“That’s My Secret–I’m Always Angry”

There is a scene in the the first Avenger’s movie where a giant alien is about to crash into the good guys. Just as the alien is coming in, Bruce Banner (the human version of the Hulk) steps forward, setting himself between the other good guys and the alien that will kill them all.

“Dr. Banner,” Captain America says, “Now might be a really good time for you to get angry,” because only the Hulk could save them from the alien.

Bruce Banner turns and, with a slight grin on his face, says, “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.”

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Anger is one of the strongest emotions in the world. In moments of weakness, it has caused many people to do things that they later regretted. I think there are many people who live their lives with anger constantly simmering under the surface. This anger may rarely boil over, but it has killed their joy, damaged their relationships, hurt their lives, and ruined their relationship with God. This passage describes anger in several ways:

  1. Slaves to various passions and pleasures – Being a slave to anyone or anything is a terrifying idea, but when the master is a desire or feeling that is constantly within you, slavery is even more hopeless. The inability to control one’s anger (in action and words or thoughts and desires) makes us slaves, even if it is only for a few seconds.
  2. Passing our days in malice and envy – This is such a depressing epitaph to a life. I don’t want my life to be known for the many fights and bitterness that I experienced and caused in others.
  3. Hated by others and hating one another – I once went to a funeral for an old man. Six people showed up: his daughter, his daughter’s husband, his daughter’s two children, me, and the officiating pastor. He was a man who was known for bitterness and anger for the last 20 years of his life, so much so that his friends and relatives did not come to his funeral. Hatred, or manipulation, or bitterness, is a sad way to live life.

SEEING THROUGH THEIR EYES

Anger is often a secondary emotion, or a reactionary emotion. It is typically not primary. We normally get angry because we didn’t get what we want. These desires can be for many things: 1) control or power 2) respect, appreciation, or love 3) money, physical possessions, etc.  Angry people often say things like, “It’s not fair” or “I can never get what I want” or “No one likes me” or “No one listens to me” or “I just want this one thing.”

The first thing anger does, without us even knowing, is that it makes us less sympathetic and more me-focused. It steals our ability to be aware about how our words and actions are impacting others. Angry people are typically ignorant of other’s perception of them and singly-focused on what they want.

Anger typically has one of two motivations: revenge or convenience. Revenge is a pretty obvious motivation for anger–simply wanting to hurt someone else because of something they did to us. But, in my opinion, revenge is not nearly as common a motivation for anger as convenience. Most people have learned from childhood that if they throw a tantrum, they get what they want. We are more sophisticated when we get older, but we still throw tantrums. We might cry, or yell, or throw things, or give the cold shoulder, or become domineering, or become irritable, or become physically abusive, but typically as soon as we get what we want, our tantrums subside. Without knowing it, we have communicated that what we want is more important than the relationship, because we are willing to sacrifice the relationship to get what we want, instead of sacrificing what we want for the sake of our relationship.

SEEING ANGER THROUGH GOD’S EYES

Matthew 5:21-22 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

In Jesus’ eyes, anger and verbal insults were as bad as murder. Why is this? Because they both have the same heart sin. Anger is like a tree with different colors and sizes of fruit. Anger is the root system and the trunk, but the fruit could take different shapes and sizes. The fruit might be bitterness, hatred, envy, jealousy, verbal insults, physical abuse, slander, yelling, lying, clamoring, or murder. All of these fruit fall from the same type of tree: anger.

Anger is never alone, either. It always brings a thousand other sins with it, like idolatry (James 4:1-11), pride (Philippians 2:3), selfishness (Philippians 2:4), and foolishness (Proverbs 19:3).

THE GOSPEL AND ANGER

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

 “Were once” are the key words from this last verse. The fundamental transformation that needs to happen is an identity shift. This starts by admitting who are without Christ. With God’s forgiveness, we fools in our sins, easily enslaved by our passions, simply passing time through discord with others, having the reputation of hatred for or by others. Not only are our sins depressing and damaging to our lives, but they are an insult against God’s law. This insurrection against our Creator is punishable by death, eternal death in hell.

