. That's right." No, that's not right.
What does forgiveness mean biblically? It means in the face of hurt, in the face of harm taking place against me, in the face of whatever has made me angry and bitter, I'm choosing to release my demand for justice or for payback to God. I'm choosing, "Hey, you cheated on me, and I'm really angry, and I want you to suffer because of that, but I'm choosing to forgive you by releasing the demand for justice that's in my heart to God."
Forgiveness is not excusing sin. It's not saying, "Oh, it's not that big of a deal." No. Sin is a huge deal. It's such a big deal Jesus had to die for it. Forgiveness does not require forgetting. In fact, I don't even know that you can fully forgive someone if you just forget. That would be awesome if men in black could just show up and be like, "Hey, you'll never remember this again." No. Real forgiveness shows itself in "You did that, and I forgive you. I'm not holding you accountable for paying back for what you owe me, for what you took, for how you hurt me." It's releasing that to God. I'm trusting God with justice.
Forgiveness is not denying your hurt or your anger. Forgiveness is not conditional. It does not require the person to ask for forgiveness or to own their part or even be present. It's releasing the demand for justice to God. How do we forgive? Paul said you forgive like God forgave you when you didn't deserve it, still don't deserve it, haven't earned it. But in Christ, he forgave you. He paid for all of that debt, for every hurt, for every wrong, for every justice that will and must take place. We forgive just like God forgave.
In Matthew, chapter 18, the disciples come up to Jesus. This was all throughout Jesus' teachings. It's pretty crazy. You read over and over, he was really passionate about "I love relationships, and if you hold on to anger, you're not going to have good relationships. You've got to forgive." So, Jesus had these guys, the disciples, who heard him talk about this a lot. They come up to him, and Peter is like, "Hey, guys, I've got a question for Jesus. I've got an answer. I'm really proud of my answer. I can't wait to see what happens."
He goes up to Jesus. "Jesus, how many times do I forgive my brother?" In Jesus' time, there were a few schools of thought. There were these rabbis who had these camps of "Hey, this is the number you forgive. Up to three times, if they do that action, you forgive them." Other people would be like, "No. You forgive them once. If they do it again…" There were these different schools of thought.
Peter comes up. He says, "How many times should I forgive?" Then he throws out a zinger. "Up to seven times?" The reason I say he would have been proud of it is because there were no rabbis who were teaching that. So he's going, "Hey, look how generous I am. Up to seven? Huh? How about that? Look at how great I am." Jesus says, "Not seven times, Peter. Seventy times seven." In other words, you never stop forgiving.
Jaw drops. It happened all around Jesus. "What? Over and over and over?" Over and over and over, because that's how God has forgiven you. He tells this parable, and it's a beautiful parable. We don't have time to read it right now, but here's the summary of the parable. Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like this. There was a guy who had a $6 billion debt." Literally, if you take the number Jesus equated, it's $6 billion. This dude had hit Vegas way too many times. Something had happened. He got in debt to another guy, $6 billion.
The guy says, "Hey, you're way overdue on your debt. You've got to pay your debt." The guy says, "I can't pay it. It's $6 billion." He says, "All right. Take him, take everything he owns, take his family, and sell them, and we'll take whatever we make off of that person." The servant who was in debt, we're told, throws himself to his knees and begins to say to the person in the story, "I'll pay it back. Please give me enough time. Please show me mercy."
Those listening would have known you can't pay $6 billion back. This was a debt way too great. The servant is begging. "Please give me mercy. Please, I'll pay it back." We're told the person he was in debt to showed him mercy and said, "I will forgive the debt." The guy gets up. He goes home. He's really excited. He's going to go tell his wife. That's a good day. You get $6 billion out of debt? That's an exciting day. We're going out for champagne or sparkling grape juice or whatever you feel okay about.
He goes, and on the way home he bumps into a guy who owes him $1,000. He grabs the guy and says, "Where's my $1,000?" Jesus is telling this story. He's so brilliant. He's a great storyteller. He's telling his audience, on his way home he bumps into the guy who owed him $1,000 and begins to shake him and say, "Give me my $,1000." That guy says, "Please, give me time. I'll pay it back. I'll pay it back. I'll pay it back." He says, "No," and he sells his family and does what was supposed to happen to him.
We're told that the original guy, the $6 billion guy who forgave the loan, finds out about it, and he comes and says, "You wicked servant. I forgave you a million times more of what you owed and you could never pay back, and this guy actually could pay back what he owed you, yet you didn't show mercy to him? You think I'm going to show mercy to you?" Then Jesus says this line: "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
"Wait a second. Are you saying that if I'm a Christian but I don't forgive somebody you're going to throw me in some jail?" Jesus is saying if you're a Christian, you forgive people because you have been forgiven of a debt way bigger than whatever they did to you. I know that's crazy, because the pain in this room… I've been doing this for 13 years. The stories I've heard of horrific things that happened are that. They're horrific.
