Dallas Willard – Divine Conspiracy 11: Living Without Anger

Getting Rid of Anger, Contempt, and Cultivated
Lust Now, I hope you understand the importance
of thinking that this is an intelligent man who is giving an intelligent address to fundamental
issues. So on the assumption that Jesus was smart and knew what he was talking about,
can we all agree on that assumption? Everyone agree with that? He knew what he was talking
about, so now he’s giving a talk, and he’s dealing with the issues, so there’s going
to be an order in there. Most Fundamental Problem So why does he start with anger? Answer: because
anger is the most fundamental problem in human life. Now. Systematically it’s not. But it
is the most fundamental problem if you are aiming to transform people. You have to start
there. And Jesus is not writing a theory. He can leave that to later people, everyone
from St. Augustine to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others, and they can… We need the theory, but he’s not doing that,
see. He is founding a community. He’s founding a community of redemption. His project is
to change people. And the theory’s all there; it’s in the background. Love, love of God,
love of neighbor. That’s been developing. The laws that are expressions of that; that’s
been developing for centuries. But that’s not going to help a person who’s down here
in the guts of life, flailing about, caught up in their own anger or other blind feelings,
trying to medicate perhaps to get out of them. Or, letting them fly and brutalizing everyone
around them by violent language and emotions and actions. That’s not going to do it. So
that’s why he starts there. The Sermon on Anger And now then, as he goes on, see if you…
Let’s suppose you start… Let’s say…let’s say you decide, oh I’m going to start at…oh,
I think I’d like to start at, oh maybe verse 41. Go the extra mile “Whoever will force you to go a mile go with
him go two.” (Matthew 5:41) You won’t do well with that unless you’ve dealt with anger,
and contempt first. Right. Now that’s actually, probably, talking about a Jewish person who
is being forced by a Roman soldier to carry a load for one mile. Because that was a – that
was what you could be required to do according to the Roman government. And Jesus is saying something unbelievably
radical. A Roman was an uncircumcised pig. If a Jew went into a Roman household, or had
close connection with a Roman, they were unclean. They could not participate in religious rituals.
They couldn’t come into certain kinds of company for three days. Would you say that is dissing?
I would say that’s dissing, wouldn’t you? Now, if you’re not…if you haven’t gotten
out of your dissing mode, then if you’re in your anger mode you’re probably going to diss
because they’re closely connected. You’re not going to do anything with this. Turn the other cheek You’re not going to do anything with the person
who slapped you on the cheek, and Jesus is saying now turn the other one. Cause you’re
full of anger. You’re full of contempt. Probably because you’re full of lusting. So you can’t
do it. These statements of Jesus are ordered in a progressive way. And so you have to understand
the fundamental character of what he’s saying about these first two sets of things that
we gave on the list a moment ago, and these are covered in verses 21 through, actually
through verse 32. The Nature of Anger So now. Let’s go back and work on anger.
We talked a little bit about it earlier. Now we have to go deeper. We said some things
like anger is not in itself wrong, but it is very likely to lead to wrong. The person
who is quick to anger is in, is a dangerous person. So for example when Paul in Titus 1:7 is talking
about the requirements for elders and bishops and leaders, one of the requirements that
he lays down is that they are not soon angry. They don’t get angry quickly. And that’s right
next door to not given to much wine. Love, described in 1 Corinthians 13, you remember
one of the things about it, is it is not easily provoked. Not easily… Can it be provoked?
Yeah. But it’s not easily provoked. And it doesn’t stay provoked, if you remember how
love is described there. Doesn’t keep score. It lays things down. Lets grudges go. See,
angry… Anger is dangerous because it gets us on a path that leads to things that harm
other people. The will to harm So now, let me go a little deeper here into
anger. Bear with me please. Anger actually is will to harm. It is will to harm. That’s
why when someone is angry at you, you already feel hurt. Isn’t that true? I’ve yet to find
someone who even likes to be honked at. You like to be honked at? What does a honk mean?
Did you ever think you’d be caught in a situation discussing what a honk means? Well, I mean
they would be words like, “You idiot get out of my way,” right? I mean, that’s a mild version.
Maybe that’s a Christian version. Someone driving to church. An announcement of pain Well, it’s very interesting. Anger is built…
And actually this, when you understand this, this is a part. What anger really does is
announce to us that something needs to be changed. Now we may be wrong about that, but
that’s what it announces. Anger in the emotional realm is like pain in the physical realm.
And actually anger is a kind of pain. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. And like when you
step on a nail, you feel pain in your foot, and what that tells you is something is wrong.
Pain tells you something is wrong. Something needs to be changed. A course towards harm And so, the essence of anger is the will to
push, to if necessary move you, harm you even. So, people… Then when people get caught
up in anger, they set themselves on a course of harm, and that’s where murder comes from.
And if you remember Joseph, or Jacob, sorry, when he came to die, said to his two sons
Levi and Simon, he said, “I don’t want my soul to have anything to do with you. I don’t
want my blessing to get messed up with you. Because you are angry people, and you kill
others. And you slay animals.” (Genesis 49:5-7) These were people who were possessed by anger. A crossing of the will Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Anger reposes in the
bosom of fools.” Now, that doesn’t mean everyone who’s angry is a fool. It means if you find
a fool you’ll find some anger. Now, fool is heavy word in the Scripture.
