The Right Response

Five days ago I published a blog post on my Reflections blog titled, The Upside of Anger.” If you haven’t read it, you might wonder about the title, but you might be surprised at the content. You can take a look at it by clicking on this link.

This morning I read a verse I received in a “Verse of the Day” email that quoted 2 Corinthians 4:7-9. Paul states the following in these three verses:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m hard pressed for whatever reason my first response is not often love, and depending on what is or who is causing it and if it continues unabated for what seems like a never-ending period of time, love tends to fade. But be aware that it is the intent of whoever or whatever is causing us to be hard pressed to make us want to push back in anger and other destructive and/or self-destructive ways. You might want to listen to the 12-minute YouTube video I published on my The Upside of Anger blog post titled, The Christian’s Guide to Anger Management,” at this link.

My blog post, The Upside of Anger,” came about because I was starting to develop a crusty edge regarding my current set of circumstances which I won’t go into because the details aren’t important. However, when one is hard-pressed day after day after day, the urge be angry at some point rears it’s head; but, again, this is exactly the type of response these types of situations try to bring out in us. And while I have not displayed any anger on the outside, I knew what I was feeling on the inside, and I was letting it build up.

What I discovered while writing that blog post helped me to see that there is an upside to anger, but we humans have a tendency to use the destructive side of anger far too often. Think of road rage as just one example. Turn on the TV, go to a movie, or go on social media for any length of time and you’ll see plenty of examples of anger that is destructive. It’s about revenge, retribution, hate, destruction, and it’s absolutely not about forgiveness, understanding or love. That kind of anger just wants to get even in some way.

In a blog post I published on September 9, 2017, titled, That Thing Called Love,” I published the following quote by Joyce Meyer:

I read a quote that Joyce Meyerone of the world’s best known practical Bible teachers and a New York Times bestselling author, shared in her book titled, “Let God Fight Your Battles” (2015) regarding our real enemy on pages 108-109:

A good friend who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also shows us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.

“The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!

“But I [Jesus] came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I [Jesus] came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum!” (Quote from Rick Renner, “Sparkling Gems,” 2003, as quoted on pp. 108-109 in “Let God Fight Your Battles,” 2015.)

When we are hard pressed, the root cause of it goes back to the words of Jesus in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 6:10-18 what is the true source of all of our battles in life (see verse 12).

The following also comes from that same blog post which are the words of Jesus taken from Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Even Jesus got angry on several occasions. GotQuestions.org states the following regarding Jesus’ anger:

When Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers and animal-sellers, He showed great emotion and anger (Matthew 21:12-13Mark 11:15-18John 2:13-22). Jesus’ emotion was described as “zeal” for God’s house (John 2:17). His anger was pure and completely justified because at its root was concern for God’s holiness and worship. Because these were at stake, Jesus took quick and decisive action. Another time Jesus showed anger was in the synagogue of Capernaum. When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5).

Many times, we think of anger as a selfish, destructive emotion that we should eradicate from our lives altogether. However, the fact that Jesus did sometimes become angry indicates that anger itself, as an emotion, is amoral. This is borne out elsewhere in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us “in your anger do not sin” and not to let the sun go down on our anger. The command is not to “avoid anger” (or suppress it or ignore it) but to deal with it properly, in a timely manner. We note the following facts about Jesus’ displays of anger:

1) His anger had the proper motivation. In other words, He was angry for the right reasons. Jesus’ anger did not arise from petty arguments or personal slights against Him. There was no selfishness involved. 

2) His anger had the proper focus. He was not angry at God or at the “weaknesses” of others. His anger targeted sinful behavior and true injustice.

3) His anger had the proper supplement. Mark 3:5 says that His anger was attended by grief over the Pharisees’ lack of faith. Jesus’ anger stemmed from love for the Pharisees and concern for their spiritual condition. It had nothing to do with hatred or ill will.

4) His anger had the proper control. Jesus was never out of control, even in His wrath. The temple leaders did not like His cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:47), but He had done nothing sinful. He controlled His emotions; His emotions did not control Him. 

5) His anger had the proper duration. He did not allow His anger to turn into bitterness; He did not hold grudges. He dealt with each situation properly, and He handled anger in good time.

6) His anger had the proper result. Jesus’ anger had the inevitable consequence of godly action. Jesus’ anger, as with all His emotions, was held in check by the Word of God; thus, Jesus’ response was always to accomplish God’s will.

When we get angry, too often we have improper control or an improper focus. We fail in one or more of the above points. This is the wrath of man, of which we are told “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” (James 1:19-20). Jesus did not exhibit man’s anger, but the righteous indignation of God. (Quote source here.)

Those six points above and how Jesus responded are so important for us to consider when we find ourselves getting angry over any type of situation.

Also, in Matthew 5:21-26 (MSG) Jesus addresses the subject of anger as follows:

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother “idiot!” and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell “stupid!” at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.

Those words should give us pause to consider our own anger tendencies and learn to curtail them before they get the better of us; and when they do, make the first move and seek forgiveness whenever it is possible to do so.

Sometimes our anger might come from the fact that we just want someone to stand up for us in the midst of our current battle instead of trying to fight it or figure it out all alone. I know in my own situation I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked God to send me just one real life, flesh and blood human being who will come to my aid to help me resolve this situation that has gone on for years now without any resolution. Just one. It reminds me of a devotion I read in a small book titled, Experience the Power of God’s Names (2017), by Dr. Tony Evanspastor, speaker, author, widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster, and founder ofThe Urban Alternative.” He writes the following on page 61:

When you were a kid, did anyone stand up for you whenever another person was mean to you? Maybe a big brother or sister or a trustworthy friend went to bat for you. Or a parent or teacher helped protect you from harm. You may have fought some battles on your own, but at other times the problem was too big for you to handle alone. That’s when you relied on that trusted sibling or friend or adult to step in for backup.

Life is filled with battles. Sometimes we’ve brought on the problem ourselves, and we need to take action to improve the situation, At other times, we’re not at all to blame. Heartbreak, pain, and difficulty seek us out, and we feel unequipped to fight on our own. No matter who or what is to blame, we can always call on Elohim Tsebaoth, the God of hosts, to join us in the battle.

In a culture that commands us to take action on our own, we tend to go about our daily business with no regard for others–including God. When we’re struggling to overcome our emotions or lamenting that we’re being treated unfairly, we keep the focus on ourselves. Instead, we need to allow God to lead the charge and follow His instructions. With God on our side, we will always win the battle. (Quote source: “Experience the Power of God’s Names,” page 61.)

While I’m not quite sure how to end this blog post, I think I’ll end it with the following blessing from Psalm 20 for everyone who is waiting for an answer but they haven’t received it yet. Here is that blessing from Psalm 20: 1-5:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices

    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart

    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory

    and lift up our banners in the name of our God, [and]…

May the Lord . . .

Grant all . . .

Your requests . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Message is Love” by Arthur Baker & the Backbeat Disciples (ft. Rev. Al Green):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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