Matthew 5:43-48 Anger, Patience, and Prayer
LET IT GO (Anger) (5:43)
“love your neighbor and hate your enemy”
This has to do with yourself.
ILLUSTRATION: Bottled Up Anger is like A Bottle of Carbonated Drink
Hate is bottled up anger that is spewed on someone else. You are shaking and agitating the relationship in a way that will later explode. You make a stable relationship unstable when you get angry. The problem with anger and hating someone else is not them. The problem is with yourself.
EXAMPLE: Middle East conflict
There are people who have pent up anger that they have kept for years. When you look at a conflict between people, it always starts with an anger that has stayed quiet for a long time.
- I was angry with my friend:
- I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
- I was angry with my foe:
- I told it not, my wrath did grow.
- — William Blake
Anger is an erroneous zone (error zone), a kind of psychological influenza (flu) that incapacitates you just as a physical disease would.… Anger is a choice, as well as a habit. It is a learned reaction to frustration, in which you behave in ways that you would rather not. In fact, severe anger is a form of insanity.
—Wayne W. Dyer, Your Erroneous Zones
Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1,501 Other Stories, (Nashville: Word Publishing) 2000, c1998.
If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is a part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.
— Herman Hesse
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.
Jesus is saying here to His people – “You have learned to hate. I am teaching you to learn to love.” In order to really learn to love, you have to unlearn your hate.
How do you let it go? You don’t let it explode. You set it aside. You go away so that the anger does not get a direction. When you go to someone with your anger, you are going to explode it in their face. When you go away, it is like when I set this bottle down. I am giving a place for my anger. I am slowly, letting it go. This leads me to my second point:
LEARN TO LOSE (Patience) (5:44)
“love your enemies”
This has to do with others. Loving your enemies takes enourmous patience. It takes time to really learn to love your enemies. Because these people seem to be your enemy (because you have not learned to let it go), you have to learn patience with them. Even when you have learned to let it go, when you let go of your anger, you will begin to look at people different. The person with whom you became angry stops becoming your competition, and starts to become your co-worker.
As you start to love your enemies, there are some attitudes that you will learn to put away. As you are putting these selfish attitudes away, you are growing in patience. I call growing in patience, “learning to lose.” Let me explain.
When you hate someone, it is because there is an internal competition or fight going on in your life. How you react to people on the outside shows the inner conflict going on in your inner life (your spirit). As you stop holding your anger in, as you learn to let it go in a healthy way, you will start to look at other people differently. You will learn to stop hating people, and begin to start loving them. In order to start loving people, you have to learn to be patient.
YOU DON’T NEED TO WIN ALL THE TIME
You can learn to lose. This is related to the phrase “bless those who curse you”
Some US Congressmen learned this past week that sometimes you have to learn to lose.
Winning is not everything in life. There can be winners and losers. But just because you lose, losing does not make you a loser. It gives you more patience.
I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.
— Thomas Edison, responding to a reporter who asked how it felt to fail 2000 times before successfully inventing the light bulb
Patience will achieve more than force.
Some people think that they have to force things, that they have to win all the time. They look at other people as competition (as their enemy), and not as their co-worker. As you change the way you look at other people, God will start to teach you to be patient. One of the lessons of patience is the fact that you will lose. You won’t win all the time. And you don’t have to. You can learn to be encouraging to people who before were your enemy. Instead of cursing them, you can bless them.
With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God’s likeness. Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen! (James 3:9-10 GW)
Great people learn to lose gracefully. It prevents you from creating your own enemies.
“Love needs to be given to those who you think don’t deserve it.”
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE RIGHT ALL THE TIME
Sometimes we feel like we should be right all the time. But frankly, we don’t know everything. We have to learn that sometimes, we don’t need to be right all the time. Now sometimes we run into people with other views. While we may passionately disagree with their views, we don’t have to say that we are right (in which we are really saying that you are wrong) all the time.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:15-16 NKJV)
ILLUSTRATION: The time I tried to convince a Catholic that she was wrong in her faith…
YOU DON’T NEED TO FIGHT ALL THE TIME
Learning to lose, prevents you from fighting. Trying to be right all the time brings more fights, and causes more enemies. Sometimes, husbands and wives, and parents and children can turn into enemies under one roof.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember one time my sister was dating a guy. They argued all the time. It was simply because each one thought that they were right and they both thought that they had the right to win. So since they both thought they were right (which can happen), and they both thought they should win all the time (which does not need to happen), it led to a fight.
Thinking you are right and thinking you must win can resul
t in fights. Fights cause lovers to turn into enemies.
I watched this one time, and I told my sister after a nasty fight, “Give in”. Tell your boyfriend: “Perhaps you are right dear.” The fight ended immediately.
The Bible calls this submission in Ephesians. We are all supposed to submit to each other. To submit means that you are not going to get your way. Another way of saying this is to say that you must let yourself lose.
Anger and Patience are opposites.
ANGER + WIN = PRIDE
PATIENCE + LOSS = HUMILITY
LIFT IT UP (Prayer) (5:44)
“Pray for those who persecute you.”
What do you do when you seem to be losing to your enemies? You pray.
Vent upwards to God. The working out of your anger, which can get directed to people you learn to hate, should be directed at God. This is not crazy. This is healthy. You begin to realize that you can’t win, you can’t be right, and you can’t fight against these people all the time. It just becomes wasted energy. They are not the ones who will get worn out by hate. You will. So you have to learn to let it go. You have to learn to lose. And more importantly, you have to learn to lift it up.
Where do you go when you know you still hate other people? You take it to God. Why? Because God is the only One who will change you and your situation so that hate turns to love. God will change you. God will change them. God will change the cirucmstances. But He will start to do it when you go to Him in prayer.
Jesus said to pray for those who hurt you. Jesus is talking about forgiveness. He is saying that you have to vent your frustrations to God so that you can forgive the people who have hurt you. You are not going to persecute God. You are really taking the hurt that you carry and you are giving it up to God. You lift your hurts up to God and He takes them and heals these hurts. As God begins to heal you, You can learn to pray for people whom you once hated.
You know what prayer will do. It will turn you from a hater, to a lover. When you pray for your enemies, you can’t help but start to love them. Jesus did this on the cross. He prayed to God and asked God to forgive His enemies.
Remember our two bottles of water. Did you watch what happened when the second one (the one that did not explode)? It bubbled up to the surface, little by little. The bubbles that earlier were used to explode, can slowly be lifted to God. These bubbles are like all of your hurts, all of your pain, all of your emotions, all of your thoughts. God wants you to send up bubbles of prayer to Him. This releases the pressure that can cause you to explode.
Did you see the first bottle build up pressure and explode? Did you see the second bottle? It started to settle after a time of rest. This is exactly what prayer does to your hate and anger. Prayer will relieve the pressure that you feel as you lift up what you have let go. As you let your anger rest, and as you learn to not look at another person as competition, you learn to pray for them. Prayer gives you the proper channel that helps you turn your enemies into friends.
Let it go, learn to lose, and lift it up.