So we need to think deeply about the nature of anger, and we need to understand for example
that anger is caused by our will being crossed. Doesn’t matter how trivial it is. You know,
out here in Los Angeles we shoot people over parking in the wrong place. It doesn’t matter
how trivial it is; if it crosses my will, and I’m a person who is given to unrestrained
anger, I will do anything to carry out that anger. An insult to your kingdom Basically, anger is an insult to your kingdom
– that causes it. Your will is being crossed, and really no matter how trivial the issue…
I mean haven’t you been around people who for no reason at all just fly into a rage
– it doesn’t have to be something big, it just has to be experienced in a certain way. Now, some people come to the point where they
are just angry people. They don’t necessarily have to have anything to be angry at but when
they get into that position, then the smallest thing – don’t we talk that way? We’ll say,
“the smallest thing will set them off.” And that is always because you have a will and
a certain condition, and that is what causes anger. The Position of Anger And we want to say that anger is not a sin;
it is something that is natural, like pain – but only if you have rock solid Christian
character, can keep you safe with anger. And often people say, “Well God gets angry.” Well
that is all right, God can handle it, you can bet on his character! They say, “didn’t
Jesus get angry when he made the whip and went into the temple.” Yes, Jesus did – again,
I can trust Jesus with stuff I wouldn’t trust myself with. Now, we do have situations where people do
not have any other way of handling things and they become angry and sometimes it leads
to change, and so I think that in some circumstances we should say while anger might not be the
best thing, it is better than some other things. And so we often have people who feel that,
for example, if you are not angry about certain kinds of injustices that you must be, you
couldn’t possibly be right – either you are brain dead or your heart is not in the right
place. And there is something to be said for that, and perhaps some things do become so
bad that in some situations the only way is to let anger explode. Not the best But that I really want to say that is not
the best way of handling things, and if you come to that, what will invariably happen
is that the anger will evoke anger on the other side, unless you’ve got someone over
there that is of rock solid Christian character, which is unlikely, though they may think they
have it, right. So we are not talking about repressing anger;
we are not talking about denying anger. Those are bad things. We are talking about not being
angry and still being able to stand for what is right, be solid; stand to the death if
necessary. That may sometimes verge even over into things
like warfare, but if war is inevitable, or necessary, and in some circumstances it is
still true that anger and contempt are not. And you will certainly recognize that warfare
conducted in anger and contempt is many times worse because of that. Many times worse. Not necessary So those are things we need to have in mind
and we can say, I believe that everything you can do with anger you can do better without
it. You may have to learn how to do that. And if you act without anger, you are going
to have to educate others that you really do mean what you say, though you are not angry.
Right? And in many respects human beings just live
at a level that if you don’t act angry they’ll think you don’t mean what you say. Just like
a dog – you know you can say the most awful things to a dog with a kind tone and it will
just wag its tail and lick your hand. Or you can say the best things to the dog in a tone
of reproach and anger and it will just slink off with its tail between its legs. And there is so much we see of CEOs that rule
their operation by the threat of being angry and people would sort of drag along until
that came over the horizon, and then when they got angry they would start to move. See,
this living without anger is a matter of reeducating everyone around you, especially if you are
in a position of responsibility. So I say here everything you can do with anger
you can do better without it, understanding you have to go through that process both with
yourself and with others. The Danger of Anger Now one of the reasons why anger is so dangerous
is because it is always righteous in the moment. I have already talked about that a little
bit, so I don’t want to spend time on it but just draw your attention to it again. Anger.
Check this out, and check out everything I say, of course, but I mean you do want to
test this all against your own experience; and it is very rare that you ever meet someone
who is angry who doesn’t feel like their anger is completely justified. And moreover they
will feel that their anger justifies what they do in anger, and so that keeps us from
being critical. Easily justified And anger is a feeling, and all feelings when
they come up they don’t raise the question of, “Am I right?” Thoughts and beliefs tend
to do that, but feelings simply tend to stand there in your face and hammer at you and say,
“I want this, I want this, I want this, I want this.” And this is true, for example – you get a
person who is caught up in a love affair: they will normally feel completely justified
in all the feelings that they have. Now once they subside and so on, then they can criticize
them, but the moment, in the moment of feeling there is not the appropriate kind of reflection
and criticism about what it all means. That is one reason why we have to be extremely
careful with feelings, and anger is one of the most of important ones for us to deal
with. Controlled by the body Anger is in our body. We’ve talked earlier about how we farm character
out to our bodies and that is why it so easily bypasses our mind and our spirit if we are
not well formed to recognize what’s happening. We will act in anger before we think. Christians and Anger Well, that’s where our mean Christians come
from: you have people who are professing Christians and they have not come to terms with their
anger; and then when things go contrary to their will, they are unhappy, they attack
others, they withdraw from others and normally they don’t really – they are not really on
top of what their feelings and thinkings are… After 9/11, as we endearingly call it, every
church that we went into was abuzz like a hive of bees that had been hit with a stick.
