Dangers of Righteous Anger

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Jude 1:21
The most dangerous anger I’ve witnessed lately is righteous indignation. The reason it is dangerous is humans aren’t righteous. We are most prone to do ugly things to each other when we’re angry and either it is justified or we believe we are justified.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Most dangerous anger: righteous indignation. We’re most prone to do ugly things when justifiably angry.[/tweetthis]

It saddens me that so many grown adults behave as if they honestly believe “I am angry, and you were wrong, therefore you are no longer worthy of my respect, kindness, or being treated fairly, and I have every right to lash out and hurt you.”

This may be one of the greatest social ills plaguing my country today, perhaps the world. I see it all over the news, cropping up in many different ways, but the underlying spirit of “righteous” rage is the same, and it can drive good, reasonable people to do the cruelest of things to the people they love, sometimes perfect strangers.

One danger I see is how this rage can blind us to the hypocrisy of our actions. “Person X said/did Y to person X and this is deplorable. We should never do/say such hurtful, mean-spirited things. I will teach Person X by saying/doing hurtful, mean-spirited things to Person X. They deserve it, so I am totally clean. My nasty behavior is justified by the nasty behavior of Person X.”

When we succumb to such thinking, in realty, we have become part of the problem ourselves. We have become what we hate.

Brothers and sisters, we can be dismayed but not too surprised when the world behaves in this manner as our culture slides further and further away from any sort of Christian foundation. Let’s seek to keep it out of the Church, starting with the one person whose actions we have any control over: the person in the mirror.

Let’s respond to evil with good. When they curse, let’s bless. When they’re rude, let’s pray for strength from God to speak kindly and respectfully back. A soft answer turns away wrath; turning the other cheek to insults can break the spread of the rage overtaking many.

No matter how wrong they are, and what we think they deserve, let’s try to take a step back, remember Christ took the wrath of God that we deserved for our wrongs on the Cross. Let’s offer freely the love we have received from Christ, and let’s try to keep in mind the love of Christ is also rather different from the world’s idea of love, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Breathe. Slow, long. When your body tenses up, choose to unclench those clenched muscle groups. Acknowledge to yourself that you are angry. Acknowledge the reality of the wrong/injustice/threat provoking the anger response. Pray and ask God for wisdom in how to address the real issue while by being kind, respectful, gentle, patient and forgiving toward the other party rather than attacking in kind. We won’t always succeed. We will fail and make our own mistakes. As much as we safely can, be sure to acknowledge your own wrong to the other person as their wrong does not justify ours.

Hate can’t be overcome with hate. It only can be overcome with God’s love.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ro 12:14;17-21

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Angry? Hate can’t be #overcome with #hate. It only can be overcome with God’s #love. See: Ro 12:14;17-21[/tweetthis]

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Biases: Free Flash Fiction Friday

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random deli not affiliated with this fictional story.

random deli not affiliated with this fictional story.

The door chimed as a male, non-Jewish customer entered Rivka Cohen’s kosher deli. Her stomach churned. George’s dad was well known for anti-Semitism but surely he didn’t take after his dad. After all, she knew George’s wife from synagogue, though her friend hadn’t gone since they were little. She grinned and waved. “Hi, George. What can I get for you today?”

A light gleamed in his eyes. “Turkey and Swiss on rye with the works, please.”

“Coming right up.” She rang up the turkey on rye sandwich separately from his special request, the slice of cheese. Her stomach tightened as she made his order. His special request wasn’t kosher but he wasn’t of her faith, she didn’t have to eat it and surely she wouldn’t become ceremonially unclean over cheese. It wasn’t unclean according to Torah. It was the Rabbis who had interpreted “Don’t boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk” to mean not to even put cheese on a sandwich. They might judge her at her synagogue, if they found out, but no one would see.
turkey sandwich
She wrapped his sandwich, passed it to him, and gave him his total. After he paid, she handed back his credit card and said with a bright smile, “Have a good day!”

“Thank you.” He tapped his fingers. “My daughter is having a bar mitzvah at our interfaith synagogue in four weeks.”