Jesus would say, no matter what the pain was… It wasn't right, and it wasn't deserved, and it wasn't fair, and it wasn't okay, but it pales in comparison to what you and I have done in sinning against God, and you must choose to forgive. What does it look like to forgive? It looks like canceling the debt. Let me be really clear. I'm going to move quickly, and I want, as best as I can, to help practically walk through what that looks like in your life.
Inside of the parable, Jesus says forgiveness is canceling a debt that's owed. It's saying, "Hey, you don't owe me anymore." I want to encourage you to do something that was really helpful for me. There was a moment I sat down in my life where I realized I was carrying a lot of hurt from my father who was absent. He wasn't present. I began to process through that pain and through the counsel of Scriptures like these and other believers in my life, going, "It's really hard to cancel a debt if you don't know how much the debt is, if you don't know what the debt is."
They began to go, "What was taken from you?" This blanket statement ends up happening for a lot of Christians. You're like, "Yes, I forgive. I feel good today," and then it pops back up. In order to really forgive, you have to decide, "Hey, I'm not holding this against you anymore. I'm canceling what I feel like you owe me, because God has already canceled all that I owe him, every way I've sinned against him."
I sat down, and I began to write out very specifically… Maybe this will be helpful to you. "You took from me having a father around. You took from me a dad who came to my sport games in college, in high school. You took from me Monday nights I had to drive across town to that terrible apartment. I didn't want to, and I didn't have a choice because of custody orders.
You took from me having an example in my life of what it looks like to love a wife. I'm deciding you don't owe me anymore. You never owe me. Every sin we commit is ultimately a sin against God, and I'm not holding on to that anymore. That's between you and God. Every sin you've done will be paid for on the cross, just like every sin I've done was paid for on the cross. I'm not carrying that anymore."
Some of you have got to do this. My heart breaks because I know he took from you your virginity. She took from you having a mother around. He took from you not having the shame you carry every day from an abortion you didn't want to get and he told you you needed to get. You've got to let it go. Holding on to it will only hurt you.
One of the most healthy things you can do is to sit down and write out "This is what was taken from me. This is what I experienced. It wasn't right, and I'm not saying it was right by forgiving it, but I'm not going to live my life allowing my past experiences and past hurts and people who hurt me so deeply to rule my life, to rule my future marriage, to determine the type of person I'm going to be. I'm not doing that anymore. I'm not putting whether or not I'm going to have a healthy relationship with my future husband in the hands of somebody who did horrific things against me. I'm not giving you that power."
It won't be easy. It's really hard, but God promises when we do, not only do we look more like Jesus, we experience freedom, because holding on to that bitterness is only going to hurt you. As you head into life, all of us have sinned against a perfect God, and what we do as Christians… This is why I say there is no remedy that I know of outside of what Jesus did on the cross. The way we deal with sin that happened against us and terrible, painful things that happened against us is not by pretending they didn't. That doesn't work. It never will work.
It's by making the decision, "What you did was terrible. It hurt me deeply. I carried that pain for years." It's making the decision, "I'm not going to carry it anymore, because I'm bringing every hurt I've ever had in life to the God who was unjustly, unfairly killed, crucified, and had his life taken for every father in this room who failed their kids, for every sexual abuser, every racist police officer, every atrocious act. All of them were paid for.
This is the only way to experience freedom: to accept, "God, I'm a way bigger sinner; I've done equally as terrible things than what I am holding other people for, and the forgiveness you have extended to me is far greater than any forgiveness I'll ever be able to give them. I am accepting you paid for it on the cross. Every horrific action was paid for on the cross or will be paid for by that person for all of eternity. Every injustice will be made right, even the ones not caught on camera. I'm not going to hold on to that bitterness anymore. I'm not carrying that for the rest of my life."
I love you guys, and I don't want that for you, but I don't have a decision over whether you're going to release that, whether you're going to decide, "I'm not carrying this any longer. I'm not going to define my future by what happened against me in the past." It's not a decision I get to make. That's one you have to. As you walk through that, if we can serve and care for and come alongside, we'd love to. God has extended to all people: "You bring those and drop them. They have been paid for. You don't have to hold those. You release them to me." Let me pray.
Father, thank you for the fact that when we didn't deserve it, when we don't deserve it, you extended a forgiveness to a debt we could never repay. Candidly, in life it feels like what you ask us to do sometimes is not possible. I pray that you would help hundreds of us in the room who have experienced hurt at levels we can't even really put into words. I pray for the hundreds in here who have been sexually abused or raped.
I pray for those who were molested by a family member, their parents divorced, their parent was an alcoholic, they abused them, they were robbed, they were unjustly treated by coworkers, that you would help us, God, to have the strength to do what feels impossible, but you went well beyond in the lengths you went to forgive us, and you gave us your Spirit. So would you, by your Spirit, help us, strengthen us, and move us? Would we be free and forgiven? We worship you in song, amen.