Posts Tagged ‘anger’

Deuteronomy 5:17

You Must Not Murder

Have you ever wished that someone was dead? Maybe, your life would be better off if they were not alive. Maybe, you would never physically do the deed of killing that person but you just wished that they no longer existed and would welcome news that they had met their end. Maybe, you have never felt that way. Maybe, you have. If you have been lucky enough to never have felt that way, you probably need to read no further. Maybe, you are a better person than most.

 

There are those people in life that seem hellbent on making our lives miserable. I am sure that if you have lived 54 years as I have, then, there is probably one person that comes immediately to mind that fits the bill. I am generally a mild-mannered person who avoids conflict whenever possible. Often, I avoid conflict even when I know I am right. Often, I avoid conflict just to keep the peace. I disdain conflict. Part of it has to do with the fact that I am more of a deep thinker. I ponder things and mull them over in my mind and such. Whereas, in the midst of conflict, you must be a quick thinker. You must get your ideas together and express them in a cogent way quickly or you will lose the fight that you are fighting. Another part is that I always think that there is merit to another person’s opinion so standing firm in my own opinion is not an absolute. If you have that attitude, you often avoid getting into those shouting matches of strict yes-no, you’re wrong/I’m right positions. Another is simply a lack of self-confidence in myself that my opinion is valid, that I have a right to feel the way that I do. Being a people pleaser such as myself, you tend to not think that you have some innate right to your own feelings and opinions.

 

Having said all that, I will have to admit that during my divorce from my first wife that I had those feelings of wishing she were dead. That divorce was the divorce from hell. During the first year after our separation, she would harass me by phone. She would harass me in person. She would harass the girl that I was seeing (that would become my second wife). She lost complete control of her senses to the point that she used our children to claim that I had molested my daughter. This was her defense at court when I brought her up on contempt charges for not allowing me to see my children. It was her aim to destroy me. If should could no longer have me, she did not want anyone else to have me either. The pressure was relentless. It was unending. It was part of her daily routine to see what she could do to me today. It was during this time that I admit to being so angry at her that I wished she no longer existed. There were times during our face to face confrontations that I felt so angry that I could have made that happen. However, mostly, it was just thoughts of how much easier my life would be if she were not around. Execution of any of these feelings was prevented by basic morality and my feeling deep down that somehow I deserved all the punishment I was getting for having ended the marriage.

 

Have you ever felt that way about another person? It was those feelings that I had toward my first wife that came to mind when I read through this passage/verse today. There is only one person that I have ever came close to remotely wishing “no longer existing” on and she was my one. Although those feelings were short-lived and eventually I began to feel sorry for my first wife for the way that she let our divorce consume her life in one way or another the rest of her life, I still felt that anger and had those thoughts in 1993-1994 that were sinful. Let’s read what the Bible says at Deuteronomy 5:17:

 

17 “You shall not murder.

 

Short and sweet. One of the shortest verses in the Bible but one of the most powerful in all of the Bible. Violation of this commandment has marred human existence from the beginning. “But I don’t murder people!” you may say. Good. That fulfills the letter of the law. Jesus, however, explained that even hateful anger breaks the spirit of the commandment (Matthew 5:21-22). Have you ever been so angry with someone whom you believed had mistreated you that, for a moment or several moments, you wished that person no longer existed? Jesus tells us that we have violated this commandment when we harbor deep seated anger in our hearts that we refuse to let go of. Even if we have not committed the crime that violates the letter of the law, we are morally guilty before God for having committed murder in our hearts and must seek forgiveness from God and repent of our sinfully harbored thoughts. We must commit ourselves to releasing these thoughts to the Lord. We must commit ourselves to praying for those who persecute us. We must allow the Lord to handle their sin and not us.