Titus 3:4-8 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

 Jesus Christ embodied an olive branch that was offered to us. On the cross, our punishment was paid in full and God offers adopting us into his family. He does not give his salvation away to those who earn it by good works, but to those who simply trust in his forgiveness through Christ.

This is a new reality of life for us. We were angry, but we are now loved. We were slaves to our passions, but now we are children of God. We were living our lives in hatred, but now “we love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

APPLICATION

Because anger can take many different forms, we need to repent of different types of anger in different ways. Here is a list of some “fruit” of anger and the direct ways that we can replace the bad fruit with good fruit.

  • Anger in the Heart
    • Not control, but surrender (Romans 6:12-14)
    • Not joy in earthly pleasures, but joy in God (Hebrews 11:24-26, Psalm 16:11)
    • Not being loved and accepted by the world, but loved and accepted by God (Romans 5:5)
    • Not pride, but humility (James 4:6-11)
    • Not selfishness, but love (Colossians 3:12)
    • Not revenge, but mercy and grace (Ephesians 4:32)
    • Not misunderstanding, but sympathy (Hebrews 4:14-16)
  • Anger in Words
    • Not corrupt communications, but building communication (Ephesians 4:31)
    • Not clamoring (yelling), but soft answers (Proverbs 15:1)
    • Not arguing to convince, but talking with to meet (Philippians 2:1-2)
    • Not lying, but honesty (Ephesians 4:25)
    • Not being unreasonable, but open to reason (James 3:14-21)
  • Anger in Actions
    • Not manipulation for selfish desires, but sacrifice for others (1 John 3:16-18)
    • Not bossiness for selfish desires, but service for others (Philippians 2:3)
    • Not withdrawal or stonewalling, but connecting with others (Philippians 4:2-3)
    • No physical abuse, but sacrifice ourselves for others (Philippians 2:4)

Guest Post: Singleness and Soul-Tailoring

A note from Pastor Trey: I invited Dewey to write a blog post for us about singleness. Dewey is a young man pursuing future ministry. He has a unique history and has interacted with these ideas in his own spiritual life. I hope you benefit from hearing his story and what he has learned. 

Just a few summers ago I started to take interest in a nice girl, whom I will call Taylor. At this point of my life Taylor seemed to be everything I could have ever dreamed of; she wasn’t afraid to get dirty, to be silly with me, or even to talk with me about personal thoughts and feelings. I felt that since we had a good foundation of friendship, we were ready to take things to the next level. After some time, on a beautiful summer day, I started a conversation with her about the possibility of a relationship; a conversation that ended with the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship becoming reality. Now that I had that person to fix all of my insecurities, I felt like I was on top of the world, that nothing could ever go wrong. Needless to say, after nearly two years in the relationship we started to encounter some major problems. Taylor didn’t seem to “fix” my weaknesses at all. In fact, she seemed to criticize them and frustrate every attempt to deal with them. Our “ideal” relationship had become a massive enigma riddled with guilt, shame, harsh words, worse insecurities, and deadly unconfessed sins. It was at this point that I started to think that I had done something wrong in our relationship, that maybe, just maybe, if I could do something to repair it, all of the problems would be resolved.

At the end of those long two years of dating, I was convicted of all the sins I had committed and for being blind to them. I knew that something needed to change internally and externally. I went before God and begged Him to forgive me for the things I had done inside the relationship, and for the sins I committed outside. My heart was so heavy with guilt that I considered suicide many times, and all of the insecurities I had sought to cure were really magnified tenfold. But God, in His great love, showed me grace. God freed me from the sins that had enslaved my soul, and from the idol I had made Taylor to be. I knew then that I had to make a decision about our relationship, it could not continue any farther. The break-up was an exhausting, shameful, and painful process, but when it was all said and done I had freedom and a restored fellowship with God that still covers my insecurities to this day. There are still times that I catch myself looking for idols, but when I go to God and confess my sins to Him, He frees me from them as well.

