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1/19/2006

FIGHTING WORDS

Brian taught on Tuesday from 1 Corinthians chapter 1 where Paul is first kind (almost swarmy) and then spanks the church in Corinth heavily for being divided and divisive. He doesn't argue against their fighting on the grounds that it's bad for THEM, but because their fighting confused the message of Christ, misrepresented the character of Christ on the cross which was forgiveness, grace and mercy. How do we know today if our words are causing division that misrepresents God? Seems like something anyone who doesn't like our words could claim against us doesn't it?

One thing's for sure, it's OK to upset each other sometimes. Paul certainly is upsetting, threatening to bring a whip with him on his next visit to Corinith if they don't start behaving. He certainly got upset with Peter when he griped him out publicly for being two-faced. Jesus called religious people names like blood sucking snakes (vipers) and rotten graves painted over to look better than they are. That's certainly upsetting. So where's the line? Is it drawn by motive and our internal condition? Is it drawn by a set of rules and regulations governing the exact vocabulary, place and time of our confrontations? Is it determined by how our words are perceived by those they're spoken to? Is it measured by the end result only, whether or not the message or image of Christ is hurt by our words and conflicts?

I've been taught, "Before you speak ask yourself if it's true, if it's kind and if it's necessary." That's the formula answer, one that will definitely err on the side of caution and probably keep us all out of trouble, but it just doesn't hold up to scripture does it? If Jesus followed this axiom he wouldn't have been nailed to a cross would He? People who don't upset, who are always perceived as speaking kindly, aren't crucified. Yes, Jesus and Paul seem to have frequently said what was perceived as unkind by the sometimes sensitive religious types like us? So when is it OK to upset and confront and when isn't it? I don't have an answer yet, but I got closer this morning reading these words:

JAMES 3:13-17 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

 15This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.

 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GREAT stuff, man. Thank you.

Just today, I'm on the phone with a friend who's been SERIOUSLY wronged by a pastor-person who's been a flat-out snake of epic proportion.

My friend's a minister, too, and we were both wondering if we're allowed to be angry. The understanding I get from scripture is that anger is not something we're entitled to, whatsoever. Even justified anger.

(Col 3:8, James 1:20, Eph 4:26 and 4:31 -- for starters)

We GET angry, but we're told to get rid of it. It's not right to be angry. That's the read I get, hard as it is.

Doesn't mean we don't act and speak truth when needed, and certaily doesn't mean God isn't allowed anger. I can't justify my anger by saying, "Hey, Jesus got angry," because I'm not Jesus, even though I have a cool beard-thing going.

Anyway, great post. Anxious to listen to other takes from your insightful readers.

Brant

1/19/2006  
Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

I think it's a little more subtle than Brant makes it out to be. "Be angry and sin not" makes it pretty clear that anger in itself is not sinful; it's what we do or where we go with that anger that makes the difference.

Perhaps we could propose a test more like "true, loving, and necessary?" or just "loving"? Love is more to the point than kindness, by a long shot. Love can be angry, I think. Obviously truth alone is not a criterion; the statement "Your nose is abnormally long" may be perfectly true, but is probably not loving or helpful in any way.

1/19/2006  
Blogger Kat said...

I love debating and analyzing and thinking deeply, but I have to think that we're not really going to find the answers to our questions here. Is it ok to be angry? When is it ok to offend? How do I know what is alright to say and what isn't?

I think that if we really want know the answers, we get them by going into our closet (i.e. a place you can just be by yourself) and spend some time with God. I think it's then that He gives us our *plumbline* by which we can decide in any situation or any circumstance what's right and what isn't.

The discussion here is challenging, productive, fun and necessary, but we could sure analyze it all to death. I just want to encourage us to make sure that it doesn't end here. That our conversations here lead us to spend more of our time doing what is sometimes the hardest thing to do - pray and listen to the still small voice of God.


kat

1/19/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that I'm off my soapbox...
Perhaps our guide should be Ephesians 4 and specifically verse 15 "speak the truth in love."

Thanks Shaun for giving me stuff to think about and talk to God about.

kat

1/19/2006  
Anonymous burrito said...

I'm a buddhist, but I can identify with your comments, folks. Buddha said that the sage is like a vessel upon the ocean. He will feel the waves of emotion wash over him, and this is to be expected. He must, however, form an attachment to none of these waves (feelings) as they will fall away just as fast and leave him as peaceful a being as before. That way he can endeavor to act without these emotions in mind.