 

Who is your one? Who is that person that just gets your goat? Who is that person that gets under your skin? Who is it or who was it? Maybe there is someone in your past that is no longer an active part of your life that you still harbor hatred toward? Who is it? Take them and lay them at the cross. It is time to forgive and hand them over to the Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:1-15 (Part 2)

The People Complain to Moses

Sometimes being a parent can be exasperating. It is the toughest job you will ever have. When your child is a newborn baby up til about 6 months old, you play a guessing game as to what is making them cry. Are they hungry? Do they have wet or messy diaper? Are they sick in some way? Sometimes you are clueless as to how to make them stop crying. Sometimes the crying goes on and on and on and you have done everything you know to do. And then there is the lack of sleep. Getting up 2 or 3 times in the night. Walking around like zombie with “I have a newborn baby in the house” brain where you brain is not functioning properly because of lack of sleep. You feel like you are outside yourself watching yourself function. Then, life, you think, begins to get a little easier when your child starts sleeping through the night (a praise to God when that happens, huh?). When the start crawling, you have a whole ‘nother set of problems. No longer can you just carry them on your hip, you must watch them constantly and keep them from putting their fingers in electrical sockets, pulling things off end tables and so on. Then, there’s the whole getting them dressed thing at this age. What an ordeal that can be? Who designs these clothes for infants anyway? Then, they start walking and talking in the toddler years. Those are the years where rebellious attitudes begin and you hear “no”, “mine”, and temper tantrums in the grocery store, where you think of the old Southwest Airlines ad campaign where something embarrassing happens and the voice over says, “wanna get away?”

 

Then, there are elementary school years where you worry when they go off to school as to how they are going to react to being away from you most of the day and how you are going to react to them being away from you. There titanic dramas at school that must be dealt with. How to stand up to a problem that won’t go away at school. How to defend oneself and yet not be a bully. How to deal with bullies. How to deal with social pressure and people making fun of you. Trying to get your elementary school kid to do homework. Trying to get your elementary school kid to understand a math or science concept or an English grammar concept when, though you know it yourself, cannot find the words to properly explain it to your kid. And, if you kid just somehow innately hates school and homework, although you loved school, can be like two nations coming together to negotiate a peace treaty after long and dreadful war.

 

Then, come the middle school years and social media and 24/7 involvement of other kids in their lives. Cell phones, dances, and heartbreaks. Gossip that can be dreadfully painful. He said. She said. Heartbreak over romances. Fist fights. Girl fights. Boy fights. Algebra. Field trips. Fund raisers. I need money for this thing at school. I need money for that thing at school. I forgot my lunch money. Can you take me to the mall? Cliques. Developing into women. Developing into men. Rebellious attitudes. Wanting to be an adult (when it’s advantageous). Wanting to be a child (when it’s advantageous). Homework! School projects! Boys! Girls! Trying to help them navigate through the landmine filled world that is the junior high social scene.

 

Then come the high school years. Peer pressure increases. Social media influences exponentially increase. Them thinking they’ve found the love of their life. Desperately in love. Sexual intercourse. Fears that they are having sex. Fears that they are going to get someone pregnant or get pregnant. Really hard subjects in school that require late night study and since they now teach things in middle school that you learned in high school and your child is taking subjects that are beyond your own abilities that you are at a loss as to how to help them. Them not wanting to go to college but you wanting them to because you know their life will be limited without a college degree. They can’t understand your rules and curfews and groundings when they disobey. They hate you. They complain about you. They want all the toys and gadgets and expect you to pay for them. You use the hated phrase from your own childhood, “Because I said so” and “for as long as you live in my house and sit down at my table for meals” more often than you would like.

 

And, then…they leave home to go to college and there are the mighty financial burdens that it brings and hoping and praying that they make the right choices about life and drinking and partying and driving and fraternity parties and fraternity guys and … and … then they graduate … and they are gone … and though you still have them as a big part of your life, but it’s different. They are on their own…they are gone.

 

You miss all the troubles and travails of parenting them. You miss all the classic family moments that live in your family’s memories forever. Those moments of seemingly unending laughter at the dinner table. Those victory moments in a child’s life, a teenager’s life. You miss those moments where they crawl up in your lap and ask you to make it all better. You miss those moments when they see you when you come home from work and they run and jump into your arms. Ah, you miss it all. The heartaches, the heartbreaks, the laughter, the tears, the drama, the victories, the defeats, the highs and the lows, the hugs, the kisses, those classic moments that burn into family memory. It’s all different now. You miss the long and winding road of parenting a child. It’s different when they are adults and, yes, they still need you as adult children but it’s different from the time when they are at home. It just is and you miss it.