Everyone was so angry and they didn’t know what to do with it. And that’s unfortunately
typical because where do you train as a Christian to deal with anger and to come out of that
situation that Jesus describes. Jesus on Anger Look, here is what he says: “You have heard
that the ancients were told, You shall not commit murder and whoever commits murder will
be liable to the court, but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother…”
and there are two versions here, and if you like the easier version, ” without a cause…
” actually it doesn’t make any difference with the point at hand, ” shall be guilty
before the court, ” that is to say, have the same kind of guilt as one who murders, ” and
whoever shall say to his brother racca… ” (Matthew 5:21-22) Now, racca is an Aramaic term that’s uncertain
in its origins but the way it is pronounced it sounds like the noise you make when you
are clearing your throat to spit. I won’t demonstrate! But you can practice in the solitude
of your room! Racca. ” Everyone who says that shall be guilty before
the Supreme Court. ” That is even worse than being angry, and he goes on to say, ” Everyone
who says, you fool, ” see these are all expressions of an attitude of harm towards other people,
” shall be guilty enough to go into the fires of Gahenna. ” (Matthew 5:22) This isn’t Hades;
it is Gahenna that is being referred to. So you can see now Jesus is putting a really
heavy weight on stepping out of anger. And the reason that we have so many angry Christians
is because they are not trained out of that, they are not taught out of it. No one lays
the foundation for getting out of it, so now we want to move on here to the next screen
and talk a little bit about that, stepping out of anger. Living Without Anger Now since anger is a world phenomena that
is where you have to begin, and so not just to get rid of anger, but because it is right
and good in itself, stepping out of anger presupposes you have surrendered your will
to God. That means among other things you have accepted the fact that you don’t have
to have your way. All right, so that other person did park in
your parking place! Now what? Well, it could be the end of the world. Or it could be an
inconvenience, and you might decide, for example, that you will have compassion on the person.
That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t speak to them about it, or do whatever is necessary to correct
the situation; it just means you won’t do it in anger and contempt. So surrender to the will of God effects a
pervasive change in all of our life. The cross Now this is the meaning of the cross in spiritual
growth and in redemption. This is the meaning of the cross. See Jesus did not die on the
cross so that we wouldn’t have to die on the cross; he died on the cross so that we could
join him in his death on the cross. So what does Paul say in Galatians, “I am
crucified with Christ.” (Galatians 2:20) What does that mean? That means that I have accepted
the same posture in my life as Christ did. I have given up my life to God, I have laid
it down. I mentioned William Law yesterday. There is
a wonderful passage here from that book, A Serious Call to the Devout and Holy Life and
I will just read a few words from it: Thankfulness “If therefore you live in murmurings and complaints
accusing all the accidents of life, it is not because you are a weak infirm creature,
but it is because you want the first principle of religion; you lack the first principle
of religion; right belief in God.” Wow! Maybe I should read that again; it might
help me. He is talking about always being thankful to God in life. He says, “If therefore you live in murmurings and complaints,
accusing all the accidents of life, it is not because you are a weak infirm creature,
but it is because you lack the first principle of religion; a right belief in God. For as
thankfulness is an express acknowledgment of the goodness of God towards you, so repinings
and complaints are as plain accusations of God’s want of goodness toward you. On the
other hand, would you know who is the greatest saint in the world – it is not he who prays
or fasts most. It is not he who gives most alms or is most immanent for temperance, chastity
or justice, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills,
who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready
to praise God for it. All prayer and devotions, fastings and repentance, meditation and retirement,
all sacraments and ordinances are but so many means to render the soul thus divine and conformable
to the will of God and to fill it with thankfulness and praise for everything that comes from
God.” Something to think about. Surrender So, stepping out of anger is going to mean
the surrender of our will to God. Now, what about things that are wrong. We can still
act with reference to them. We don’t just let everything stand. We speak truth, and
we live it, but we don’t do it in anger and contempt. And the reason for that is we know
that he is taking care of us. We know that our real interests are safe. So now suppose the guy parks in my parking
place, I have to park a block and a half away and walk to my apartment. Well, can you do
that praising God? Can you do that with thankfulness that you found a parking place two blocks
and a half away. Then, can you speak to the person who parked in your place with compassion
and love and understanding of the weakness of people who do such things, and their needs,
and so on, and have a discussion with him. Working Through Anger Well, you see, if you do this, you talk with
him, what is he going to do? He is going to get mad probably, right? Because he knows
he’s wrong and he is uneasy to begin with and now you come along and point this out. So now what is your response going to be to
that person? You are not going to get mad. You can stand there and let him pour vituperation
and bile upon you and because you are not an angry person now, you are going to be firm,
you are going to ask him not to do that again, explain to him the situation, “God bless you,
have a good evening, I will be praying for you!” Now what do you think this is going
to do to that person? Now suppose instead you go and whack on his
door and you start hollering at him and cursing him? He is going to curse you back and holler
at you and feel completely justified in doing it because you came and cursed him and hollered
at him. You see, anger hurts. I don’t care, if people – you know, “I’m cool baby, I’m
not hurt” they say, as the blood drips down their shirt, they are wounded deep – “I’m
cool baby.” But they don’t want you to know they are hurt, right. So you get all this
silliness, absolute silliness, and the way you short circuit that and dump it somewhere,
and it takes a while, because you see that person now, that you are talking to, this
isn’t a dive bombing situation, you are entering a relationship by doing that. They entered
a relationship with you when they parked in your place. Understanding people And now this is the kind of work you have
to do if you are going to understand anger and how to get out of it. You can’t just live
in it. You have to understand that other people have to be drawn into it. They are used to
living in their shell. You know those little crabs that come out of their shell and you
move towards them and they back into their shell. That is very much like human beings
so you have to sort of say, “Wait a minute, not back in your shell.” So you stay with
them. Now, again, you just don’t make a law out
of this, you use your brains, you use good sense. That, by the way, one of the things
that many people do. Many people read Jesus’ teachings as if he were some kind of an idiot,
and you know, – and they think well, you just stop thinking and do what he thinks. Never.
Never. See what you are being called to is responsible selfhood, responsible humanity,
and responsible humanity means that you think in terms of relationships, not in terms of
acts, much less tit for tat. Caring for relationship I spoke about firing someone in Christian
love. Normally, that means the relationship is divorce, see, and this is a wrong attitude
toward what goes on between human beings, but when we have a painful encounter with
someone, we try to scuttle back into our little rock or shell and we hope never to see that
person again. But, now as a Christian, you are living in
the neighborhood, you are going to see that person again. You might even send a Valentine.
