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Anger

The Big 10: Murder Most Foul!

C’mon, preacher. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve got the 6th commandment down – piece of cake!

“You shall not murder.”

I don’t think anyone would disagree that murder is not cool. Whatever you’re feelings are about justifiable homicide, war, etc. – everyone seems to agree that murder is not okay. So we’re not going to spend a lot of time on this one. It’s just that one little line. Instead, we’re going to jump right to the New Testament:

MATTHEW 5:21-24 ~ 21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus takes the Old Testament idea of the action (murder) and converts it to a matter of the heart (anger). We can’t get away with avoiding behavior any more. We are confronted with the attitude and heart that underlies the behavior.

This is a problem for me. I could avoid killing people all day long. Getting angry? That’s a whole ‘nother matter! anger-794699_1280Jesus is saying that what’s on the inside can separate us from God. We can’t hate each other on the inside and then go pretend that everything is okay. But we do it all the time. Something happens and fills us with anger. Then we walk into church and we put on a happy face and say, “Praise Jesus – God is good!” We’re two-faced liars who would rather be passive-aggressive towards people than to be open and upfront.

Jesus says, “I CALL SHENANIGANS!”

He calls us out and says that the things we have between us can get between us and God. Don’t try to get right with God when you’re not right with everyone else. Let’s be honest – we do it all the time. We come to worship while harboring anger towards other people. And how often are we intentional about reconciling that anger before we worship? It almost NEVER happens.

Anger by itself is not wrong. We see examples in the Bible of God getting angry. We see Jesus getting angry. It’s not wrong – it’s part of the character of God. And if it’s part of the character of God it’s part of how we are wired. No, anger is not wrong.

How we DEAL with anger is where we go wrong.

Ephesians 4:26 ~ Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.

Anger is not bad – it’s part of who we are. Paul seems to believe that we can be angry and not sin. Anger is an attribute of God. God’s anger is a right reaction to moral evil and injustice. It’s not about personal insult or hurt. When God sees moral evil and injustice, God gets angry. What God gets angry about; we can get angry about in a righteous way. We can spot injustice and be righteously angry. When we get angry about our personal causes and offenses is where we run the risk of getting into sin.

Anger in and of itself is not wrong. The question is simply, “What are we angry about?”

What we get angry about and how we deal with that anger are the important things here! Anger can stir up trouble and have harmful consequences.

There are 3 Primary Causes of Anger:

  1. Injustice – We can get angry about the things that God gets angry about – when it’s about faith, righteousness, and justice.
  2. Frustration – something blocks us from our desired goal/outcome.

upset-534103_1920Frustration can cause anger. It’s NORMAL to respond in anger to frustration. If my desired outcome is to get all of my kids out of the door and into the van by a certain time and they fail to comply, my children are being roadblocks to my desired outcome. They are preventing me from my plan. And I get steamed – I become angry. It’s an easy anger, but it’s not a good anger.

  1. Threat/hurt – injury, insult, attack, etc.

Any time we’re injured, see an injury coming, or perceive any kind of threat (physical, emotional, etc.) our normal response is to get angry. Have you ever whacked your thumb with a hammer? We respond in anger. Did the nail do anything wrong? Nope. How about the hammer? Nu-uh. Yet we get angry over the hurt.

The same thing happens in relationships. When we see someone flirting with our significant other and we feel some sort of threat we respond in anger. We might call that type of anger jealousy, but it’s still an anger response.

It’s normal.

But just because anger responses are normal in these situations does NOT mean it’s okay to hold on to our anger. That’s why Jesus comes along and says, “Your anger is keeping you from your relationship with God.” Just from a physical point of view, holding on to our anger can cause real health problems. Living in freedom from anger can heal our souls AND our bodies.

But it often easier said than done. My dad’s side of the family is Scottish. My mom’s side is Irish. People often joke that I’m genetically bred to be angry. But there is no DNA excuse – we can’t skate by simply because of where we’re from. So here are some practical steps to letting go of the anger.

  1. Acknowledge/identify the anger – Who am I angry at? What am I angry for?

Confess to God. Confess to the person you have an issue with. Stuffing your feelings deep down inside is only going to make you sick. Tackle it head on (lovingly, if you confess to the person you have an issue with).

  1. Restrain your outbursts – no matter how mad you get it’s not gonna change the past. How you handle your anger IS gonna change your future.