 

You miss it even though it was most freaking hard, exasperating, vexing, anger-inducing, insanity-inducing, yet completely fun, satisfying, fulfilling thing you have ever done – being a parent. I don’t know why but the exasperating parts of being a parent (the toughest job you’ll ever love) is what I thought about when I read through this passage, Numbers 11:1-15, today for the second and final time today. I think it was because I was concentrating on what is known as “Moses’ Lament” in vv. 10-15:

 

 

11 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. 3 So that place was called Taberah,[a] because fire from the Lord had burned among them.

Quail From the Lord

 

4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

 

7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8 The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

 

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

 

Here, Moses is like a completely exasperated parent of teenager who insists on being rebellious even though you see that they have got it made living with you. With our teenage kids, and particularly if you have managed to do well in your own career and have a good financial situation, they seem to think that the 2,000 plus square foot house, the three or four cars in the yard, one of which you have given to them, and the nice clothes and the nice neighborhood, and the nice teenage gadgets, and the nice vacations, and the cash is all entitlement. They think it’s a baseline. They do not realize what a blessing all of the trappings of their life is. They don’t see all the hard work that brought them this life. They do not appreciate the dedication that you have to providing for your family. They are just used to certain expectations and think that they don’t have enough. It can be exasperating and sometimes we as parents have to let off steam to someone we trust about our children when they seem to want more and more but yet have plenty.

 

That’s how I see Moses’ Lament here. He’s just fed up. They have just barely begun their journey and the people are complaining about the daily miracle of manna that provides for their needs abundantly is not good enough. They want more. They want what they don’t have. Moses is fed up. He is tired of hearing what a “bad parent” he is for taking them out in the middle of the desert. He is just fed up with the bellyaching. We all have those moments as parents where we just want to go out in the woods and scream to the top of our lungs and punch a tree because our kids have exasperated us so much and we don’t want to take our anger out on them. Moses here goes and complains to the only one he can, his Father in heaven. Reactly badly to the bad behavior of the children of Israel would have made the situation worse. So, Moses goes to God to vent his anger. As we see Moses here, we see him as just as human as we are. He’s pissed off at his kids because of their whining and complaining about their wants when all their needs are being met.

 

I think that’s the takeaway here for me today. God wants us to come to Him with all our baggage. He wants us to come to Him when we are angry and pissed off. He wants us to run our anger by Him before we react to situations. He wants all of us. He wants to hear us when we are happy and when we are sad. He wants to come to him with our joys and our sorrows. He wants to hear from us when we are angry. He even wants to hear from us when we are angry at Him. He is the Creator of the Universe so I think He can handle it when I am angry at Him. He doesn’t want some pre-canned table prayers from us. He wants the real us. He wants to hear it all from us. He wants us to be intimate with Him. He wants our inside the store prayers not our storefront prayers. He wants us to really talk to Him and be intimate with Him. Moses was very intimate with the Lord as we know from Scripture. He talked to Him everyday as we see from Scripture. That intimacy allowed Moses to be able to vent to God and for God to diffuse Moses anger toward his people. Let us be able to go the Lord with our anger at others and at Him and work through it and find the best way to respond to situations.

 

As we see Moses go on from here and he deals with much with the children of Israel, but it is evident that he loved them. He stuck by them. He led them. He loved them. It was frustrating at times. But I guarantee you that Moses missed it all when we watched his people leave his parenting and go into the Promised Land. It was the toughest job of His life but He loved His people Israel. They drove him crazy but he loved them. Moses learned, as we as parents have to learn, that we must take everything to God in prayer. We cannot make godly decisions without being constantly in prayer to God. How can we take on the daunting task of being parents without being intimately in prayer constantly with God. And God wants it all. He wants or questions, our doubts, our anger, our joy, our sorrows, our highs, our lows. He wants it all.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 5:21-26
Murder
Have you ever been so angry at someone that you wanted to kill them? I will have to admit that I have been angry at various people in my life over the years and have wanted in rare cases to physically hit them. More often though, I have been on occasion mad enough at someone to say hurtful words to them. I do not think that I have ever been angry enough at someone that I wanted to take away their life, to murder them. I do not think that I have ever been THAT enraged where I was willing to do that. I avoid conflict more often than not. Usually, people like me, though they avoid conflict except when it is forced upon them, tend to harbor resentment and let things fester and boil until one day they explode. It is “the Bowling way” as I call because my family is famous for it. We play nice when we are together but never deal with any conflicts within our family straight on. Resentments become greater and greater over time and take on a life of their own. The original offense can be small but it grows and morphs into people not speaking for days, months, even years. The anger grows and grows. Jesus says you may as well have committed murder! What? Jesus? You mean I am accountable for my thoughts too?

