Tag Archives: Christians

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Anger

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT)

FieryA-1In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Anger. There is a misconception among many Christians, and certainly the world, that Christians are supposed to be happy 100% of the time. Christians are supposed to smile, to laugh, to be filled with joy, to never be depressed, and to float around from place to place with their feet barely touching the ground. We are supposed to be reverent, saintly, quiet, and we (so far as I can tell from all of the paintings) evidently all wear golden rings around our heads that reflect sun-like rays outward for all to see.

The one thing that is for sure, so the myth goes, is that a Christian is NEVER, EVER angry. Christians who show any sort of emotion outside of that the beaming joy that is supposed to emanate from our faces, are evidently not good Christians. After all who has ever heard of an angry Christian? What kind of witness would an angry Christian be to the world? Isn’t it true that Christians aren’t supposed to display any sort of anger? The answer is, of course, no. Of course Christians can, do, and sometimes should get angry! When a Christian witnesses or experiences injustice, for instance, is a time when that Christian is and/or should be filled with righteous anger.

What Paul is talking about here is not righteous anger. Paul is not talking about seeing someone abused, or hurt, or disenfranchised, or rejected, or alone, or starving, or being killed in gang violence or in war, and being filled with anger at a world that continually oppresses and hurts people; rather, Paul is talking about anger that rises up out of selfishness, jealousy, bitterness, dissention, division, and hatred. When a Christian is angry at another person, another one of God’s Creation, because he or she did not get what they wanted, or they don’t like the way the other person carries themselves, or because the other person has something that they wish they had, or for any other frivolous and selfish reason, that sort of anger is not a fruit of the Spirit, but is most definitely a work of the flesh.

Christ is calling us to lay our unfettered, selfish anger aside. What good can anger do for you or for the church? How can your being angry with someone, to the point where you cannot even forgive them, ever bring glory to God? How can you be a whole person if your anger is constantly driving a wedge between your neighbor and you. When that happens, what is really happening is that your anger is driving a wedge between you and God. Remember that the commandment that fulfills  all the law, according to Jesus and to Paul, is that you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If you are too angry to LOVE, how can you ever accept the LOVE God has for you? If you are too angry to LOVE, how can you ever find room LIVE into the fullness of life that God has to offer you? Be rid yourself of such unnecessary, unjustifiable anger. Let it go and let God begin to transform you from someone consumed by anger to someone who knows what it means to LOVE and BE LOVED.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” – the Buddha

PRAYER
Lord, quell the anger within me and allow me to be filled with your eternal love and joy. Amen.

Repent and Believe

Read Hebrews 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NRSV)

repentAndBelieveToday is Ash Wednesday, and we are entering into the Christian season of Lent. During Lent, which is a forty day period that lasts from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, we enter a period of fasting and of reflection. Christians have traditionally marked the beginning of the Lenten journey by having Ash imposed on their foreheads, a dark and gritty reminder that we are both mortal and tainted by sin. As the ash is marked on the foreheads or hands of the faithful, people are told to “repent and believe the Gospel.”

This year, Ash Wednesday is having a different meaning to me. When I think of the ash that I will no doubt be imposing on the heads of countless people, and of the ash I will have imposed on my head, I cannot help but think of the Jordanian pilot who was lit on fire at the beginning January. When I think of the ashes today, I cannot help but think of the twenty-one Christians who were mass-executed this past weekend. When I think of the ashes today, I cannot help but think of the countless people who have been killed throughout the centuries and millenia for religious differences.

Recently, at a Christian breakfast, President Barack Obama called on Christian leaders to show humility in the face of the imminent threat that ISIL poses to the Middle-East and beyond. He called them to remember what Christians did during the Crusades, during the Inquisition, during American slavery and segregation. Some Christians got upset at this because, while there is no denying that some Christians have done some pretty evil things in the name of Christ, they believed his call to humility only served to play into the propaganda of the ISIL organization.

While this point can be argued, what can’t be argued is that many terrible things have been done by many people in the name of their religion. Honestly, with or without Christian history, people would be killing and maiming in the name of their beliefs. What is sad about this is that most of these belief systems speak much more about the need for peace, love, compassion, humility and mercy than they speak on the need for killing and maiming. But all religious systems can be, and have been, interpreted in ways that “justify” doing great acts of evil.