Ugh. Maybe she had misunderstood, and his daughter had decided to practice her mother’s abandoned faith? Muscles tensing, she forced her smile to stay put. “You mean a bat mitzvah. Girls have bat mitzvahs, not bar mitzvahs.”

“That is so sexist. Our interfaith synagogue practices true equality. Girls have bar mitzvahs, too, and you don’t have to believe Torah is the word of God or commit to keep the Torah to get one.”

That was absurd. She took a deep breath. This wasn’t the place for a religious argument.

The door chimed again as another customer came in. She waved. “Be right with you, ma’am.”

George cleared his throat and leaned over the counter. “You cater, right?”

A bat mitzvah being ignorantly called a bar mitzvah that made a mockery of her faith. She swallowed. It was surely unintentional. Best to let it go. She got out her pad of catering order forms. “Yes, we cater special events. What would you need?”

“Oh, about two hundred shredded pork sandwiches.”

Her face fell. That was it. She put away the catering order forms. “I’m sorry, I’d suggest you go down to Ted’s Barbeque. We don’t serve pork.”

“Excuse me? You got a problem with my love for pork? How dare you! Who are you to judge?”

Huh? “You’re not a Jew. What you eat elsewhere is your business, but we are a kosher deli. It says so on all our ads and signage. Pigs are among the animals of which Torah itself says, ‘You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’”

“That is bigoted discrimination. A deli is a deli. I have a right to walk into any deli I please and order a pork product and get service, not judgment and hate over my love of pork. Besides, I am a long time customer, and you’ve regularly broken kosher laws for me.” He pointed at the turkey and Swiss on rye. “Thanks to that, you have to be willing to make me anything I order, for any occasion, or it’s discrimination. If you can’t make me shredded pork sandwiches for my daughter’s interfaith bar mitzvah, then you shouldn’t be in business.”

The bell rang as the customer who had been waiting behind him left.

“Sorry you feel that way, sir,” she said in the most professional tone she could muster.

Her childhood friend’s husband tossed his sandwich in the garbage. “I won’t eat what the hands of hate made. I will issue a stop payment with my credit card company.” He stomped out. “And I will sue and take you for everything you’ve got!”

She gulped. Thankfully, she wasn’t one of the hateful, discriminatory Christians who refused to cater gay weddings at their secular bakeries. Only others who hated Jews wouldn’t see through the ploys of the hateful, bigoted false friend seeking to ruin her financially over her faith. Surely her right to practice her religion at her Jewish deli would be upheld and his lawsuit dismissed.

[tweetthis]Kosher Deli owner is betrayed by antisemitic spouse of her childhood friend in Biases[/tweetthis]

Author’s note: let’s each work on being aware of our own biases. Let’s each work on respecting the rights of others to earn a living according to their own conscience even if we disagree with them on political, religious, or any other controversy of the day.

Easter Basics: Facing the Cross of Christ.

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“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

In context, if I understand correctly, Peter tells us in verses 13-25:

  • Obey the local, state, and federal government, and the leadership of any other institution you may belong to, attend, work for, or serve under.
  • This is God’s will because it silences the historical objection to Christians’ assertion that Jesus is Lord. Based on the the Emperor of Rome’s assertion that he is Lord, non-Christians of the day felt to be a Christian was to be a treasonous lawbreaker. Obeying the secular law silences that argument and any similar modern criticisms. (Interestingly, the apostles  did defy any civil regulation deliberately designed to hinder their god-given call to spread of the gospel.)
  • Obey God as Lord also. We are free in Christ, but must not use our freedom from sin to sin.
  • Respect everyone, believer or not, and love all Christians.
  • Employees, respect and obey your employers even if your employers treat you unfairly.
  • Do this because you only spiritually benefit and please God if you are punished unfairly or otherwise suffer unjustly.
  • We are called to suffer for Christ because he suffered for us; i.e. being his disciple requires we take up the cross and follow him.
  • Seek to follow also his example of not sinning or deceiving others, not returning verbal abuse with verbal abuse or threatening others, but trusting God to judge justly.
  • It is possible for us to die to sin like this and become righteous because he bore our sins on the cross and suffered the penalty in his own body. By his wounds, we have been cured of our straying and have been returned to proper relationship with God, like sheep with our shepherd.