You maintain the relationship and that is a part of recognizing the care of God and
the supervision. As angry as I might be at this person, in a sober moment I realize God
loves that person. God loves that person. So now, they may not even be right with God
but God cares about them and if I am going to relate to them then I have to be in a position
to recognize that. And God cares for me also. He cares for me. Letting go of self-will So now, with this in place, this point of
not getting what you want is not a big deal. See, you begin to step out of anger because
anger always comes out of when you make things a big deal. It is not a big deal. Now sometimes
it is a big deal in other respects. So if it has meaning other than just, “I want my
way,” then you stay with that and you don’t change what you are saying. You are just not
angry about it and because you are not angry about it you don’t evoke all the angry emotions
from the other side that would come if you were angry. Now you will get some, but you see when you
get those, that’s where you stand steady and let them work their way out. And this applies
to all kinds of relationships. Now I have already talked about the meaning
of the cross here. You see, that is the meaning of the cross. There is life beyond this event;s
there is life outside this event. And now then, the Christian, the disciple of Jesus
living in the Kingdom has learned that no matter what the event is, there is life outside
that event. The Position of Contempt Well we need to talk a little bit about contempt,
because anger and contempt are twins. You know, any time you find contempt or anger
the other one is close by, often locked in an embrace, but in any case they are always
close by. Because if you have contempt towards something or someone, you regard them as less
worthy or worthless, and so then it is more appropriate or easier to do the things that
would harm them, to be angry at them. So I mean you think of the whole history of
things like racial conflict, and you look at the history of that – where people of another
tribe, where it is quite fitting to eat them. Not your tribe, of course! It was quite fitting
to do whatever to them to degrade them, to deprive them. That’s always what goes into
contempt. It regards the other as worthy of harm or loss. So if you have contempt for someone and something
bad happens to them you are certainly less likely to grieve over it. You are more likely
to say, “Well, you know, they deserve it.” And you are certainly less likely to do anything
to help them or to act for their advantage. Filthy language So then we have talked about dissing someone.
The use of filthy language is always an expression of contempt. And many people can’t find anything
wrong with filthy language. It always brings the element of contempt in, and that contempt
is not a good thing. And it makes anger easy and it issues from anger. You see people in
a fight, they will always move to contempt; filthy language always goes that way. That’s
built into the nature of anger. If you get into a fight and the anger is flowing, contempt
will be right there. And needless to say, contempt does not mean love. Living Without Contempt So now one of the things we can do is resolve
to learn to live without contempt. We can do that. And the answer to contempt is love.
You cannot have contempt for the things that you love. Again, as I always say, test this out. Test
it out in relationships, watch others, observe life, observe yourself, and see whether or
not these things are true. We can give up the right to have contempt of people. Many people say, well, I have a right to be
contemptuous of them. No, actually you don’t. But the human way of looking at things might
suggest that you do, that you have a right to be contemptuous. You can give up the right
to be angry. You say, well I have the right to. Well, in some cases you may, but the question
is whether or not you ought to do it anyway. You have a right to do a lot of things that
are not good for you. So that I think a great moment for our own
spiritual growth is the time when we decide I give up the right to be angry. I am not
going to exercise it. I abandon contempt, I can live without it, I will be better off
without it. Then I have to learn how to act against wrong without being angry and that
is a lesson in itself. Studying Anger Now, I realize that (and when we get to questions
later on, you may want to go on in this for some length ) I realize there are some issues
here that have to be dealt with. I do want to encourage you to study anger and angry
inductively in your Bible. That is to get your old concordance down, or now you’ve probably
got it electronically, and search anger and angry. Get those words and study them in the
biblical context. And that’s a good occasion to say now to you
that everything I say in this series has to come out of the Bible. If it is not biblical
we don’t want it. And that comes with what we said earlier about the Bible in relation
to our knowledge of reality and knowledge of what is good and right. God has provided the Bible. It is the kind
of thing it is because God thought that was best it be that way, so it isn’t a little
rule book, it isn’t a theological treatise, it is a window on life. But you study it and
there emerges from it the profound teachings that we need and I think you will see that
about anger if you study it that way. Now you are not apt to study it that way if
you don’t take seriously the ideas that Jesus and Paul and the others – that we should just
lay aside anger. Don’t be there. Lay aside contempt, don’t be there either. Anger and the Sermon on the Mount In the Sermon itself you do want to look at
the positive side on anger and contempt. I should just mention this. See when he goes,
“Do not commit adultery,” then he says, “I say to you do not be angry without a cause…”
don’t express contempt, don’t call people fools, then he switches over to the positive. So you need to understand that verses 24 through
26 he is teaching the positive side of dealing with anger, so he says, ” Therefore, ” in
verse 23, ” if you are presenting an offering at the altar and there remember your brother
has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go your way, be
reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offering. ” Right and wrong attitudes Now understand what that is doing, see, follow
the texture of the sermon, what is that doing; that’s still talking about anger. And what
it’s doing now, it is contrasting the right attitude to the wrong attitude. And now he
gives you teaching about the kind of thing that the person who has the right attitude
will do. It isn’t just that they won’t call them fools, they won’t be contemptuous of
them, and they won’t be angry at them, as a positive attitude. Moral and ritual dimensions Now get this picture. Jesus takes a situation
where there is a great temptation to overlook the moral dimension of life in favor of the
ritual dimension. Why does he pick that? If you are presenting your offering at the altar. Well, one reason is that is precisely a situation
you do not interrupt for any reason other than some other ritual consideration. You
can interrupt the process that he is talking about here if it were to turn out, for example,
that the offering had something wrong with it. Or that the priest had not set things
up in the right order so that the instruments that were used, and all of that, were not
proper. Then you could interrupt. See, there is always a tendency in religious
institutions to glorify those processes to such an extent that people wind up substituting
ritual behavior for moral rightness, and Jesus is going counter to that. He is suggesting
an outrageous thing: in short, that you would interrupt the process of your offering in
the temple to do some trivial thing like go make things right with your brother. Now, of course, I don’t mean it is trivial.