Jesus starts this passage by talking about the command from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13) that states “Thou shalt not commit murder” when he says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Wow, this passage of Scripture is likely an extra chunky Chips-Ahoy cookie. Mmmm! Chunnnnkkkky Chips Ahoy coooookkkkkkiiiieees! …. Sorry… had a “bright shiny object moment there….Back to the point… The reason that I say this passage is like a chunky Chips Ahoy cookie is because there is so much to chew on in this passage. First, Jesus says that not murdering someone is not enough. He says that a true believer should never let their relationships get to that point because hate in our hearts is a sin. Second, he is saying that we cannot truly worship our God when we have hate in our heart for someone. Finally, having considered what Jesus’ expectations are, then, we must consider when and if anger is justified…ever? The lesson that we will learn that it’s all about God’s glory! Let’s dive in and see why.

The first point our Savior is trying to make here is that a Christ follower will not let their relationships deteriorate to that point. It is interesting to note the word use here in the Greek text. The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) used here refers here to a fellow disciple, whether a woman or a man. Does this mean that we can be angry with a non-believer? No, it does not, I think. I do think that Jesus is saying that first and especially with fellow believers our relationships should never deteriorate to the point that murder is even a consideration. Fellow believers should resolve conflicts in a humble manner meaning that we take our egos out of the equation and work to eliminate the issue that is keeping us from loving our brother and thus glorifying God. If we have contempt, “Raca” in Hebrew, in our hearts for a brother or sister we may as well have already broken God’s commandment to not commit murder. I think too that it means that we must also attempt to work out our differences with non-believers but non-believers will not always respond in the same manner as a fellow Christian but we have no less responsibility to approach the situation with love. We should respond to these situations with Jesus’ heart. That means thinking of how to use the situation to glorify God through how we respond not about how to sooth our hurt feelings such as with revenge. Non-believers may react with anger and murder but we are called to seek reconciliation. As Christ followers, we are called to come from a position of love first. We are called to seek opportunities to give God glory in all that we do. God is not glorified when we seek personal vengeance whether it be murder or simply hurtful words that destroy lives. Where’s the glory in that? Anger is highly personal. Anger is me getting mine. Anger is making ourselves gods and defining our realm. Anger put us on the throne and makes us the judge.

The second point that our Savior makes through his statements here is that our lives should act as worship to God. Our lives should be to glorify God in everything that we do. When we have hate in our hearts, there is an impediment to our worship of God. When we worship God, we must be in a position that we are laying ourselves bare and giving ourselves totally and completely to God. However, when we have hate in our hearts, we are putting ourselves first. Hate for another person is a selfish emotion. It is showing that we want ourselves put first. Hate is like a baby pitching a temper tamtrum because they did not get their own way. Hate is the very same way. Hate is us being upset because our own needs were not met, our own way of thinking was not supported. So, when we have hate, we are not putting God first. When we are not putting God first, we are not worshipping him. Have you ever been so consumed with anger toward someone that it affected your whole life? I have known people like that. I have seen movies like that. If you remember back in the early 90’s, there was a movie called, “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story”. In the movie, Betty Broderick is the pushy, prodding wife of very successful lawyer in California. She had the good life. They knew all the right people and went to all the right parties. They had it all. However, her successful husband becomes involved with his legal assistant, leaves Betty, and ends up marrying the new and younger woman. Certainly, Betty had reason to be angry, hurt, and to lash out. The problem came when it began to consume her entire life. The personal offense to her of her husband leaving her for a younger woman was her god. She became consumed by it. The anger destroyed relationships. It really, really got out of hand to the point that the children left her and went to live with their dad. She descended into a cycle of hatred and revenge that ultimately led her to break into her ex-husband’s house late at night and shoot her ex-husband and his new wife dead as they lay sleeping in their bed. There was no God in that. When we let anger and revenge take us over, we cannot worship God for we have made something else our god. Anger is highly personal. Anger is all about me getting mine. Anger is making ourselves gods and defining our realm. Anger puts us on the throne and make us the judge.

