Angry Christians

Anger is one of those emotions that terrifies us. It invades us with unique strength and energy, an energy that overwhelms our senses and engulfs our self-control. We end up doing things that we never imagined we could do, saying things we never thought we could utter.

Anger is an emotion of power. Unchecked, it easily transforms into rage. Because of its raw power, and the difficulty of taming it, we hide from anger. We cover it up and do all we can to suppress it.

Today we focus on facing our fears. Today we learn how to stand with anger instead of fleeing from it. Today we stop viewing anger as a rabid mountain lion looking to tear us limb from limb and begin viewing it as a wild horse that we will one day tame and saddle.

Humanity has lost touch with the concept of anger that God created us to feel. It became corrupted during the Fall and we have allowed it to splinter and destroy relationships since then.

Humanity’s Corrupted Anger

Genesis 4:3-5
In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offerings but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Here we see the first account of man’s anger. We are not told exactly what his anger is directed at so it’s hard to tell if it started with any righteousness behind it. If his anger was from the damaged relationship between him and God because of his improper offering, then his anger could have been a righteous anger. If it was at God for not accepting his offering with favor or at Abel for having a more pleasing offering than him, then it was a corrupted anger.

What we do know is that Cain did not respond righteously with his anger.

Genesis 4:8
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Wherever Cain’s anger originated from, he allowed it to turn into spite. Whether it started good or not, Cain did not properly use his anger. His anger burned within him and pushed him into action, but he did not allow his anger to push him into righteous action.

Action is the natural response to anger. Yelling. Clenched fists. Throwing and smashing. Punching and kicking. Murder. Look at humanity’s release of anger and you see how it makes us do things. It makes us act, or react, to whatever sparked that anger.

Anger is a fuel that, once lit, releases vast amounts of energy. It feels like sitting down in a race car and putting your foot through the floor. It’s a rush, and often times it feels so good to release that anger.

We see from the first biblical mention of anger how dangerous it can be. This warning resounds through scripture.

James 1:19-21
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James explicitly points out how man’s corrupted anger does not bring about a life of righteousness. Corrupted anger does not fit into a God-centered life.

Luckily, he is nice enough to continue on and tell us why our anger is corrupted. It’s because of the moral filth and evil that is in the world around us. It is because of the Fall.

The Fall occurred from our decision to live outside of God’s will. The Fall happened because we chose to believe that we were above God and knew better than Him. The Fall was caused by pride and selfishness.

The pride and selfishness that humanity chose to corrupt the world with is the same pride and selfishness that corrupts the emotion of anger.

Cain was angry because of a broken relationship between him and God. Abel chose to maintain his relationship with God by acknowledging that God provides for him and responding with trust and respect which was displayed through the offering of the firstborn of his flock. Offering the firstborn of his flock showed trust in God that He would provide Abel with more than just the firstborn.

Cain did not show the same trust that Abel did. He did not offer his firstfruits. He kept them for himself and offered God the leftovers. That lack of trust broke the relationship between Cain and God. This angered Cain even though his actions of selfishness and lack of trust caused the break.

This anger could have been good. It could have pushed him to change his actions towards God and restore the relationship, but Cain’s pride would not allow him to react this way. Since he could not lash out against God, he lashed out against his brother. Cain was jealous of his brother and his anger caused him to break Abel’s relationships by killing him.

This is why corrupted anger has no place in the kingdom of God, because it pushes us to act in ways that break the relationships God formed us to have.

God’s Righteous Anger

But anger does not have to push us to break relationships; anger does not have to lead to destruction. Anger can push us towards actions of restoration.

John 2:14-16
In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

As Christians, I think we tend to want to view Jesus as a peacemaker. We like the image of the lamb that was led to slaughter without fighting back. We like a Jesus that calms storms instead of starting them.

But here we see an angry Jesus; a Jesus so angry that he makes a whip and starts flipping tables. Talk about anger pushing us into action. Here we see Jesus as the lion of the tribe of Judah; we see his ferocity.