I remember a classic Disney cartoon in which Donald Duck was taking an anger management class (via a record player). The voice on the record told him to try 10 second countdown timer – when he felt himself getting hot under the collar he was supposed to count down from 10 to zero. Whatever it takes for you, find a way to practice restraining your outbursts. Give yourself time to cool down.

  1. Let compassion replace resentment – get a different perspective; is there ANY other way to look at what’s happening?

When it comes to our anger towards other people, we can go a long way in letting go if we try to see the situation from another point of view. From my shoes I’ve been wronged, sure. What would happen if I tried to see it from an outsider’s vantage point? What about from the vantage point of the person with whom I’m angry? Find compassion for what they’re going through rather than focusing on your own sense of indignity.

  1. Resist ruminating – the 10 second replay button has to GO!

Going over and over and over and over situations that make us angry do nothing to help us cool down. In fact, they usually keep the fire stoked. If we’re serious about keeping our anger under control, we need to stop replaying the situation in our heads. Find something positive and lovely to think about instead. I’m not saying to ignore the situation and sweep it under the rug. I’m saying that we don’t have to re-live it day after day and hour after hour.

  1. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not take your anger out to the general public (like Facebook).

It only serves to escalate the problem and doesn’t allow you to forgive. The public route is merely an attempt to justify your anger. If you have to talk about it, talk to the person you’re angry at and not the entire community.

So What?

Jesus calls us to right relationships – to reconcile conflict as best we can (sometimes that’s not going to be possible – it is a two-way street) It’s time to let go of the anger we’ve been holding on to and time to move forward.

 Questions for Reflection

  • Who am I angry at?
  • Have I tried to work through the anger or am I holding on to it?
  • What would happen if I let go of the anger?

#SanBernardino and the Only Solution to Gun Violence

By now most of the world has been brought up to speed about the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. San Bernadino ShootingThree people went into a building and killed 14 others and wounded an additional 17. It is an incomprehensible tragedy. The violence is sickening and disgusting. Yet, even before the event concluded, both side of the political spectrum launched into promoting their own agendas.

Ban guns!

More guns!

Ban guns!

More guns!

It was entirely predictable.

The problem with the gun debate as it stands is that nothing either side proposes will provide a real working solution to the violence in America. Because the problem isn’t really about guns.

It’s about people.

A friend of mine commented that violence has been part of the human condition since the beginning, when a single act of rage wiped out 25% of the world’s population (Adam and Eve had two sons, so when Cain killed Abel…). It’s not the guns – it’s the human heart.

This is what Jesus is trying to get at when he says:

“You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder….’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire….”

It’s not about the weapon – it’s about the heart. As weapons change and technology changes, the ways in which we kill may change. When the condition that fuels such behavior remains unchecked, though, we will never see an end to the violence.

This is why the gun issue will never be resolved. It’s not really about guns. ChangeUntil humans are willing to change their hearts we will continue to be subjected to news stories of terror and violence. And this is not a solution that the government can carry out.

It’s something only God can do.

DVD Review: Whiplash – A Conversation With My Father

My wife and I recently watched the award winning Whiplash.Whiplash It is a phenomenal movie and stirred something in me. I found at times that I was holding my breath and my heart was racing. I watched a few scenes over again and had the same effect (you can watch one of my favorite scenes at the end of this review). If you’re going to watch it, though, know that the language is raw and graphic – clearly a reason the movie is rated-R. After making a comment about the movie on social media, my dad, Paul Linzey, mentioned that he and my mom had also recently watched it. Then I had a great idea: Why don’t I co-write a review with my dad, looking at some of the themes of the movie from a biblical perspective? So today’s review is actually from an ongoing email conversation he and I have been having over the past couple days. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and hope you find some value in it. 🙂

Chris: I’d like to kick off with the theme of relationships since I’m doing this with my you. There are three primary relationships I can identify in the movie:

– Andrew and his dad
– Andrew and his girlfriend
– Andrew and Fletcher

I think it’s pretty clear that Andrew’s relationship with Fletcher overrides the others. Here’s what I find interesting, though. While the girlfriend moves on and finds someone else, the dad is constant throughout Andrew’s ups and downs. They go to movies together. Dad stocks Andrew’s apartment with snacks. When the lawyer is trying to convince Andrew to testify against Fletcher, Andrew asks his dad, “Why are you here?” Dad’s response? “Don’t you know there’s nothing in the world I love more than you?” Even when Andrew returns to play with Fletcher for JVC after both had been kicked out of the conservatory, his dad was at the performance and ran backstage to hug the son in his most embarrassing moment. I’m very much reminded of the father in the Prodigal Son story. No matter what the son did, the dad is still there to throw his arms around his son and proclaim his love.