Finally, let’s consider the point, when we are Christ followers, is anger ever justified? I think it boils down to this. There is such a thing as righteous anger. The difference between sinful anger and righteous anger is the concept of who is the central character. Sinful anger is selfish anger. It is about me! It is about me being offended and hurt and ME lashing out. I think the question we should ask ourselves is whether our anger is about me being right or is it righteous? How does this affect me? As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over evil that we see in the world. Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us. We should take offense against such things! This anger is righteous in that all of us are created in the image of God and each of us should have equal opportunity to experience His love and His glory. Our righteous anger should lead us to take redemptive action. Believers can channel their anger into constructive action by becoming involved with Christian organizations that combat the influence of evil in society. Christians must get involved with organizations working to free children from slavery and volunteer at shelters working to protect battered women. We must lead the charge against hatred and oppression and cruelty! Ultimately, if our outrage results in restoring people into loving, healing relationships with Jesus, it’s righteous anger. Do you see the difference, my friends? Sinful anger is all about me. Righteous anger is that which attempts to restore people to a loving and right relationship with God – it’s not about me!

May we examine our motives for anger! Let us look at ourselves and understand why we are angry. Is it about us? Or is about how evil has clouded the skies of God’s glory in one or more other people’s lives? If we are angry for not getting our way, not getting what we want, and wanting to make others pay for it, then, we need to drop back and punt. We need to let go of selfish desires and seek common ground with those who have personally offended us. We need not allow our anger to get in the way of our relationship with God. If our anger is against evil and how it creates barriers to the full expression of God’s glory in someone’s life or in the lives of an entire people group, then, be angry to the point of being compelled to act. Change the world with righteous anger! Bottom line for both is that we need to be seeking God’s glory whether we are turning away from selfish anger or whether we are righteously angry about the effects of evil in this world! It’s all about God’s glory! Amen and Amen.

Luke 9:52-56 — Divorces gone off the rails. It is the stuff of movies. An obsessed ex-spouse hell-bent on vengeance. I remember a true life story of this sort that was made into a movie. The Betty Broderick Story: A Woman Scorned. It is an anatomy of the descent into insanity of one obsessed woman. It was a divorce gone way wrong that ended in the murder her ex-spouse and his new wife as they lie sleeping in bed. It was an ugly, nasty story of a socialite woman whose husband left her for another woman and how she let her need for vengeance consume every aspect of her life until all she had left was hate and it destroyed her.

When you are going through a divorce as I have in my past, there are things that happen for which you want revenge. Something that was said about you or done to you that you think was unfair, it makes your blood boil. There are times when the hurt of the breakup makes you want to lash out. If your estranged spouse has sought affections elsewhere, the anger and hurt just make you want rain down fire from heaven, or slash tires, or vandalize. It hurts so deep and literally feels like someone has stabbed you in the core of your soul. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You feel like there is no way out of the emotional pit that you are in. You think that there is one cause of that feeling and if you could just hurt them as much as you are hurting, then you would feel better. My friend, I have been there. I never had the guts to destroy property or take physical revenge against someone (ultimately I have never thought an ex was worth going to jail over or losing my job over), but nonetheless the feelings that you are going through I know personally. Some of the lowest emotional points in my life have been during divorce and you just wish you could do something to make them feel bad because as it seems to you they are riding high and do not know pain like you do.

Jesus encounters these same feelings of wanting revenge from his disciples, James and John (nicknamed the Sons of Thunder). When the Samaritan village rejected them, they wanted Jesus to rain down fire from heaven upon the village. They wanted revenge.

First, we must remember the animosity that existed between the Samaritans and the Jews. When the northern kingdom was overrun by the Assyrians in 740 BC and the Assyrian government sent people in from Assyria to settle the newly conquered land. The result was a mixed race of Jews and Assyrians that came to be known as the Samaritans. The purebred Jews of the southern kingdom which remained independent until its conquest by the Babylonians in 587 BC hated these half-breeds because they felt they had betrayed their ancestors and their God. The southern Jews never assimilated into Babylonian society and remained pure. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 537 BC, they were allowed to return to Judah and rebuild their society. Thus, the animosity between Samaritans and Jews continued then and continued all the way through Jesus’ earthly life and until the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD, when everything that once was a Jewish nation was completely obliterated by Rome (which had grown tired of the constant political and revolutionary turmoil in Palestine).