How is this a display of righteous anger? He kinda sounds like a madman!

Here we see Jesus becoming angry for the right reasons and responding with righteous actions that lead to restoration.

Jesus’ anger did not derive from pride or selfishness. Jesus’ anger spawned from sadness about the relationships between God and between people that were being broken in that moment.

It Jesus’ time, it wasn’t uncommon for people to sell animals in the temple courts. They sold them to those who needed animals to sacrifice because they had sinned. But the merchants would often sell them for unreasonable prices because they knew people would have to pay. They took advantage of people’s repentance.

This broke Jesus’ heart. An act that was meant to help restore a relationship between God and His children was being used to break relationships between God’s children.

Jesus was angry because relationships were being broken. Jesus was angry because people were being taken advantage of. Jesus was angry at the state of oppression.

So Jesus’ response was to disrupt the oppression. He cleared out those that were responsible for the broken relationships. His anger caused him to stop the breaking of relationships. His anger pushed him to stop sin.

That is the difference between corrupted anger and righteous anger. Corrupted anger pushes us to break relationships. Righteous anger pushes us to restore relationships.

Anger

Taunted by all, he is stripped of his pride
Where was I? I should have been by his side
Bullied by the masses, his hope is cracked
Overcome by anger, I have to act

Bloodied and bruised, he’s curled up in the sand
As his only friend, I reach out my hand
Already broken, he is only ten
From anger I promise, “Never again.”

Comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!

Love and Hate

Ecclesiastes 3:8
A time to love and a time to hate.

I grew up in a world that had pretty definite feelings about love and hate. Although I was never explicitly taught this, everything I had learned, seen, and heard pushed me to the idea that love is always good and that hate is always bad.

God is the ultimate good, He is perfect, He is who we are striving to imitate. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love God does not know God, because God is love.” If God is Love, and God is always good, then Love must always be good. Right?

And on the other side of the coin is hate. 1 John 3:15 says “anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” and we know from the 10 commandments that murder is bad. So this means hate must be bad.

The idea that love is good and hate is bad was further reinforced by how I was taught to treat others, and what words I was allowed to use growing up. Hate was almost a curse word. My favorite line was “Now, don’t say hate, hate is such a strong word. Just say you strongly dislike it.” Don’t get me wrong, hate is a strong word, but maybe it isn’t always a bad word.

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart the devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up conflict among brothers.

It was verses like these that began to breakdown my love-over-hate theology. If love is always good then all types of love should be good. If hate is always bad then God shouldn’t hate things. But the verses above show us that this isn’t the case. Love can be bad and hate can be good.

Hate

One of the reasons it is easy for us to view hate as bad is because hate is a destructive force. It breaks down everything around it. Normally, when we experience hate in our lives it is breaking the social relationships around us. We label it racism and sexism. We watch it tear families, governments, and nations apart. It ruins friendships and marriages. It’s like a rabid wolf that goes straight for the throat.

Please don’t believe that I speak from a place of ignorance. I have broken relationships with my hatred and I have been broken by the hatred of others. Although maybe not as deeply as some, I have seen the wake of destruction that hate can leave. And because of this I clung to the teaching of my youth, that hatred should be avoided at all cost.

But trying to remove hatred from my life left me confused and empty in some places. I came across situations where hatred seemed the only response and anything short of hate felt wrong. So I was forced to look for a way to redeem hate. The journey began with the understanding that there are some things that are never ok to hate.

Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus makes it very clear that love must always be felt in relation to God. Hate has no place in our relationship with Him. God is the creator of all things. He created us and gave us life. He never stops pouring out His love to us. Our response to Him should be love. We do not want to use the destructive nature of hate against God because we want to continue to build up our relationship with Him.

Jesus also makes it very clear that love must always be felt in direct relation to our fellow humans. As humans, we have been created in the image of God; part of who we are mirrors the divine. Thus, to hate a fellow human being is to hate that part of God.

Hating God and hating people is bad because it destroys the beautiful relationships that God created us to experience. But what if there were bad relationships that need to be broken?