Paul: Yeah, the relationships are a powerful part of the story. And at times they’re pretty painful. Like in the scene at the family dinner table. It’s obvious the whole family is so proud of the football star and totally unimpressed with Andrew’s musical ambitions. You can feel his pain and anger when he points out that the football player is merely at a Division III college. In other words, it’s not worth bragging about. But nobody gets it, and Andrew is still considered the oddball whose goals and values are meaningless. But you’re right about the dad’s loyalty. Even though he didn’t understand his son, he was always there, like you pointed out. There’s a verse in the Bible that says

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he grows up he will not stray from it.”

Some commentators point out that the terminology in the text is farm language, agricultural terms, specifically having to do with shaping and growing trees. If this is so, they believe the point of the verse is that good parents will find out their child’s interests, callings, and personality and adjust their parenting methods to bring out the best in the child – to help the child discover his or her direction in life. It’s not telling parents to make sure they raise the child the way they want the child to turn out. There’s more to parenting than that. It’s an art. It requires diligence, attention, getting to know the child intimately. It calls for relationship patterns that allow the child to explore and experiment. And the wise parent guides the child in the process of becoming. I didn’t see Andrew’s family fostering this kind of emotional-psychological freedom to be. We typically use that verse to tell parents how to raise their kids, and to tell our kids what we want them to do. Very controlling, very heavy-handed, very condescending. But maybe it was actually designed to liberate parents and liberate children, freeing all of us to discern what the Lord might want us to do, and to become. And then support each other in that process.

Chris: Let’s talk for a second about Andrew’s intense desire to be the best. In one scene, he tells his girlfriend, “I want to be great.” She responds, “You’re not great?” He comes back, “I want to be one of THE greats.”

Paul: Why are people who excel in almost any field edgy, quirky, OK — weird? Do we have to be so intensely focused and driven in order to be the best? Is it even possible to be “normal” and still be the best in the world at something? It’s true that in order to succeed, we have to make sacrifices. We have to prioritize. But is there a limit to how far we should go?

Chris: I was really pondering this one. I had a friend some years back who thought that all competition was contrary to Christ-like behavior. I’m not inclined to go that far, but I see his point. When you hear Jesus using expressions like “servant of all,” “the last shall be first,” and “the least of these,” it’s easy to see that Jesus has a heart for the underdog. The question is, “How far do Jesus’s teachings call us to care for the underdog vs. how far do Jesus’s teachings call us to BE the underdog?” I’m don’t think Jesus is calling us to eschew success, but there needs to be a healthy balance between success and humility, and my personal opinion is that such humility prevents us from ever achieving the status as “best in the world.”

Paul: It seems clear biblically that the Church will be the underdog societally, especially as we move towards the Eschaton. It’s also true, if I understand James 1:27 correctly, that we are called to care for the underdog. And it is true that we are called to be servants of all. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are called to be underdogs, impoverished, or less than the best in our chosen vocation. To follow that logic, each of us would need to be orphaned and widowed to truly be Christian. But that is clearly not the case. Jesus told at least one person that he would need to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, but there were quite a few other rich people he did not tell that to. In fact, there were some wealthy folks who supported him and his disciples so they could do the work of the Kingdom. Same with Paul and his ministry team. I don’t think humility per se is contrary to being the best. Many would agree that Moses would be considered one of the greatest leaders of all time. Yet Numbers 12:3 specifically says he was the most humble man in all the earth. I think you and I would agree that Jesus was the greatest person of all time. Yet, he was humble, according to Philippians chapter 2. And St. Paul was a pretty impressive apostle. Perhaps the best? Yet he displayed some impressive humility. Perhaps understanding of the word “meek” can be helpful here: “Power or greatness under control.” So I don’t believe that humility ought to prevent a Christian from being the best at what he or she hopes to achieve in life, whether as a musician, an athlete, a teacher, a pastor, a plumber, or anything else. In fact, the Bible says,

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

Don’t we usually understand that to mean “do your best”?

Chris: I don’t think humility NECESSARILY prevents us from greatness, only when pursuing greatness requires trampling on others.

Paul: Absolutely. I agree. And this is what we see happening in Whiplash. People trampling all over each other. Dog eat dog. Get mine. do what it takes to self-promote. I guess you could say Osteen’s teaching applied to the music industry. It’s all about you.