Thus, James and John were part of that fabric of hatred and distrust between the northern intermarrying Jews and the southern pure Jews. The general feeling of southern Jews was that the Samaritans were Jews who had prostituted themselves just to fit in and had lost who they were. They had forgotten the marriage their people had with God. They had forgotten their covenantal relationship with God. So, they were understandably quick to want the quick and easy revenge on a hated people. Jesus, being God in the flesh, had no such prejudices. He was going to preach and teach in Samaria on His way to Jerusalem. He wanted to reach and reclaim the lost. James and John had a personal vendetta in mind. They had forgotten Jesus telling them to dust their feet off in towns that rejected them back in Luke 9:5. Judgment belongs to the Lord the Bible tells us. However, when others reject us, hurt us, scorn us, our immediate first emotional reaction is to seek revenge. We want our feelings assuaged. We want to inflict the same level of pain that we have been given. Even we may do as John and James here, go to God and ask Him to retaliate for us. However, we must not expect God to be our puppet on a string, our vending machine, and use His power to carry out our personal vendettas.

Surely, we have all seen divorces gone haywire. One spouse becomes so obsessed with destroying the other that they destroy their own lives in the process. I am sure that this dark obsession of one person for another played a role in the murder-suicide recently at the University of South Carolina in Columbia last week. Their negative, dark emotions consume them in this abyss of hate and obsession that they drive all of their friends away and through their obsessive actions end any possibilities of reconciliation. These people fall in love with the hate that they have for their spouse. It consumes and destroys them, alienates their children, and creates scorched earth all around. Are you asking God for revenge on another person? Are you trying to use God to plow down another person? Are you going to God in hate for another person? We are not seeking God in these moments. We are seeking what we want.

So, what is Jesus really telling us in this passage that we can use in our lives. He is telling us that we are to love God and love others. We are to let God be the judge of those who reject us and ridicule us. Does that mean that we should be doormats and let people run over us? Certainly not. I think that Jesus wants us to stand up for ourselves when we know that our behavior is scripturally sound and that of others is not. I do not think he expects us to simply accept the evil behavior of others and just keep quiet, just accept things. We must be able to express our feelings and have them respected.

However, I think Jesus is telling us that we should never become so obsessed with wrongs, rejections, scorns that they lead us to behaviors that will ensure no possibility of reconciliation. There was one of my favorite movies from back in the 90’s called The War starring Eljah Wood where the rivlary between two groups of kids over a tree house degenerates into an all-out war. In the end, the tree house burns to the ground and the kids are cut, bruised, tired and have won nothing. I think Jesus is saying that if we use vengeance as our motive, we will burn the tree house to the ground and have nothing to show for it. If we become so obsessed with the hurt that it becomes our idol, it will consume us and eat us alive and leave us with nothing. Let us not become so obsessed with vengeance that it becomes who we are. Let us give it over to God and ask Him how we should handle a situation not demand that He do what we want Him to do. Let Him guide our responses. Let Him handle it. He will. He will. He will.

Romans 12:14 — “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Here is an instruction on living the Christ-like walk that is difficult for us to practice with even the closest people in our lives much less a non-believer.

In the book of Acts, we find Stephen, the first Christian martyr, blessing those who had just stoned him to the point of death. How do we do this in our own lives? Proverbs 25:21-22 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” This kind of behavior is contrary to our human nature. Our human nature is to lash out at those who are our enemies. Our human nature is to lash out at those who have hurt us. Like a football team that has that killer instinct that grinds their opponents into the ground, we want to completely destroy our opponents. How does God expect us to be this way? It is so hard. I want revenge on those who have hurt me! For example, how does one respond, say, to a spouse that leaves you for another lover. How can I not hate them both and want to punish them for what they did? How can I not hate that person that screws you over at work and seems to have gained great advantage from it? How do you not hate that mean girl at school who has spread vicious rumors about you just because you were beginning to have some popularity? We deal with these types of situations throughout our lives. From kindergarten to the senior center, we have to deal with people who have made us angry, have taken advantage of us, or who were just downright mean to us.