Psalms 45:7a
You [God] love righteousness and hate wickedness

Proverbs 13:5a
The righteous hate what is false

Jude 1:22-23
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

There are things in this world that hinder the Kingdom of God. There are governments and corporations that take advantage of the poor and plunge the weak into oppression. There are feelings of racism and sexism that manifest into abusive systems. There are feelings of indifference towards those that lack food and shelter.

Things like these oppose God and fight against His Kingdom. They separate us from God and they separate us from each other. It is these things that we should hate. These ideologies and systems that create oppression and injustices need to be torn down so that the Kingdom of God can flow in.

Anything less than a hatred for this corruption will be ineffective. The purpose of hate is to inspire and motivate us to remove and fix what is wrong in the world. The proper display of righteous hatred will break down barriers that stop people from experiencing God.

Love

If hate is a destructive force, then love is a creative force. That is one of the most powerful things about love – it builds.

Colossians 1:15-16
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Look again at those last few words. “All things have been created through him and for him.” The Father’s overflowing love for the Son was the basis of creation. We were created out of love. Love brings forth, inspires, and motives the act of creation.

The most common human creation that love inspires is relationships. Love is what builds the relationships between us and God and between us and other people. It helps rebuild the relationships that were broken by sin and improper hatred.

Our love for God inspires our love for other people. Our love for other people inspires us to create systems that allow people to flourish.

A doctor’s love for people inspires him to heal them. A lawyer’s love for people inspires him to fight for their justice. A police officer’s love of people inspires him to protect them. Loving God and loving other people is what inspires us to create a world that takes care of everyone.

But loving the wrong things builds the wrong type of relationships. Let us revisit our verse from above.

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

The love of money creates hospital systems where the poor cannot receive the help they need. The love of money creates lawyers who protect companies who have taken advantage of people. The love of money creates police officers who look the other way. When we love parts of creation more than we love God, or even more than we love other people, we begin to build the wrong types of relationships.

The key to understanding how to love and how to hate is to place them in perspective of the Kingdom of God. If creating or destroying leads to justice and order and other things of God, it is good. If creating or destroying leads to injustice and disorder and things that oppose God, it is bad. When we love and hate the right things, we are living in a way that brings forth the Kingdom of God.

Hate

Waves of hatred crash against my soul
Waves of hatred crash against my heart

Advantage is taken of the oppressed
Advantage is taken of the needy
The sick are preyed upon
The poor are stomped upon

Against these things my hatred rages
Against these things my hatred battles

Love

Little boy in a sandbox
As innocent as can be

Little boy in a sandbox
You have no evil to flee

Little boy in a sandbox
Experienced love from all

Little boy in a sandbox
Built castles with walls so tall

Little boy in a sandbox
Creating a world of peace

Little boy in a sandbox
Shows love that will never cease

Please comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!

An Emotional Journey

Happy 2019 everyone! 2018 was a big year for me. I graduated, started two new jobs, got engaged, and officiated my brother’s wedding. Those were all wonderful moments, but 2018 had plenty of lows. Each one of those highs was accompanied with its fair share of stress. And I expect nothing different in 2019. There will be countless highs, each with an accompanying low. Some things seem predictable like that.

One of the things I value most from 2018 was my growth as a person. I can’t claim any of the credit, that is saved for God, Laurel, family, and friends, I just get to reap the rewards, after enduring all the growing pains. I’m looking forward to all the growing I have to do this year. And for the next few weeks, I want to help jump-start your self-growth for the year!

Improving self-understanding is an important part of life. It helps us interact with others, understand why we act the way we act, and control our reactions. As a former psychology major, I am pro-self-discovery and pro-emotions. Over the next few blog posts, I want us to explore the idea of emotions.

Matthew 22:34-40
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These next few blog posts will focus on the second greatest commandment: loving your neighbor as yourself. This idea of loving your neighbor is deeply rooted in theology. It is the second of the three relationships that I have mentioned in past blog posts: the social relationship.

