Some people can fool you.
From the outside, they look so put-together. But scratch beneath the surface and they explode all over you. The resentment and ill will were hovering barely out of sight, just waiting for a victim.
This was your lucky day.
We see versions of it on Facebook all the time.
Someone will make a statement of faith, a simple praise that the Lord loves an unworthy child like himself. After a few “amens” arrive from friends, some impatient soul cannot take it any more and chimes in, “Brother, God has made you worthy in Christ. Get that negative thinking out of your system!”
Where did that come from, you wonder.
Some sweet individual will post a statement on how good it is that Scriptures are inspired of God and how they bless me. Before long, the naysayer arrives to correct such a simple-minded believer, reminding him/her that Martin Luther called the Epistle of James a “book of straw,” or that certain passages in the New Testament are “spurious.”
They cannot allow a friend simply to rejoice in the Lord without coloring in the dark side.
On Facebook,” a believer will praise the Lord that “there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” That’s simple enough, one would think, and a basic part of the Christian experience. But the naysayer jumps all over that. He feels it “incumbent upon himself” to remind the writer–who was simply quoting Romans 8:1–that a lot of people need condemning, that some of them are preachers who do thus-and-so, and that many guilty people take false refuge in that claim. Then, another responder will retaliate, saying that no one deserves Romans 8:1 and the combatants are off and running.
There is so much anger and hostility in the Christian community. It sometimes shows up as envy and resentment. At other times it manifests itself as oneupsmanship and sarcasm.
Where does it come from?
From hell. From the devil. From the flesh. From unbelief. From mistreatment by professing believers. From bad mental health. From unconfessed sin and from unresolved guilt. You name it.
Anger and its various manifestations–hostility, resentment, putdowns, sarcasm, and mean-spiritedness–have a thousand fathers.
A generation ago, Franky Schaefer wrote a book titled “A Time for Anger.” The title got me (I’ve been known to purchase a book for its catchy title), I bought it, and read it. The author was pointing out that God’s people are being discriminated against, lied about, and vilified in the media and in our culture, and the time to stand up and speak out is upon us.
Maybe so. And, since the situation Schaefer mentioned has grown only worse and more widespread and is now being codified in our nation’s laws, one could make a case for speaking out even more strongly and taking action of a more severe nature. And, many are doing just that.
Our one caution concerning this is that even if one is angry about the mistreatment of Christians, the church, and our faith, our responses must not be presented angrily.
In dealing with the hostility of others, we must not come across as hostile ourselves.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who threaten you” (Luke 6:27).
Loving one’s enemies means a thousand things, including the following….
1) Looking for ways to agree when we can. This is all uphill and will put a strain on one’s natural tendencies which call for squashing one’s enemy instead of befriending him. But anyone who takes seriously Christ’s teachings knows how He does not hesitate to ask His people to do the harder thing such as turning the other cheek. Only the strongest can do that.
2) Listening closely to your opponent to see if he may be right. Nothing surprises and disarms an angry opponent quicker than your telling him he has made a good point and that you see you were mistaken in that particular area, and you thank him. You’re not necessarily conceding the ball game, only that inning.
3) Not inspecting the statements of another with a magnifying glass in search of something to use against them. Love does not do this. In fact, love looks for ways to affirm when possible.
4) Being agreeable even when we disagree. Graciousness is always in order for followers of the Man of Galilee who, dying on the cross, prayed for His executioners to be granted forgiveness.
5) Finding reasons to understand and even respect the positions of our opponents if possible. Some people attack positions of Christians because we have done a poor job of researching the issues, representing their point of view, or presenting them to the world. Sometimes we have to say, “I agree and would like to apologize; that was a dumb statement we made.”
6) Remembering the object is not to clobber the opponent or even to win the debate, but to win him over.
7) Ignoring wrong or mistaken statements of others unless there is a compelling reason to speak up. To my knowledge, the Lord has sent none of us into the world to correct every wrong we see. As a young pastor, I remember the burden of feeling I had to speak out on every wrong in the community. But I recall even more the sense of liberation I felt when I learned God did not send me on such a fool’s errand. Often, the people we see making such bonehead statements on God or other vital issues do so not because they are evil but because they are unsaved and are living by a completely different standard.
I’ve worked on this article for two weeks now, and cannot figure out a way to bring it to a close. I suppose it’s because the way anger shows up and the ways we love others are without number. So, that said, I think I’ll click “publish” and send it on its way. 🙂