Lord, we thank you for your word. We thank you for freeing us from the bondage of sin and death and the lies of the evil one. Strengthen us in our resolve not to sin against you, give us quiet, gentle spirits that respect all people and honor civil authorities, our employers, etc. even when the unbelievers are not treating us fairly in return.  Grant us also the strength and wisdom to resist the temptation to enable sinful, unjust behavior  in Christian leaders, but hold them to account for blaspheming you by their actions. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Don’t be ashamed of suffering Christians

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“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” (2 Timothy 1:8-9)

Verse eight is not nearly as popular as verse nine. We much prefer the assurance  we’re saved by grace not by works, to the context of this verse. We tend to avoid suffering, not want to share in the suffering of others. Our idea of comforting and encouraging someone frankly often comes across to the hurting as “get over it” because, frankly, we want them to get over it and stop making us uncomfortable.

Empathizing, entering into their pain, crying with them, lamenting with them, rather than rushing them to “praise God” and “glory be”, how many of us actually do that? Even fewer than those of us who wouldn’t be tempted to turn on a believer imprisoned because of their work for the Lord. Surely they’re bad people and misguided, bad Christians and that’s why they’re in jail. The media, after all, told us so.

Don’t be deceived. Misguided or not, they have a record for same reason the Apostle Paul would have one today. Don’t be ashamed of their testimony and standing up for scriptural truth as best as they understand it.

We are not saved by our works, the scripture is clear we are saved by Grace–for the work the Lord purposed for us to do. He calls and equips us to holiness.  We are saved from sin, not saved so we can sin. If you’re using grace today as an excuse to sit on your duff, ignore his call, and ignore what the holy spirit is instructing you to do, cut it out.

This message is brought to you by Ash Wednesday and ministries everywhere in bad need of workers. 🙂

Lord, where are you leading us? What are you calling us to do? Open our hearts and our ears to hear your voice and obey you out of love, not fear of condemnation and hell. Forgive us for the times we’ve been ashamed or have turned our faces away from suffering or unwittingly heaped on others suffering with “encouragement” that condemns them for hurting. Give us wisdom and show us how to enter in to others suffering as you lead. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

God’s Love in Suffering’s Reality

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35,37)

Paul is long winded, so for the full scope of what he is saying, we need to read chapters seven and eight of Romans in one sitting, or at least 8:26-39. The most crucial context to these verses appears to be, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

This passage has a subtext or implication modern Christians in the first world, and America particularly, prefer to ignore or hope to never endure: that we will actually suffer with Christ as well as graciously  receive all things, that we will endure the suffering that cannot separate us from God’s love. We think we’re more special than all the saints before us and should be magically spared from the trial and tribulation that our culture’s corruption will inevitably bring upon us.

Our hope isn’t escape from and avoidance of pain–our hope is the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we who suffer with him shall also be glorified with him. God with us though everything. He promised to be with us and love us, redeeming every sorrow so good comes from it, even should times fall that for God’s sake, “we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” as the omitted verse 26 says, persecution still suffered by many of our brothers and sisters throughout history and across our globe today. The promise is, though we suffer much here, we have our hope secure in Christ and his love so long as we hold on.

If you are at a point today where you feel you cannot hold on any longer and you are ready to curse God and die (spiritually speaking,)  remember verse 26 says the spirit helps us in our weakness. Cry out to him. Scream, moan, groan, or wail, intelligibly or unintelligibly, as inclined. Tell him the honest truth of how you are feeling, but then, once you at last reach the bottom of your grief, remember his promises and hold out your hands. He will meet you there.

Lord, keep our eyes and hearts fixed upon you today. Increase our faith and endurance, and grow in us the knowledge of your good and righteous will. Show us the path you would lay out before us and cleanse our hearts of evil so we would walk in it. Grant us confidence in your perfect work of redemption. Give us hearts tender to you today and increase our love for one another. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.