God created Adam and Eve in harmony with one another. They were naked before each other but felt no shame. They accepted each other for who the other was. They also accepted themselves for who they were. And because of that, no shame needed to exist.

During the Fall, this harmony between Adam and Eve was broken. The acceptance they felt between each other, and for themselves, was broken. They felt shame, and they wanted to hide themselves.

We still hide ourselves from those around us because we are afraid to be seen, to be known, by others. We are afraid that they won’t accept us for who we are. So we hide behind masks. We paint facades around who we truly are so that we can have a buffer between those we interact with and who we really are.

This facade protects us. It allows us to be whoever we need to be in whatever situation we find ourselves in. If they don’t like our projection of ourselves, then we just paint a new one. Generally speaking, we have learned to change ourselves to fit into our environments. Sometimes we become so good at this that we begin to forget who we really are behind all that paint.

All of this is done in order to avoid feeling pain and sadness and rejection, these emotions that we label as bad. When our facades begin to fail, and people begin to see ‘the real us,’ it can be hard for them to accept it because we don’t accept it ourselves, we might not even remember who it is. We’ve spent all this time hiding who we are because we don’t believe we’re good enough, because, when you boil it down, we don’t love ourselves. And when those ‘bad’ emotions begin to surface, we try to bury them with distractions such as drugs, alcohol, social media, and sex.

The focus of these upcoming posts will be on the last two words of the second greatest commandment: as yourself. The facades we paint over ourselves make it harder to love ourselves. The more we hide from others, the more we hide from ourselves. When you don’t love yourself, it taints how you love those around you.

My goal over the next few weeks is to help start the reversal of all of this. Now, this is a big mess to clean up, so I’m going to begin by focusing on one specific aspect: the emotions. We don’t just paint facades over ourselves, we paint them over our emotions too. Whether they’re emotions we don’t want to face or that we are feeling towards ourselves and we don’t like or that we are feeling towards others and we think we shouldn’t, we hide or run away from these ‘bad’ emotions.

These are the emotions that we are afraid to feel, the emotions that compel us to pretend to be someone else. We are going to learn how to embrace them, how to properly feel them as children of God. As we learn how to feel these emotions, we will learn how to properly express these emotions. We will learn how to express them in ways that restore social relationships (within ourselves and with others) and brings about the Kingdom of God.

We like to group our emotions into categories. The two most common categories are good and bad. We like to think that love and happiness and hope are good while hate and sadness and anxiety are bad. This is easy and clean on paper but confusing and messy in real life. What if this categorization is wrong? What if emotions are neither good nor bad?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 8-11a
There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance
. . .
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

The writer of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher, plays with the idea of emotions not fitting every circumstance. “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Here, the Teacher is making a case that sometimes we’re sad, sometimes life’s hard and it gets us down, and maybe that’s ok. Other times life is rockin, everything is going our way and we deserve some celebration, and that’s ok. He continues to the emotions of love and hate. Sometimes it’s a time to show love and that’s good. Sometimes it’s a time to show hate and that’s good too.

God, the creator of all things in the heavens and on earth, created us with the ability to feel every emotion known to humanity. Then He looked at us and saw that we were very good. Not that we are good except when we feel this certain emotion. Or that we are good as long as we’re not feeling that certain emotion. God created us to feel everything and that is very good.

But the Teacher in Ecclesiastes hits it right on the nose. It is not good to feel every emotion all the time. And there are sometimes when it’s bad to feel certain emotions. God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about what this looks like in our lives. How do we feel emotions in their proper time so that they are beautiful? When is the wrong time to feel the emotions that we generally think of as ‘good’?

One major theme that you will see through the next few weeks is that the emotions and the responses to those emotions are equally important. God created all emotions with the potential to be good or bad, very similar to how all humans have been created with the potential to be good or bad. How we chose to display those emotions, and when we choose to embrace them, are what defines them as good and bad.

Our first emotions next post will be love and hate. I’m excited to begin this journey with you! Please comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!