Have you ever found yourself wondering what your future would hold? Whether you will remain single the rest of your life or find the guy/girl of your dreams? Do you believe that a significant other will be the answer to your problems? Do you feel “singled out?” So often we get caught up in our own desires that we forget what is really best for us. Relationships and romance are not bad by themselves, but when you have an insatiable, all-consuming desire for a relationship you will never find satisfaction.

Single Life

In our American “I-do-what-I-want” culture being single is considered a curse. Is it really a bad thing to be single? No.

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 says,

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

Paul says that it is better to remain free of worldly anxieties that are present in any human relationships. In verse 28 Paul also says:

“…Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles…”

Yes, marriage is a gift from God. Being single is also a gift from God. With any gift we are given we should seek to honor God with it by enjoying it in the right way.

Enjoying Gifts Correctly

Often times, I have found myself making gifts more important than the Giver; it is a terrible habit to let form. Now and then we sink into sin because we forget that God’s grace is sufficient for us; it is only His grace that completes us.

The times when we start to fear that we will lose God’s blessings are the times when we forget that He already provides what we need, and even far more, daily. We are like toddlers that hold on to our old filthy diapers because we think that we will not receive a newer, cleaner one. We are anxious that God will not provide even if we tell ourselves all is well on the outside. Matthew 6:25-34 says,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? ’For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all .But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Questions to Consider

  • Are you seeking your own desires?
  • Are you looking for satisfaction in earthly things? In earthly relationships?
  • The hard truth is that you will never find it in those places. You will find satisfaction neither in your filthy diaper, nor in looking for a new one, nor by ignoring it. Satisfaction is found in God’s perfect grace alone, in which we are in desperate need.

This Momentary Gift of Marriage

Many of the insights into these passages are from John Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage.

Have you ever seen a plaque on a kitchen wall that says, “Marriage is Forever” or “Love is Forever” or “Family is Forever.” These platitudes have beautiful sentiment. Family, love, and marriage have a way of getting us through the tough times and help to keep us anchored to things that are more important than money, houses, and jobs.

But are those plaques accurate? Unfortunately, they are not completely true.

Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” There will be no marriage in heaven. I do think that we will know our earthly spouses, children, friends, and loved ones, but ultimately, these earthly relationships will pale in comparison to our relationship with Jesus. Blood may be thicker than water, but the common bond in Christ is thicker than anything.

Paul knows that future day is coming, and therefore he says in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 “This is what I mean brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no good, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

Does this mean we should ignore our spouses and become a monk? I don’t think so, but I do think it means that, while we are united to our spouse in love, we also hold everything on this earth loosely, because all of our possessions, all of our earthly work, and all of our earthly relationships are passing away. Only eternal possessions, eternal work, and eternal relationships will last. And so we hold our spouses tightly, and loosely.

This is what Jesus means when he says in Luke 14:26-27 and 33, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This does not mean we should despise our spouses, any more than it means we should despise our own life. This word refers to preferential treatment.

For example, if I offered you $100, would you take it? Of course you would. In fact, you are probably already planning what you would do with it! What if I also offered you $1,000,000, but only on the condition that you cannot take the $100 too. Would you cry about the $100 that you lost? No! Because you have something much better. Jesus is telling us that we need to choose him above all else, which does not mean that we literally need to grit our teeth and despise our spouses. God gives the good gift of marriage. He expects us to love our spouses and enjoy our companionship, but he wants the greatest gravitational pull on our lives to be him. This means that, even on our wedding day when we hold one another tightly and enjoy our first married kiss, we hold our spouses loosely, knowing that there is an infinitely better day coming.

In Luke 18:29-30, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” We are not promised more spouses in heaven because we chose Christ over our earthly wife or husband. We already learned that in heaven we are not married. This means we will receive rewards that are far better than any earthly relationship could offer.

Christianity calls marriage a wonderful gift, an amazing responsibility, and a treasure to be held loosely. Love your spouse, but through your relationship with him/her, set your mind on eternal things.

Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Tightly, but loosely.

