Tag Archives: Rage

God’s People, part 167: Boanerges

Read Luke 9:51-56

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do us a favor…when you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.’”  (Mark 10:35, 37, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SonsOfThunder-1024x537Part 167: Boanerges. So far, we’ve learned a little more about Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. We learned that Simon was an uneducated fisherman who had a loud mouth and a tendency to make rash decisions. He was close to getting who Jesus’ true identity; however, he never quite got to that ultimate understanding during Jesus’ lifetime. We also learn that his brother Andrew, also and uneducated fisherman, was passionate about bringing people to Jesus. With that said, he found it hard to put his faith fully in Jesus’ ability. He often let circumstances smother the passionate faith he had for Christ.

This bring us to Boanerges, which is a Greek phrase that translates to English as, “sons of thunder.” The Greek is a slight mistranslation from the Hebrew phrase, bənē reghesh, which translates in English as “sons of rage”. This was the nickname that Jesus gave to the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee. Both James and John were called by Jesus to be disciples around the same time as Peter and Andrew. Both of them, like Peter and Andrew, were fisherman. In fact, we know that the sons of thunder were working in their father Zebedee’s fishing business.

We don’t know a whole lot about James; however, we do know that he was among the inner circle of disciples who were closest to Jesus. He witnessed the Transfiguration and he was in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus while prayed for God to spare his life. Wherever Jesus went, James was sure to follow.

The same is true about John who, like his brother, was among the inner circle of disciples. He has traditionally been identified as the beloved disciple that wrote the Gospel of John (so named because of this attribution). Most modern scholars do not believe John authored the fourth Gospel; however, his importance and influence in the early church cannot be disputed. In fact, John was named as one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem Church mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and referenced in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

With all of that said, Jesus’ nicknamed James and John as the sons of rage or the sons of thunder. This is an an indication that these two where known for their fiery ambition and tempers. In Mark 10:35-45, the two brothers approached Jesus in order to petition for themselves to be in the places of honor (and power) next to Jesus when he assumed control of his kingdom. Thinking that he was the military messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to her former glory, the Sons of Thunder were vying for power. This set them at odds with the rest of the disciples, who quickly grew angry and annoyed with the two.

Also, when Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed by Samaritan villagers, James and John both turned to Jesus and asked if him if he wanted them to “command fire to come down from heaven and consume [the villagers]”. In both cases, Jesus sternly rebuked the Sons of Thunder” for their scheming ambition and fiery tempers. These two, as passionate and devoted as they were, were far from being the perfect followers in Christ.

The same is true for us. Each and every one of us, just like the twelve disciples, come to Jesus with our strengths as well as our shortcomings. Perhaps anger and ambition are things that you struggle with or, perhaps, you are like the other disciples who grow short-tempered with those who are ambitious and short-tempered. On either end of that, Jesus rebukes the sin in us and calls us to deeper and more committed discipleship. The challenge for us is to heed Jesus’ call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

PRAYER
Lord, help me to quell the part of me that seeks to derail the path you’ve set me on. Help me overcome my weaknesses and grow in my strengths. Amen.

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.

Boiling Point

Read Ephesians 4:26-31

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:19-20 NLT)

Boiling PointWhen I was a teenager, I could really get angry sometimes. I was not one who got that mad often; however, I have always been the type of person who would hold things in, bottle it up as it were, and not really let anyone know I was upset in a constructive way. I was kind of like a soda bottle. You could shake it a little, then a little more, then a little more. Following the first slight shake, not much happens. But with each subsequent shake, more and more pressure builds up until, at some point, the cap bursts off the top and the soda come-a-flyin’ out like a volcanic eruption.

Often times, by the time I got that upset, it was usually something relatively silly that ended up bringing me beyond the explosion point. This may be shocking to people who know me because I am typically an easy going guy; however, everyone has that point that they reach where they get so angry they can’t contain it. I remember this one time I got angry while I was hanging out with friends. To be honest, I don’t remember what I was angry over. I am sure that I had gotten into an argument earlier with my parents. I know that there were other things going on that I was holding in as well. Again, I can’t remember what made me mad at that particular moment, but I remember punching the wall out of anger. Now, this was not a smart move…at all…because the wall was made of cinderblock. I didn’t break anything, thankfully, but boy did my hand let me know how utterly foolish I was in my anger!!!

Now, if we’re all honest, there is nothing really shocking about me getting angry…especially as a teenager. Teenage angst is not a new thing. The real problem was not that I was getting angry, but that I was not communicating well what I was getting angry over. I was pretending like I wasn’t angry until I couldn’t pretend anymore. Once that point was reached, there was no turning back. I would explode over something relatively petty and it almost always resulted in the wrong person taking the brunt of my anger. The fact is that, if I had addressed my being upset to those who were actually hurting me, or at the very least talked about my being hurt with those who loved me enough to listen, I wouldn’t have EVER gotten to the boiling point.

When I look at the United States of America today, and when I look at our world, I see people who have reached their boiling point. They’ve been holding in their hurt, their anger, their rage, and now everything (big or small) that happens sets people off into explosive, and often violent, behavior. Whether we are talking about the riots going on around the country, or work place violence, or other explosive situations, I see a world gone mad in the hurt it has been trying to, or forced to, contain for so long.

Christ is calling us all to lay down our swords and to be agents of love and peace; however, the only way we can begin to do this is to begin to communicate with the people. We need to be honest with others when we feeling hurt or upset, and we also need to be good listeners, slow to speak and quick to listen to those who are feeling hurt and upset. This is not easy work. In fact, it can be quite trying and painful; however, if we are ever to move beyond the realm of pain and of a violence that only creates more hurt and pain, then we will have to begin to be honest with ourselves and with others. We will also have to begin to be humble enough to learn compassionate listening. I pray we are all up to the challenge.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be honest about my hurts and pains, to be humble enough to be a good listener for others, and allow me to be a peacemaker within myself so that I can make peace in the world around me. Amen.