God how do we do this one thing that you expect of us? The first thing is in submission of our will to that of God our Father. If we are truly submitted to Him as we say we are, we must give this up to Him. Let us take our anger out on God. I don’t mean being indignant with God or blaming Him but being like a child with a father. When the world dumps on us as children, we talk with our daddies. We ask him how we should respond. We cry. We vent our anger and frustration. We seek the advise of our dad. When we go to our eternal Father with anger over those who have hurt us, we vent. We cry. We cry out to Him. When we do this, it shows that we do actually believe that our unseen Father in Heaven is really central in our lives. Rather letting our anger fester and boil, we have a honest conversation with our Father. God doesn’t want our formula prayers. He wants to have real conversation with us. He wants us to express our true feelings to Him. When we let our anger rule our response, are we not playing god? We have been offended. We want to use our own power to respond. When we seek God, we are saying to ourselves that God is in charge. He really wants this type of relationship. He wants those real conversations instead of platitudes. He wants to hear when you are “so angry I cannot even see straight.” Be honest with your Father in Heaven. Seek His will. Ask Him how to respond. Ask for His help in controlling your anger.

Pray for those who persecute you!?!? Really? Paul, you have got to be kidding? How can I pray for a man who just stole my promotion from me? How can I pray for a man who just stole my wife? How can I pray for a person who assaulted my child? How can I pray for someone who just murdered someone I love? How can I pray for the drunk driver that just killed my family in a car accident? How can I pray for anyone who has hurt me? This is a tough one. There is a story I found on the internet that goes like this. A man went into the preaching ministry, worked for seven years, then resigned to go back to medical school and become a doctor. He came to the conclusion that “People don’t want spiritual health. They just want to feel good.” He said that after working as a physician for seven years, he again resigned, this time to go back to school and become an attorney. He said, “People don’t want spiritual health. They don’t even want physical health. They just want to get even.” However, when we commit to pray for a person who has hurt us, we don’t like it at first. In the process of praying for a person who has hurt us, we may begin to see them as a human being rather than a demon. We may, through the Holy Spirit’s help, begin to see what that person’s motivations were for hurting us. We may never fully understand nor get to the point that we want to have lunch with them or even get to know them. However, prayer leads us to let go of our anger. Prayer allows us to see that person as one who needs God’s forgiveness of sin just as much as we did and still do.

A lot of times when people hurt us, it is because they want and relish that we will respond in kind. When we seek and plot revenge. Are we not letting that person, as the old saying goes, “live rent free in our head.” Give it up. When we let a person’s actions so consume us, it can lead to their own destruction. Let that not happen to us. A woman who becomes so scornful toward her ex-husband that she becomes so obsessed with destroying him that she loses sight of her life is an example. This could be a husband as well. They get so consumed with destroying their spouse that they lose every friend they ever had, may even lose their children, all to the point that all they can talk about is their ex. They have no life. Is that what we want to be. The best revenge is a good life. The best revenge is rebuilding and moving on. The best revenge is to show them that they did not destroy you. The best revenge is to to pray for them. The natural inclination of everyone is to respond with hate to those who have hurt us. Our greatest witness of what a Christ follower is really like is to respond to hurt with kindness. It ain’t always easy. When our core cries out to strike them down, we must have a renewed mind. When anger is the common answer, we must respond in love. Does this make us doormats? No. We do not respond to others by letting them run over us but we do go against our nature and respond in love not hate. The old saying two wrongs don’t make a right is it. We must seek God first. We must pray for those who have hurt us. We must let the Holy Spirit govern our response.

How can we teach someone about Jesus Christ if we respond in exactly the same manner as an unsaved person? If we respond to the world around us in the same way that they do, how can they see Jesus? If it is our commitment to carry the gospel to the world, the world must see a difference in us? They must see that we are different in a way that they want? Lord, help us all as Christ followers to be in the world but not of it. Our response to hurt is the most telling tale of how we are different than the world. All the theology of Christianity is meaningless if we do not respond to the world any differently than they do. Lord, help me to seek your will always. Even when someone has licked the sugar of my Corn Flakes. Help me to seek your will for my response. Help me to take myself off the throne of my heart. Help me to seek how to glorify you and make Your Son’s name famous rather than to meet my needs for revenge. Help me. Help me. Help me with this one, Lord. Amen and amen. Gotta say amen twice on this one. Lord. So be it and So be it til I believe it.