 

Descriptive or Prescriptive? Biblical Stories of Marriage

If you are a Christian or have grown up going to a church youth group, you have probably heard a dating message from the story of David and Abigail, or Adam and Eve, or Jacob and Rachel, or Isaac and Rebekah. Many books have been written that built off of these Biblical stories to make a Christian method of dating.

It is important to note that the Biblical stories are not prescriptive, but descriptive. In stories, Biblical authors simply describe the events that took place. There are no headings over each story that say, “Good Example” or “Bad Example.” They simply state the facts. In other words, just because we read it in a story, that does not mean we should necessarily do it. In fact, the Bible’s cold-hearted description of the events around many marriages in these stories are an unrelenting critique of those marriage models. Here are some examples:

  1. One of the most common arguments against the Bible is polygamy. Critics have argued, “David was lifted up as a righteous man, but he had many wives. Does that mean that polygamy is ok?” While polygamy was permitted in ancient cultures, the Bible relentlessly gives the details of these polygamous men’s lives and describes the troubles it brought them. (Genesis 16)
  2. Many agrarian cultures, like the ones in the Bible, treated marriage like a business transaction to profit a family. In the business transaction between Jacob and Rachel’s family, we see Laban tricking Jacob into marrying his more ‘undesirable’ daughter. When Jacob didn’t like his purchased product and realized it couldn’t be returned, he worked to purchase the product he really wanted. This led to weird complications between daughter and father, sister and sister, and husband and wife. The details of those stories are a condemnation of making marriages a business transaction. (Genesis 29-31)
  3. In Jesus’ day, if you were unmarried, you were a second-class citizen. To them, marriage was a sign of God’s blessing and raised your status. However, Jesus frees us from viewing marriage as a sign of blessing or singleness as a sign of cursing, because he and Paul were both single. In fact, Christianity was one of the first religions that made singleness a viable option for its followers. (1 Corinthians 7:6-7)
  4. Also in Jesus’ day, it was common for a man to divorce his wife basically any reason, leaving her a social outcast with very little means to support herself. Jesus harshly condemns this practice. (Matthew 19:1-12)
  5. In the early church, women were dynamically lifted up as equals to men, though they had few rights in their cultures. (Galatians 3:28, 1 Peter 4:7)
  6. In the Roman culture in which the early church was birthed, husbands were allowed to cheat whenever they wanted. Wives were often forced into terrible forms of birth control, and, if they got pregnant, could be forced into abortions by their husbands. These abortions often lead to life-threatening complications or drastically damaged their ability to have children. (these terrible actions are noted by historian Rodney Stark in his book The Triumph of Christianity) Through all of this, the Bible still holds that the husband is head, but radically slashes at the Roman view by telling them not only to flee sexual immorality, but also to nourish and cherish their wife, as if she was part of his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Ephesians 5:25-29)

The stories in the Bible are written for our example, but we need to determine whether they were a good or bad example from the explicit teachings of the Bible. The truth in God’s Word and the examples given critique many incorrect models of marriage throughout the history of the world. Although many incorrectly view the Bible’s teaching on marriage to be outdated, it continues to be a clear voice on gender equality, anthropology, marital roles, practical marital advice, sexual morals, true love, the pleasures of sex, the meaning of marriage, the nature of relationships, and much more.

“‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32

The Great Commission

Have you ever stopped and really thought about the Great Commission? Jesus commands us to do the impossible! We are called to make disciples, of ALL nations. We aren’t just called to teach the nations about Jesus or his teachings, but to teach them to observe ALL things that he commanded. We cannot force them to obey Christ’s commands, or even convince people to become his disciples. It’s impossible to change people’s hearts, and I wouldn’t even know how to begin systematically going to ALL the nations.

This is the reason why Jesus surrounded his Great Commission on either side with promises. Jesus wants us to trust him for strength and live in the assurance that he is always with us. That’s why he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” and “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” As with every command in God’s Word, faith comes first, then effort. Will you join his Great Mission with faith-fueled, love-filled, determined obedience?