What he is saying is that is the really important thing and it is so important that you would
be prepared to interrupt the ritual in order to go take care of it. Goodness and rightness Now why is he saying that? To show what it
is really like to not just, “not kill your brother,” but to really love. Do you understand
what I am saying there? See the prophets have always had this problem
with people substituting sacrifices and keeping days and all of that and saying, “oh, we are
just wonderful because we do that,” when they were morally debauched. You know your Old
Testament well enough to know that, I think. They are always dealing with that issue. The
tendency to substitute ritual behavior for genuine goodness and rightness, and that is
what Jesus is talking about. A New Standard of Friendship He goes on, he takes another case here which
is very touchy, he says, ” Make friends quickly with your opponents at law. ” (Matthew 5:25)
Now these are people who are engaged in a lawsuit as we might say today. To make friends
with the person you are having a contest with. What is that about? That is a further illustration
of the genuine heart of the Kingdom person, that is so far from killing them – see, that
is the background that he is talking of – that if they go to law, they are friendly. Have you ever seen people going to law? Ever
done jury service and watched the people engaged in law suits? Would you be inclined to describe
them as friendly? Well, that is not the way it is. Now you see people who say you are never to
go to law, and maybe they will qualify, “with a Christian.” I knew a man once who would
not do business with Christians – he was a business man – because he said, “If things
go wrong in our dealings I can’t sue them.” Now that is profound, isn’t it? He had read
this passage and thought it said you shouldn’t go to law. Give in love It doesn’t say you shouldn’t go to law, it
shows you how to go to law. You go to law in love. Be friendly. So the person wins the case? Well, Jesus says
if someone sues you and takes away your overcoat, and you later see that they need your jacket
and you have an extra jacket, what do you do? You say you SOB, you took away my overcoat
– I wouldn’t give you anything, right. No, no. Jesus said give him your jacket. Anger and Contempt in the Immoral Life Now, folks, look here. Suppose we just got
that far. You see what it is going to do to everything else. I mean if you pull the anger
and contempt out of pornography, how much pornography do you have left? Almost none.
I would be willing to say none. Am I making any sense to you. See, Jesus understood the structure of the
immoral life. He understood that. And when he goes at it, he just pulls the foundations
out from under it. If people were not contemptible of others there would be no pornography. It
is always full of contempt, and anger is close at hand, and so they are willing to degrade
others and see other people degraded. Connection to sexuality Now I am just talking about pornography, but
the reason I am bringing that up is that Jesus is going to move on here towards sexuality.
And he is going to talk about it in a day when there were people, just like there have
always been, who might not commit adultery and might say, “Well I didn’t do it, I didn’t
do it.” Are there still people like that today? Well
yes of course there are. And often they are religious people, and maybe they are even
religious leaders. I think that’s what Jesus was talking about because he understood that
many of these people who were religious leaders in his day, Pharisees and scribes were people
who would commit adultery if they had the occasion and they would not be fearful of
what would happen. But if they were not contemptuous already they would not be bothered with that.
If they were not angry with their wife, or wives in this case often, unsatisfied with
them, they wouldn’t be looking elsewhere. Cultivated Lusting So Jesus takes up this topic now in terms
of the act of adultery and goes to the heart. He says, ” I say to you that everyone who
looks on a woman to lust… ” And if your version reads “and lust” would you please
mark it mark the “and” out; I’ll give you time to look because this is such an important
matter. The language here is very clear; it does not say, ” looks and lusts, ” but, ” looks
to lust. ” Have an NIV? What does it say? ” Looks lustfully
” – so that is “and” . So you check our Greek, do your sources on this. This is a particular kind of thing that is
often done. For example, apparently there were construction workers in Jesus’ day! Now
then this has spread to television commercials. You know the Pepsi commercial that has the
young women standing in the window and the construction worker with his shirt off having
a Pepsi. So this is the familiar sort of thing. It is looking to lust. And you need to understand
in this matter because you can easily enslave yourself to things that you think are wrong
that aren’t. Sin, temptation, and readiness You need to distinguish one, thought of sin;
from two, inclination to sin (that’s temptation); and three, readiness to sin. Adultery in the
heart is three, it’s number three. It is not temptation, temptation is not sin, and it
is not thought, thought is not sin. Adultery in the heart is manifested by three, and it
is manifested by cultivating desire. When you look to lust you look in order to lust,
and that manifests three. By not just having to, but rather inciting to, purposefully to
enjoy dwelling on that. Habits of indulging feeling So now we have to talk about why does one
do that sort of thing. For the most part it is just a habit. It feels good, we enjoy titillation,
we enjoy imagining things we might like to do, even if we wouldn’t do them; and so this
habit of indulging feeling becomes a major part of how we get through life. It’s a part
of that turn to the body that we discussed earlier especially in relationship to Romans
1, because it is a source of gratification and good feeling. Actually I think anger and contempt become
that for a lot of people; they actually feel better when they are enjoying being contemptible
of others, because it gives them a kickback effect; they feel superior and that’s a good
feeling. It is all a part of the sensualistic approach to life where feelings are treasured,
and often people live in imagination just because they enjoy that and perhaps they don’t
have any sources of satisfaction. They are not experiencing success and drama in their
life, and so they get it out of what we call sex and violence. Living Without Cultivated Lust So now leaving it, leaving cultivating the
lust, you make the decision to go no further than one. And in fact you try to train yourself
to avoid one as much as possible. If it happens, it is not a sin; it is not something that
is wrong – it is just that you need to know when you move there, you move away from it,
you don’t go further with it. So now how do you do that? It’s very important
to decide not to do it. We are not going to do this. Now it isn’t like the law of gravity
where you can’t escape it and many people seem to talk that way. But if you will experiment
with it, you will find, just like covetousness and other things, you don’t have to be drawn
into it. And your world presently, of course, is just soaked with it so you have to recognize
that and say, “I am not going to be a part of that.” The Discipline of Chastity The discipline that I call chastity, and I
discuss it in The Spirit of the Disciplines – it is not a good name for the discipline;
it is more a name for the outcome of the discipline – is something you can learn to do. You can train yourself to live with thoughts
successfully, by choosing to simply – avoiding them for a period of time. You don’t have to dwell on sexuality in relationships.
