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Spider-Man 3 - When Spider-Man dons his black suit made of the mysterious black ooze from outer space, it makes him feel strong and powerful, but it also brings out the worst in him. It feeds on his anger and hatred and causes him to act in rage. He hurts the people he cares about because of his uncontrolled anger.

The black suit is a poisonous force. It is a consuming power. It is a parasite that seeks a willing host. What gives it the open door to infect someone is anger.

Watching the movie this week I thought: “This is our text played out as a comic book parable.” READ Ephesians 4:25-5:2.

The destructive power of anger and hatred isn’t limited to the imaginary world of Spider-Man and the movies. On every level of human society, whether it is two friends or nations, anger will open the door to sin and brokenness when we do not control the anger. It “gives place to the devil.”

  1. Anger is going to happen. We shouldn’t be naïve. Anger will be there. Certain things trigger our anger. And it wouldn’t hurt for us to pay attention to what “pushes our buttons” and start doing something to control it. Why don’t we defuse the dynamite before it goes off? That’s much better than walking around with a chip on our shoulder. (This phrase actually originates in the practice of young men in the 19th century who would make an excuse to start a fight by placing a chip of wood on their shoulders and daring another to knock it off.)
  2. We always have a choice about the way we deal with our anger. Anger is going to be there. Even if we take the chip off our shoulder or unhook the wires to the “button.” Anger is a real and valid human emotion, but we always have a choice as to what are we going to do with it. “If you do get angry, do not sin.” (Note: that the text isn’t licensing sin. It should not be read in such a way that it says anger is just fine as long as you don’t sin. That’s like an unmarried couple saying “making out is fine as long we don’t go all the way.” It’s a justification of something dangerous.) Long before the black-suited Spider-Man, God described sin as a force waiting for a willing host. In Genesis 4, God spoke to Cain. He knew how angry Cain was getting with his brother (and with God). God urged him to be careful because sin was crouching outside the door waiting to consume him. God urged Cain to make the right choice and dispel the anger before it opened the door to sin. But Cain did not and he set off a chain of event that led to the death of his brother and God’s response to Cain’s sin.
  3. Someone says, “But I just go into an immediate rage when I get angry.” (i.e. I become the Hulk) – If that’s true, then 1. You may need medical or psychological attention if it is truly that severe, or 2. You are letting the anger go too far before you act. I suspect that most of us we know when we are getting angry. This is why the text uses proverbial wisdom. “Do not let the sun go down on your rage.” Whether anger is creeping up on us or right on us, we recognize it. It is at this point that we have the choice to do something about it. We can dispel it or convert it. If we are being offended by another we can work to resolve the matter peacefully and without condemnation. But if we allow the “sun go down” on our anger, it will grow into a grudge or a hatred or contempt. Like an untreated wound it festers. Anger takes on a less benign form such as rage and fighting, or more subtle but equally destructive forms like bitterness, slander, and malice. The original matter that made us angry may even go away, but the damage done by the festering is remains.
  4. And do not give the devil a foothold. The devil seeks to infect our community in this way. If the biblical writers had known about microbiology, they would certainly have describe the devil as a virus that infects a church seeking to replicate his “DNA” even as he wrecks the health of the church body. All that is needed is a foothold. When you and I refuse to manage the anger we feel in healthy, godly ways, we become the foothold that the devil uses to tear up our life together. This alone should be motivation to deal with our anger and to make the right choices when we are angry.
  5. Verse 32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Anger has this dangerous to turn inward. We get angry at others then angry at ourselves for getting angry. And that often causes us to avoid reconciling. We think it’s too far gone. It’s never too late. It’s never too far gone. That’s one of the lies that the enemy uses to prevent reconciliation. Forgiveness brings about healing. (It’s an important theme in the Spider-Man movie. The heroes win not simply by applying brute force, but they win through forgiveness and a new day dawns for all of them.) Kindness and compassion are not idealistic sugary sentiments. They are the virtues of God that we may imitate. They are virtues that are developed as we mature spiritually.

God has forgiven us. How shall we imitate him? Is there someone you should forgive, even if doing so means letting go of anger? Why not? Let’s get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, slander, and malice. Such negative forces really hurt us the most. And it injures the Holy Spirit of God with you.
Do you need to forgive yourself? Sometimes that is the source of anger.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 3 June 2007

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