1/19/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthew --

I appreciate your take, but check out the verses in Ephesians. I'm not sure how to read it and see that we're ever allowed to hold on to anger. It's pretty direct: get rid of it. Nothing about anger-in-love.

I like to equate all of my anger with righteous anger, but I think I'm just supposed to let it go. Doesn't mean I won't need to speak harsh truth, certainly. I could be wrong...

Brant

1/19/2006  
Blogger thehomelessguy said...

1st John has some verses that apply -

1 John 2:9
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

1 John 2:11
But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

1 John 3:15
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

1 John 4:20
If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

1/19/2006  
Blogger thehomelessguy said...

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

I don't see anger in any of the fruits of the spirit.

1/19/2006  
Blogger Paula said...

anger is not necessarily bad. it can be a motivator to cause you to do good. i spent most of last year dealing with anger towards a certain pastor because of what he did to my family & my (old) church. often anger is the outward expression of other emotions such as unforgiveness, envy, or even dissatisfaction. last year i realised that i needed to work out exactly why i was angry, and deal with that. but then again, you can be angry because you see people being mistreated, trodden down, abused. you can be angry about how God is represented in our community. but, all the anger will be of no use unless it motivates you to change the situation, and to change the situation out of love.

enough of my rambling

1/19/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A simple "Thank You" for this post will due...But, God uses you thats for sure...

1/19/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paula,

That's a common point of view, I understand and sympathize. But given the scriptures that say, flat-out, "Get rid of anger" -- how are we to conceive of a positive anger?

I don't see where we're allowed it. If my boss says, "Get rid of that comic book" -- it's disallowed, unless there's some other directive. Where's the other directive?

Just askin'...
Brant

1/19/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Anger. Great topic for discussion - not the topic I wrote about, but great topic nonetheless.

Let's say Brant checks out Leviticus and reads that we're not to trim our beards at the edges. He ponders and prays and decides to grow one of those beard things or at least some dangly sideburns. He figures everyone should who wants to be obedient to God. Now let's assume Brant goes to a church where no one has a beard, including his pastor. This bothers Brant. Brant is bothered. it says right there in scripture to grow sideburns or else.

Brant's not mad, just "concerned" in this hypothetical. What should Brant do? Talk bad about the pastor for being a smooth faced disobedient follower of God? Confront the smoothies to their faces publicly? Privately? Start his own denomination of tan bearded evangelicals? Any of these options could cause or would cause division, no? So does he keep quiet and let this "blasphemy" go on even though he feels strongly that his reading of scripture is true and the other jokers in his church are flat out wrong about this whole hairy face thing?

No anger here, just one interpretation of truth, of what's essential colliding with another. That's the sort of thing, as silly as this sounds, that causes division in churches, and companies and families. Doesn't start out angry. Starts as a difference in belief and priority doesn't it? Carpet color, pastor's salary, musical style etc.

SG

1/19/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i love the last verse. . i love all those beautiful words. This post reminds me of Watchman Nee. . I've read many of his books - the standout being "The Spiritual Man", which took me forever because it was so loaded and dense with truth that i could barely digest it. When i read this book though, i felt so upbraided and chastised, it made me feel small. . i felt like i knew nothing about anything, like i was less than square one by the time i finished. I still carry the sting of the words in my heart and mind. It affected me like no other book. Its full of Bible chunks, i almost view it as a study aid or companion. I read about anger, about fighting, about other 'soulish' behaviours. Has anyone read Nee's stuff? If so, what do you think? how did you feel?

1/19/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regard to anger, in the NIV version, Ephesians 4:26 and Psalm 4:4 say,"In your anger, do not sin."

So, yes, I think it's ok for us to GET angry. After all, if someone walked up and slapped my little girl and I didn't GET angry - well I just don't think that's humanly possible.

It's just a matter of what I do with that anger. Do I act on it and slap back? Do I let it breed and fester into bitterness? Or do I talk to God about it? I think God wants us to be honest with Him about how we feel. So I can find a place where I can stomp my feet, throw a couple pillows and just cry out to God about how I feel. I think that's better that gritting my teeth and saying, "I'm not angry. I'm not angry." Anger doesn't just disappear. It has to be replaced with something. And only God can do that. So as long as that anger drives us directly to Him with a heart to get rid of it because we KNOW it will only hurt us and others, then I think it's ok to be angry.