Rather than getting outraged about being called out on the atrocities of the past, we should be outraged about the atrocities of the present. Rather than pointing at the past as a way of reminding others of what people long dead have done, we should be reflecting on the ways in which we can help to stop the sins we are committing right here and right now? We don’t have to look at the middle-east to see that we have been complacent in the face of suffering, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a sagely oracle to realize that such complacency has us far away from the heart of the Gospel.

Today, on this Ash Wednesday, Christ is calling us to repent and to believe the Good News. Let us repent of the ways in which we have been complacent, and let us begin to live into the Gospel as if we ACTUALLY believe in it! Let us begin to live in solidarity with those who are suffering. Let us pray for the countless Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and others who are being put to death because of their beliefs. Let us begin to treat others with the respect that should be afforded all human beings, who are created in the image of God. If we live in such a way, we will have truly received the Lenten message and will have begun our journey to the cross. It is there, and only there, that we will truly die to ourselves and resurrect into a new and glorious life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” – Thomas Carlyle

PRAYER Lord, today I repent and ask for you to reveal your Gospel within me so that I may believe and follow it. Amen.

Worthy Engagement

Read Genesis 6-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15b, New Living Translation)

hr_Noah_3This past week the famous comedian, satirist, and political commentator Bill Maher sparked some controversy when he gave his opinion of the upcoming epic film Noah, starring Russell Crowe. Maher, who is a self-described agnostic, went on to critique the story of Noah in the Bible. “Hey God, you know there’s a problem when you star in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with the bigger anger problems. He also referred to the God found in the Noah story as a “psychotic, mass murderer” and a “baby killer”, referring to the fact that God flooded the world in order to kill every living thing.

On the flip side, Christians have also complained about the film for not being 100% true to the Biblical account. Pastor Rick Warren called it a waste of money because if one wants to know the story, one should read the Bible and not view a film that is adding stuff to the story that isn’t there. Other Christians, said that the film was too dark. Evidently, they don’t see the story of God killing every man, woman, child, animal, plant, and micro-organism as being “dark”).

Bill Maher does have a point that the story of Noah, the story of an angry and disheartened God who decides to kill every living thing, a part from every thing, is horrific. It is hard to justify that kind of a story. Surely, not all of creation deserved such a flood. Even if, as the Bible portrays, ALL grown adult people were wicked (that alone is hard enough to swallow), what about the innocent babies, the animals, the plants? Were they deserving of such a fate? Christians should not be flippant about Maher’s argument simply because of the way he presented it or because it challenges their understanding.

The objecting Christians do have a point too. This upcoming film, Noah, will not be 100% accurate in its portrayal of the Biblical account. No movie is ever 100% accurate in any portrayal of a book. Period. Movies add things, they take things away, and they go in different directions in order to add dramatic effect for the film. Films never translate the same way as books. And it is important for us to not replace reading the Bible with watching film versions of the stories. Christians who are concerned about this should be. We all should be!

With all of that said, I am encouraging people of all persuasions to go see the film. If you are a person of faith (within any religion), go see the film. If you are an agnostic, go see the film. If you are atheist, go see the film. First, I think it is important that we support movies that are based on something that transcends the shallow worldview of Hollywood. Second, the more films that are made about the stories in the Bible, the more it will spark an interest in the Bible itself. Believe it or not, many people today haven’t picked a Bible up in their lives and so many of these stories are unfamiliar. Such films can and will spark the interest.

Finally, and this is the most important of my points, it is good and healthy for people to engage each other over these stories. Whether you believe the Flood story literally, or metaphorically, or if you find it abhorrent and you don’t believe it at all, such films will spark conversation and discussion, just as Noah has. I may not agree with everything Bill Maher said, and I certainly don’t appreciate the way he said it, but I do appreciate that the discussion is being had. As people of faith, we should not fear engaging people in healthy and respectful dialog. So, go and see this movie if you can. Wrestle with it and engage others in conversation about it. If you are unable to, then simply read it in the Bible, wrestle with it and enter into the discussion that way! Either way, challenge yourself to engage the story, to engage yourself in relation to the story, and to engage others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I take things in better when I’m allowed to talk, and respond, and engage and move around a bit.” – Daniel Radcliffe

PRAYER
Lord, stir in me a desire to study the Bible, to wrestle with it, and to be willing to engage others with it in ways relevant to them. Amen.