You can actually train yourself to think about life and relationships in a way that doesn’t
involve that. But you have to break habits and most of us have habits that run in the
other direction, so that is a project. It will help you in doing that if you indeed
decide to view the person you encounter an – and here we go back to language we have
already used – “An unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”
Your view of them will be lifted and lifted in such a way that you will not have the same
inclinations in relationship to them and whatever thoughts that occur will be dismissed. Sexual Purity Now then this condition is what could be called
sexual purity. And I don’t know if you have a way of spelling that out, or if in your
circles people aren’t apt to talk about it very much, but you need a way of thinking
of about what sexual purity is; and that does not mean that you are asexual or that you
don’t have thoughts of sex, or appropriately engage in it if you are married, or that you
aren’t a sexual being. That’s right. But sexual purity means that you are not enslaved
and accustomed to degrading yourself in that relationship, or degrading others, because
it always comes in that way. Now, we can also help ourselves here by training
ourselves to take the initial signs which we used to use to get ready to cultivate your
lust, as signs to bless, to help, to pray for…that should be, for the person in question. As long as you engage in these activities
you are not going to have trouble with the others, but you have to train yourself to
do it and learning to see people as unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in
God’s great universe, opens the door then to doing these other things and using the
customary signals that one might have used, let’s say the proverbial construction worker
would use, to just turn the other way. And we can train ourselves to do that. Now then, let us go back further. Since we
have already surrendered self-will, getting what you want, you will not feel deprived.
See, many… The way the world runs, a person is apt to say, “Oh, I am being deprived if
I can’t do this, I am missing something important, I am missing something good.” Now you have to get out of that; you are not
missing something good; you are missing something that is harmful and can lead to much worse
things. So the surrender of self-will has to lay the foundation not only for anger but
ceasing to cultivate lust. Abandoning that. It all hangs together and I hope that is one
of the things you will see as you go along. The Process of Change Now then, what do we do as Christians, well,
we train ourselves; and then if we are leaders and we are leading a group of disciples who
want to be done with anger and with all of this other stuff, then we train them in the
things that we are talking about right here today. And we don’t treat things – life, anger, and
contempt and sexuality – as if they were sort of peeled grapes that it is impossible to
pick up, and as slippery and as incapable of getting ahold of; because now we have thought
about it, and we have teaching about it, it may have struck us that actually Jesus knows
something about it and has something to teach us about it. And then we are ready to act.
And in our groups and in our lives individually we can begin to take steps to change that
inside the mind, the will and the feelings in such a way that we are able to do the things
that Jesus said. You know, that is crucial if what I have said
to you is right, we have to grow in grace by our own actions as well as receive that
grace from God, so we have to know what to do, so we don’t just say, “Oh, I’ve failed
again, I am going to try harder next time.” We don’t say that; we say, “How did that happen,”
and we have to go through all the stages. We have to have the vision that it is okay
if I didn’t do that, it would be okay if I didn’t engage in that. My ears wouldn’t fall
off. I’d still be a human being; it’s okay. Then we go to the stage of decision, saying,
“I am going to be that way.” And then we get into these details and we do whatever is necessary
in addition to the sorts of things I’ve talked about to help us become a different kind of
person on the inside. So then agape love is the sure answer to lust.
What you love you will treat lovingly, but you have to understand the details and see
what goes into that. Spiritual Disciplines and Change Now, then, just finally here, let’s go back
to disciplines, because we’ve talked about the vision, the intention, and the means;
and we have to say that when you come to implement this, for example, dealing with anger, you
are going to have to think in terms of disciplines that will help you change. Remember the principle of indirection which
I talked here again about. You are becoming different inside, and you have to do the things
that change you; so solitude and silence and fasting and study, all those things inside,
you engage in those without asking the question directly of, “How is this going to change
me?” Will it modify my behavior? Change from the inside It will modify your behavior, but remember
you don’t aim at modifying behavior; you aim at changing the insides, and then when the
insides are changed the behavior changes. Disciplines enable us to do what we cannot
do by direct effort – so you cannot stop cultivating lusting by trying to stop cultivating lusting.
