Australia Creation Ethics USA

Letter from Australia 45 – Don’t Look Back in Anger

Letter from Australia 45 – Don’t Look Back in Anger

 Dear brothers and sisters,

Screenshot 2020-05-31 14.37.22Watching 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!

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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 IMG-8515hope 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,

David

Letter from Australia 44 – Cummings, Compassion, and a Chilling Video

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6 comments

  1. Hello David,

    It is indeed sad to see the rioting in the US and what can happen in a media and social media frenzy. It’s this the response Christ has, sadness, “the man of sorrows”? Just as he wept over Jerusalem, a city that killed it’s prophets. Then speaking in gentle feminine terms saying he longed to gather everyone as a mother hen gathers here chicks but he would not let them?

    In our recent dialogue I agreed with you that not all palpable anger is the anger “of the mob”. And your quote from Spurgeon illustrated this perfectly. Bill Hybels has described the kind of “be angry but in your anger do not sin” as “Holy Discontent”. A frustration or unease at things not being the way they ought to be and necessary as a springboard for good works , in keeping what we have been created for in Christ Jesus and that he has prepared for us in advance.

    So anger in that sense is useful. Can we say therefore, that anger has it’s uses but it’s wise and obedient to Christ for that not to be the default state but this be of a compassionate mind in the love of God?

    So, we choose for out ego to be our servant and the love of God our power?

    We often times don’t have choices over situations but we can always choose how we engage.

  2. Dyslexia moment there – apologies got something flipped around the wrong way. “he would not let them” should read “they would not let him”.

    Please don’t be angry with me ;).

  3. Or yourself, Adam.

    The article brought to mind something I read by CS Lewis, memorable to me as, rats in a cellar.

    Here it is, from CS Lewis, Mere Christianity.

    “We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”

  4. Thanks for this David,

    Great truths from Chrysostom and the Gallagher’s! .Most of all I love what you said about the benefits of enjoying beauty. I live on the edge of the Lake District and every morning I have a devotional time before work, sitting in our bay window. Before I even open my bible I’m already thanking God for the immense beauty I can see from my comfy couch. What a privilege.
    Thanks for all you do.
    Steve

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