Just my 2 cents.

kat

1/19/2006  
Blogger FancyPants said...

Shaun, you're speaking more about dissention in the church rather than just anger towards one another. Dissention and division within the church does involve anger, I think, because our disagreements usually lead to anger when we personalize the issue at hand. Although I agree with you, it doesn't start with anger. You ask in your blog, where's the line in upsetting people with your words and beliefs. This is hard, but going back to Brian's teaching, when we misrepresent Christ on the cross and His message, seems to be a good answer. There is time for correction and rebuke, yes, but these are very different things than condemning a brother or sister in Christ for disagreeing with you on an issue that is not solved by rules and regulations.

I very much appreciate this week's blogs, because it seems we're stuck in the middle of this very thing at our church. And interestingly enough, the cause for the griping between staff members is what some are terming "church growth." Some staff members believe that we need a more exciting worship time with more media, more flow, more energy, more upbeat songs. Some believe that we should stick to traditional ways that they are used to because that's what people know and are comfortable with. This disagreement does not bother me so much, because I understand both sides. But what grieves me is when people start calling names and lashing out in abrupt measures to reach a "change" that hurts someone else. When this starts happening we're missing the point, we're missing Christ crucified. We're missing the needs of our brother. We're missing the true movement of the Spirit of God. So, thanks for the verses and and dialogue. It has been timely.

1/20/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Great - but very sad - example of what I'm talking about fancypants (I have a hard time referring to someone as fancypants btw). Yes, you're absolutely right. Dissension does at some point usually involve anger. But does it start that way? I don't think it always does. Paul talks about the division in Corinth as disagreements over which teacher and which teacher's beliefs they referred. Doesn't sound angry, though maybe it became so. In your church division may have started with a noble idea: How do we get younger couples to come to our church? - that may have been the question. Just a question. Not "Man, I hate organ music and the people who love it." That would be anger.

Good thoughts. I love the comments we've been getting lately at SHLOG. Makes it worth posting more often. I'm thinking because of you guys. Thanks for that.

SG

1/20/2006  
Blogger FancyPants said...

That's what makes this name so hilarious! =-) You can just call me Fancy. How's that?

I think you're right about it starting with a noble idea. And that is a very honest intention, how to draw younger couples in. And I'm very glad and very relieved we're acting on it. But how do we stick with the good intention? Is it possible to grow a church (or change a church) into relating to young people without it becoming about the pride of those "moving forward"? That sounds harsh, but I guess I'm asking, is the pushing forward worth the fighting?

1/20/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anger is certainly universal, certainly understandable and easily explainable. And so is much of our nature that we are told to leave behind. It's quite a part of us, and we're told point-blank to "get rid of it" -- straight out. It's not ambiguous. Yes, we get angry -- we're weak -- and we're commanded to let it go, pronto.

A confession: very little anger I experience is because someone assaulted my kids. It's almost always, deep down, because I feel slighted somehow. And yes, I think that's how most divisions in the church start.

Looking at my kids, I can see why we're not allowed anger. Say my son, Justice, is angry at my daughter, Julia, for something wrong she did, but HE'S done something equivalent to it.

As father, I've now got more of an issue with HIM than I do with Julia.

Whatever they did is bad, but if he allows his anger at her, he's not grasping the reality of his own situation. That's called pride.

Brant

1/20/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant,
I agree. We should not walk in anger or bitterness. Not at all. I think that's clearly a fact, but at the same time I don't think it's true that we're not "allowed anger" in any measure. I think there is a difference between feeling angry and walking in anger.

Anger is an emotion - like love, joy, hope, fear, happiness. I think we're allowed our emotions, but God just wants His Spirit to control us, not our emotions.

Once again, I think it just all comes down to letting my life revolve around Jesus. If He's truly the center of my life then it doesn't come down to discussing semantics, it comes down to being so consumed with Him that my flesh doesn't have a home anymore.

I read a quote this week by Helen Keller where she basically said, "Christians are so consumed with fighting the devil. Perhaps if we just spent that time loving people, the devil would die of his own accord."

So, it's not so much about being allowed anger or not being allowed anger, it's about being honest about who I am and desiring to be so deperate for Jesus that nothing else matters much. Not even the ways I've been wronged.

-kat

1/20/2006  

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