Chris: BWAHAHAHA! Joel Osteen applied to the music industry – now that.is.funny. Making sure that “I get mine” regardless of how it affects others flies right in the face of biblical principles:

Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them (The Golden Rule) Matthew 7:12

and

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Switching gears again, how did you guys respond to the language? It was incredibly harsh.

Paul: The profanity was indeed overwhelming. But we knew going in that the main reason for it’s R rating was raw language. More importantly, however, being in the world means we rub elbows with real people, real heathens, real scoundrels. We’re called to be in the world, though not “of” the world. Jesus didn’t avoid sinners. That included prostitutes, tax collectors, and cussers. Besides, there’s not a single word or phrase in the movie that I haven’t heard in the Army . . . . . . . or in the church! An aspect of human existence that I thought the movie showed pretty well was that every one of us has our own pain, our own problems, and our disillusionments. This was true of just about every character in the show. Would you comment on that?

Chris: You hit the nail on the head. The director has even said he approaches life from a dark place and I think the characters reflected that. But each gets so caught up in his own trouble he fails to find the relief that can be found in community. It’s the attitude that greatness only comes through suffering and, while there may be some truth to that, authentic relationships can help heal wounds.

Paul: And that’s where art and the gospel begin to intersect.

Chris: Thanks, Dad.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _
As always I welcome your thoughts and opinions. did you see the movie? What did you think?

Paul Linzey is a pastor, writer, and mentor. A retired Army chaplain, he and his wife live in Lakeland, Florida.
Paul Linzey is a pastor, writer, and mentor. A retired Army chaplain, he and his wife live in Lakeland, Florida.
Chris Linzey is a husband, dad, pastor, and writer. Currently an Army Reserve Chaplain, he and his family Illinois.
Chris Linzey is a husband, dad, pastor, and writer. Currently an Army Reserve Chaplain, he and his family live in Illinois.

Anger and Forgiveness Part II: Steps Towards Forgiving

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday in Part I we talked about giving people the benefit of the doubt and looking beyond our initial emotional response to anger and offense. But sometimes people go beyond the benefit of the doubt and actually do something that causes legitimate pain. Take Joseph, for example… (GENESIS 37-45)

– Joseph is one of the youngest with 10 older half-brothers
– They plan to kill him, but the oldest convinces the others simply to throw Joseph in a pit
– They end up selling him to a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt
– Joseph becomes a slave to Potiphar but is a hard worker and trustworthy – soon Potiphar puts Joseph in charge of the entire estate
– Potiphar’s wife gets the hots for Joseph but he won’t betray his master’s trust or sin against God, so she has a temper tantrum and falsely accuses him of attempted rape
– Joseph goes to prison (no DNA evidence available to exonerate him) and while in prison

If there’s anyone who has reason to seek vengeance and hold on to resentment it would be Joseph. But forgiveness is the letting go of the need for vengeance and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment. It involves a willful decision to restructure thought life and cognitions regarding the offender and the offense.

Divine forgiveness and forgiveness between humans are central themes at the heart of biblical faith (Ps. 51:1-2; Matt. 6: 12-15).

GRACE-FILLED FORGIVENESS and the non-remembrance of offenses are scandalous, especially when extended to vile evildoers. We often feel a strong urge to reject forgiveness and non-remembrance towards bad people – those who really wound us deeply.

If I were Joseph I would probably have a serious grudge against the brothers who sold me away. Yet Joseph is the agent of God’s grace and kindness towards his brothers. They were to take a long time – and this is often the case even for us today – to appreciate and to fully receive the transforming loving-kindness of the Lord into the very depth of their beings. Joseph understood that beyond and above the foul schemings of his brothers, God was in control. It is the Lord himself that gives and reveals the ultimate and true meaning to history.

To forgive is to offer mercy to someone who has acted unjustly.

Grace in the Bible can also mean “favor” as in “find favor in his eyes” – the word occurs 101 times in Paul’s letters alone… In the Bible, forgiveness is primarily the act of God by which he graciously takes away the obstacles or barriers which separate man from His presence.

The New Testament word for forgiveness means “to send away.” Forgiveness does not excuse or minimize the hurtfulness of the other person’s act. Rather, it says, “Yes, you did a hurtful things to me. You did wrong.” But forgiveness is then acting mercifully and saying, “I choose not to hold that against you. I am sending away that grievance.”