You cannot do it. You have to go through the process of understanding and habit change,
habits of envy, other relational – see, those have to change from the inside. So you can’t do that by direct efforts. So
disciplines enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort. So we just go into solitude,
we go into silence, we practice worship, we change all of those attitudes that lead us
into degrading positions and then we are no longer there. Change through worship And worship is a tremendously important – genuine
worship, admiration of God, astonished reverence of God; that is a good word for worship, is
astonished reverence for God. Many of our songs express those, some we don’t
know any longer, but if you go back and read a lot of the old hymns; maybe you know the
old hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” – that is a tremendously powerful, theological
song. It exalts God in such a way that the back effect is to change us. John Newton’s old hymn: “How tedious and tasteful the hours when Jesus
no longer I see. / Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers have all lost their
sweetness to me. / The midsummer sun shines but dim, the fields try in vain to look gay
/ But when I am happy in him, December’s as pleasant as May. / His name yields the richest
perfume and sweeter than music his voice. / His presence disperses my gloom and makes
all within me rejoice. / I would were he always this nigh, have nothing to doubt nor to fear.
/ No mortal’s as happy as I, my summer would last all the year.” You see, that is worship. Now when you are
living there, that changes you. Change through study Of course, study has to go with worship, inform
the mind. The emotions and the mind come together and so we come to the position that you see
expressed in Psalm 16:8, if you remember that great Messianic Psalm, and in 16:8 David says:
“I have set the Lord always before me, he is at my right hand, I will not be moved.” That’s discipline, that’s what the disciplines
do, and they work by indirection, and they are not aimed at behavior but the changes
come in behavior. So solitude and fasting, and so on, have tremendous effects on these
areas of anger and lusting. I want to read you a letter here from a young
lady who had been experimenting – under direction, she had been experimenting with fasting and
solitude, and the effect it had on her. A young Japanese woman, actually; and a friend
of mine had gone from Fuller Seminary over to do some work there teaching in Japan, and
this young lady gave this testimony, just listen to these beautiful words. She said: “The more I practiced this discipline of solitude
and silence the more I appreciate their strength, and the less I become judgmental and skeptical;
and the more I learn from them the more I accept things I didn’t really like about others.
The more I accept them as uniquely created in the image of God, the less I talk, the
fuller are words spoken at an appropriate time. The more I value others, the more I
serve them in small ways. The more I enjoy and celebrate my life, the more I celebrate
the more I realize God has given me wonderful things in my life and the less I worry about
my future. I will accept and enjoy what God is continuously giving me. I think I am beginning
to really enjoy God.” The effects of change That is how disciplines work. The disciplines
that are tried and true in the life of the biblical people and more recently, always
have the effect of changing the whole sense of life and the sense of God so that you are
no longer driven by feelings, by hungers, by needs, an so on, because you are centered
in the sufficiency of God. Summarizing the Sermon Now, we need to say a little more about chapter
6 of the Sermon; well, let’s not go there directly, let’s finish
up chapter 5, just quickly. I’ve talked about these two main topics of anger and contempt
on the one hand, and cultivated lusting; but then as you go on through that sermon and
culminate at the end where it is talking about being perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,
because now you love those who hate you, and your enemies, you love them. Anger, contempt, and lust He goes through a series of things here affecting
not only divorce – because you see, if you have already dealt with anger and contempt
and cultivated lusting, there is not going to be much of a problem with divorce, because
divorce without anger, contempt and cultivating lusting will almost never occur. There may be some other reason, but normally
they come out of those conditions, but then he goes on to talk about what we discussed
last night, namely, letting your yes be yes and your no be a no, and then he moves on
to retaliation. Retaliation The old law said you could have an eye for
an eye, or a tooth for a tooth. Actually that was a merciful law because it was a rule that
if someone knocked out one of your eyes, you couldn’t knock out two of theirs, same with
teeth and so on. It was a way of restricting revenge. Now if you have already taken care
of these earlier issues, then you will be ready to deal with the retaliation. Now Jesus says, don’t resist those who are
evil and I hasten to say this is talking about a personal relationship. Don’t resist them
in the way they are attacking you. So, if someone slaps you, don’t slap them back. Remain
vulnerable to them. Now if you are a person who is operating out
of your own desires and anger you won’t be able to do that and there are all sorts of
ways of responding to that. Everyone has heard the person who says: “Well, I will turn the
other cheek and then I will knock their head off.” Legalism Now that is thinking legalistically; that’s
like the person who has to go a second mile – well maybe the person doesn’t want to go
a second mile and you say, “Well Jesus told me go the second mile so I have to carry your
load on down the way.” You don’t go about it legalistically; you think about it in the
terms of the spirit of Jesus, the realities of the Kingdom, of how love works, and then
these things begin to fit in place. “You shall love your neighbor and hate your
enemy.” It is interesting in this case, verse 43, you can’t get, “Hate your enemy,” out
of the old law, so it isn’t quoted. The part about love your neighbor is quoted, but, “Hate
your enemy,” had actually been added on by the time of Jesus, as a requirement, you should
hate your enemy. And that is something that still is in the world today. But Jesus says, “Love your enemies, pray for
those who persecute you, in order that you may be the sons of your Father in Heaven.”
(Matthew 5:44) That means in order that you can have the nature of your Father in Heaven.
So it will be children, children inherit the nature of their father. Here is what he does: “He causes his sun to
rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” That
is what he is like. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have.” (Matthew
5:45-46) In other words, what’s the big deal about that, if you love those who love you.
