Letter from Australia 45 – Don’t Look Back in Anger
Dear brothers and sisters,
Watching the riots from the US, looking at the media around the Dominic Cummings farce, seeing social media every day – I cannot help but be struck by the amount of anger in the world. So much violence is caused by anger. Domestic violence is as prevalent as ever – violence against children – violence against the poor. None of this is new so perhaps we can learn from the past how to deal with anger?
This week I read a couple of things about anger that I found really helpful. The first was a couple of Chrysostom’s sermons on John 3:5. A couple of quotes struck home: “Nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument”; and then this about anger.
“We must abstain from anger, and make our words in every way credible by avoiding not only wrath but loud speaking; for loud speaking is the fuel of passion. Let us then bind the horse, that we may subdue the rider; let us clip the wings of our wrath, so the evil shall no more rise to a height. A keen passion is anger, keen, and skillful to steal our souls; therefore we must on all sides guard against its entrance.
It is strange that we are able to tame wild beasts, and yet should neglect our own savage minds. Wrath is a fierce fire, it devours all things; it harms the body, it destroys the soul, it makes a man deformed and ugly to look upon; and if it were possible for an angry person to be visible at the time of his anger he would need no other admonition, for nothing is more displeasing than an angry countenance.
Anger is a kind of drunkenness, or rather it is more grievous than drunkenness, and more pitiable than demon possession. But if we are careful not to be loud in speech, we shall find this to be by far the best path to sobriety of conduct. And therefore Paul would take away clamour as well as anger, when he says, “Let all anger and clamour be put away from you.” (Ephesians 4:31).
It’s a wonderful passage – not least the description of how ugly anger makes us!
Then I read this in Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (May 29th) where he comments on Psalm 45:7 “You hate wickedness”. “Be ye angry and sin not. There can hardly be goodness in a man if he be not angry at sin; he who loves truth must hate every false way”. He then goes on to talk about our hatred of sin primarily within ourselves – rather than hatred of other people.
All of this has caused me to reflect. What makes me angry? Do I carry resentments and bottled rage from the past? Am I angry at sin or at other people? How much anger is because of self rather than because of sanctification? I will answer those questions for myself – but perhaps you could consider what is the state of your own heart? For me I am just thankful that we have a forgiving and merciful Lord!
I was also reminded of the Oasis song when I heard about the latest Christian rock star, Jon Steingard, feeling the need to publicly renounce his faith. In Don’t Look Back in Anger the songwriters tell us not to “put our life in the hands of a rock and roll band, who’ll throw it all away. “ Great advice.
One of the ways to deal with anger is to get out of yourself and learn to appreciate the calming effect of beauty. In my life I have had the advantage of living in some of the most beautiful areas – the Borders, the Cotswolds’’, the Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh and Bonnie Dundee. But it’s hard to beat where we are just now. So many times I go out for a walk and it takes my breath away. Yesterday we were up at one of my favourite North Shore walks – Cremorne point. It was just liberating, calming and joyous to walk round it. Lovely to see so many out for picnics etc. – although the four posh ladies with the champagne and fancy glasses, cheese etc. were probably overdoing it a bit! A ‘peh and a Bovril’ it was not!
Finally, it was a great joy for me to be back speaking in front of a live group this week. We returned to Silks for City Legal…only a handful of us – but what a difference it makes. There is a liberty and reality about being with people and sharing God’s word. I hope for that reason that churches will get back to public meetings as soon as legally permissible. I have noticed a worrying tendency for some churches to be more stringent than the government requires. Why? Perhaps it is compassion and the churches don’t really trust the government advice. But I suspect a great deal of it is fear (what will people say if our church becomes a centre for outbreak?) and also because many churches are run by committees rather than elders. Committees tend to be more bureaucratic. Maybe that’s wrong but whatever the cause I hope that churches will stop treating themselves as private clubs which exist only for the benefit of their own members, and instead believe and argue that we are as essential a service as pubs and restaurants!
Hope you have a great Lord’s Day. I leave you with the words of Noel Gallagher and Paul. “Don’t look back in anger”….” “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
See you next week,