Our fourth deadly sin is one of the most common, and it goes by many names: ire/irate, wrath, fury, rage, temper, and hot (any other synonyms?).
I don't like to think of myself as an angry person - though I know of some people who do... - but when I'm honest with myself, I get angry more easily then I realize or am willing to admit.
Anger is a funny emotion - it is so natural...it just happens before we realize it. And it often feels good - there is something satisfying about being angry. But after too long (or not too long) I don't like how I feel, I don't like what it does to me. I start out angry at somebody "out there", in the car that passed me, on the customer service phoneline, etc. But then, if I nurse that anger a little too long, I get snappy with the people real close to me, and they get a dose of ire that they don't deserve. I don't like that.
This week's message takes a look at the life of Cain, the first son of the earth. There is this interesting progression of anger in his life - that in this case leads to a killing, anger is a deadly sin. Cain offered some of his harvest to the LORD, Abel followed the example of this older brother - but he offered up the fattest sheep in his flock. The LORD was pleased with young Abel's offering, and displeased with calculating Cain. And this made Cain angry. The LORD really likes Cain, he shows up later and talks with him: if you do what is good, I'll be pleased with you, beware of your anger, it is like a hidden dragon, a crouching tiger ready to destroy you - be the master of your evil desire.
Jesus, in his famous teaching on anger in his Sermon on the Mount, I think references the story of Cain. Jesus instructs us on the progression of anger - first is anger, then is contempt, then is cursing.
Cain was angry with Abel, his pride was wounded. By nursing that anger/wound, he begins to feel contempt for his younger brother - who does he think he is?!?. Cain spits at Abel...when the kid is not looking. But the contempt grows worse, Cain begins to hate Abel, for getting what he didn't deserve, for taking away what was rightfully Cains...and so Abel begins to curse him in his mind/heart - that stupid, frickin jerk.... You get the idea.
Jesus' antidote to anger is empathy...acts of reconciliation instead of angry contempt; letting your anger go cuts you off from God and makes a mess of your life. You can't stop yourself from getting angry, but you can kill the hidden dragon, you can kill the crouching tiger before it leaps to infect you with contempt and cursing - kill it with love for your enemy/annoying neighbor.