We often have difficulties in forgiving others. Sometimes we think we have forgiven when we really haven’t. Sometimes we think that, to forgive, we must forget and act as if the hurt never happened. Offenses are not forgotten, but when forgiven they should not be brought up again. Other times we think we can forgive only after the person has suffered or made restitution. Revenge requires suffering and restitution, not forgiveness.

Letting go of the right for revenge has real benefits. It can lower blood pressure, reduce free-floating hostility associated with elevated cardiovascular problems, help you feel less stressed, fearful or depressed, and restore you spiritually to a better relationship with the Lord. When the Bible talks about forgiveness it’s not just about restoring relationships between people, it’s not just about modeling God’s behavior (the One who forgave us even when we didn’t deserve it) – it’s also about our OWN well-being.

Whatever you’ve been holding on to – it’s time to let it go. It’s time to let go of the need for vengeance and justice. It’s time to choose not to hold things against people, even if you’ve been wounded deeply.

So how can you start? First, ask God to remove the anger associated with the hurt. He can bring healing and forgiveness even when you don’t think it’s possible. Keep talking to God about it. Then there are three practical things you can do to start the process of letting go and forgiving people:

1) Write a hurting letter, listing how the person hurt you and how the hurts affected you – Read the letter to an empty chair where you cannot be overheard
2) Write a forgiveness letter – Read that letter to an empty chair
3) Destroy both letters as a symbol of releasing you pain and anger

Hate, anger, and unforgiveness will eat us up from the inside out if we don’t release it. It sucks the joy out of life.

It’s time to live a joy-filled life, and that means walking in forgiveness.

Related Posts:
Anger and Forgiveness Part I: Learning to Give the Benefit of the Doubt
Learning How to Forgive

5 Tips on How to Move Towards Forgiveness: Anger and Forgiveness Part I

Image courtesy of sumetho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
Image courtesy of sumetho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Forgiveness is the glue that holds commitment together. Without forgiveness, commitment will unravel and relationships will come apart. The central day-to-day skill of surviving and growing in relationships is reconciliation, and that starts by giving people the benefit of the doubt BEFORE I get offended.

This means if someone ticks me off I have an obligation first to stop, think, and consider if perhaps I am missing one crucial factor. It’s like the woman who was upset at not being invited to her friend’s wedding, and held a grudge for 20 years…until the invitation finally arrived in the mail accompanied by an apology from the Post Office.

More often than not we feel there could not possibly be any excuse or justification for certain behavior and we choose NOT to give the benefit of the doubt. It’s simply easier to become and to stay offended.

But we can grow in our ability. Here are five tips for growing in the grace of giving people the benefit of the doubt:

1.      Assess the irritating situation and your reaction to it. Are you mildly annoyed? Frustrated? Angry? Full of rage? What is really sparking this emotional reaction?

2.      Take a deep breath and do not indulge in your initial reaction. You cannot help your instinctual emotions, but by feeding into them you are escalating the situation and it will be difficult to follow the next steps in giving a person the benefit of the doubt.

3.      Recognize that the person behind the situation is human (just as you are). As humbling as it is, we have all been a cause of annoyance to someone else, we have all had our bad days and we all have our quirks.

4.      Put a story with the person. The story can be as ridiculous or as practical as you want. Are you being tailgated? Maybe the driver is late for his daughter’s first ballet recital. Is the waitress extremely rude? Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her, her rent is past due, and she has been working doubles for the last three days. These probably won’t be the real triggers of their behavior but the point is we never know what is truly going on in someone’s life. I have found it helpful and it distracts me from my emotional reaction. It can be a useful tool or even turned into a game (Are you children in the car? Have them help you come up with possible scenarios for the cause of the offending party’s behavior).

5.      Be patient and kind, regardless of the real story behind the behavior. Is a coworker complaining and snapping at everyone? Try bringing her a card, flowers, or chocolate. In my own experience this goes much further than getting mad at them or gossiping about them. Once again, you never know what is going on in their lives to cause the behavior, even if it’s as little as not getting very much sleep.

If you use kindness instead of retaliating, the situation will not ruin your day or give you a bad attitude. Even if the person does not appreciate your patience right away they very well might in the long-run (and you’ll be one less person getting mad at them, which is always helpful when someone is already having a bad day).

Tomorrow in Part II we’ll look at forgiveness through the eyes of a famous biblical character who experienced extreme betrayal and hurt and look at how we can begin to heal and extend forgiveness to those who have actually damaged us.

Related Posts:
Learning How to Forgive
Muslims, Murder, and Forgiveness

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