And he goes on to say, Everyone does that. If you greet your brothers only, what do you
more than others. Even the Gentiles do the same thing. The Gentiles, remember, are those
who do not know God. Living the Sermon Now I am piling stuff on here, and I know
it gets a little heavy because you start thinking in terms of, how am I going to do all of that.
Someone comes, give unto him that ask of you, to him that would borrow from you, don’t turn
them away. Give them what they want. Can we actually do that? Well, again, we can’t if we are living on
our own resources and all we know is controlling things so that they come out the way we want
them. If we have abandoned that, there will be cases where people will ask you for something
and they will have no claim on you at all, but you will give it to them, and you will
not base it on some prior claim but simply on their need; and basing the giving of something
just on need is a characteristic that you will see in people who have learned to live
in the Kingdom of God. Responsibility Now you are going to make a law of it? I hope
not, because sometimes there will be other claims on things you might give to a person.
I had a case a couple of weeks ago, a man who was asked for some money and the money
he had was devoted the bills that he already owed. Should you give that money to people
who asked you? Well, he was torn by that and he stepped into the situation in a way that
he was bothered by the legalism of it and he did give the money, and God did give him
what he needed to pay the bills. But see, you are going to have to make a judgment
about this, and when you look at all these things, like turning the other cheek and remaining
vulnerable, about giving to those who ask of you, going the second mile, you do not
abandon your responsibility to make a judgment about what you have to do and foist on these
teachings a legalism that says you always do exactly that. Love See this is describing a circumstance where
you are growing in your understanding and there will be occasions when you do this.
And in fact, probably in most occasions you will do it. But there will be occasions when
you don’t do it, now when that is true, what will be the reasoning? The reasoning will
be that love obliges you to do something different. Self defense is a legitimate thing. What is
not legitimate is to simply give back what you got; because he hit me, I hit him.
Self defense merely to defend yourself, no. There has to be a larger issue. The Teachings of Jesus So you have to think these things through
and the only alternative (and this is what has happened to the teachings of Jesus, over
and over again, through the ages) the only alternative is to turn these into laws and
then they will paralyze you because you actually won’t know what to do, because often they
will force you into conditions of conflict. Question prevailing assumptions So you have to then say, well, I understand
that these are practical teachings and the principle that Jesus teaches on is to contradict
the prevailing assumption. So the prevailing assumption is what? You don’t give to people
just because they ask you, right? You give to people because they have some prior claim
on you. When people hit you, you hit them back, right? And that’s right and proper.
No, Jesus says that is not the way it goes. You have to take this teaching along with
what we said about in Luke 14 yesterday – was it yesterday? You will remember the talk about
taking the seat out in the kitchen and waiting for someone to call you up, or the teaching
about, when you have a dinner, don’t invite your neighbor and your relatives. So you have to understand that in these teachings
Jesus is contradicting the prevailing assumptions about what you do and He is saying that for
the child of the Kingdom there will be many circumstances in which you will go contrary
to those assumptions because you are alive in the Kingdom. Disregard rule systems Now we have to go over this slowly and give
it time to sort of soak in because I think this is a hard lesson, because we keep wanting
Jesus to just tell us what to do. So we will even take something like, for example, “don’t
call people fools,” and we’ll try to make a rule out of that. And you can never catch the reality of the
Kingdom in a set of rules. I know my grandmother would not allow me to call my little playmates
fools. Well, I solved that problem quickly, I said I’ll just think it! Do you think I
satisfied the rule? Well, if you interpret it legalistically I did, I didn’t call them
fools, I just thought it. It didn’t say, “Don’t think it,” did it, it didn’t say that, right,
I guess I can think it then. Interpreting Jesus’ Teachings Now see, if you take these teachings and try
to make them rules of righteousness you will always fail. They will become impossible to
do and you will make Jesus look like he is an idiot. A certain heart If, on the other hand, you understand that
he is talking about having a certain kind of heart which may well, out of love, go exactly
contrary to what is treated as righteousness: go the mile you have to, don’t hit someone
unless they’ve hit you and then you can hit them back, don’t give to people who have no
claim on you, if you have an enemy hate him real good. Well, that’s not where you live
when you live in the Kingdom of God. The meaning of perfection So that is what He is really coming to, when
he comes to the end here he says, “Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” That
has caused many people a lot of trouble and I think you need to understand the word teleo
there does not mean legal perfection; it means functional completeness. It means function
in love and in Kingdom reality as your Father in Heaven does. It does not refer to legal righteousness,
perfect adherence to the law. Give up on that one. You’d never do that and it is a good
thing you didn’t because if you did you would be overwhelmed with pride. So when it is talking about being perfect
it is talking about growing into the language we used last evening from Ephesians, Paul’s
language, “growing into the fullness of humanity in Christ.” Ephesians 4. Now a child, for
example, can be a perfect child, and be a perfect teenager, that’s a little hard to
conceptualize, but still, as people grow they are perfect all along the line, though they
have much growing to do. And that is the kind of purpose driven completeness that Jesus
is talking about.

6 thoughts on “Dallas Willard – Divine Conspiracy 11: Living Without Anger

  1. Anger? Jesus was angry 3x    are you saying Jesus sinned?  He said be angry and not sin….. are you reading  the real English Bible the "authorized version"check them yourself

  2. I'm trying to think of who in church history had as much effect on the church of his day, indeed the Kingdom of God itself, as Willard has had in our times. Aquinas, maybe. Augustine? The insights he shares in the entire series are earth-shaking, but hiding in plain sight in the Sciprture.

  3. 33, anger and contempt are twins. 36, the answer is love, you cannot have contempt for things you love. 1:00:00 What you love you will treat lovingly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *