Sunday, August 6, 2017

Family Resemblance

Did you ever see someone's child and realize no one could ever doubt who their mom or dad was? The resemblance and similarities are so strong that you think you're simultaneously looking at one person's past and the other person's future.

As Christians, that's technically what we are supposed to do. We should so reflect the character of God that no one could ever doubt who our Father is. Sobering thought, huh? 

The New Testament book of James is one of those books you love, hate, or have a love/hate relationship with. James doesn't sugarcoat anything and pretty much calls us on the carpet about our behavior and attitude at every turn. You can't just gloss over his words and think that's not for me because he pretty much nails all of us.

Starting at verse 19 in chapter 1 of the NIV, James writes, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." 

When you read it, it's easy to miss one of the most interesting adjectives to describe the anger. Did you catch it? HUMAN anger. So, when you look at the text, it doesn't say don't ever get angry, it says to avoid human anger because that doesn't produce the righteousness God desires.

So, now we need to break it down.

If we are to avoid human anger, that means there is such a thing as godly anger. This makes sense because all we need to do is flip through any book of the Old Testament and we can find some mention of God being angry. Why? Because He's not emotionless. 

But God's anger is very different than our anger. His anger always has the intent to lead to repentance, restoration, and redemption. Our anger? Not so much. We expect immediate submission to our preferences and for the person who caused the angry response to become apologetic for our bad mood.

So what would godly anger look like on us if we are to resemble our Father?

First, it would look like we are listening. We get all the facts, first. We hear all that's being said as well as what's not being said. We think about the person who has done whatever it is and remember what we know about them and their heart. We assume the best. 

Second, we ask questions. We don't think just because we heard everything means we understand it all. We find out all that we can before we make a snap judgement about motives and intentions.

Third, we calm down. Nothing we ever say in a reaction will ever be as good as what we would say if we took a minute or two to think and then respond. And guess what? If we realize we're too close to it and need a little bit more time, we can ask for it.

When God gets angry, it's because He knows our behavior has consequences and He wants what's best for us. But His anger doesn't beat us into shame, submission, or fear. His anger points out our errors in love and explains why His way is better. Our anger is generally covered in pride and filled with personal preferences, frustration with inconveniences, and loads of misunderstandings.

Let's say the house is quiet. And we find a child with a box of tissues in another room and they are shreaded into a hundred pieces everywhere and there is glue on the carpet. We have two options. The God option which is best or the mom option which is far from best. Let's assume we choose the mom option because we're tired, upset about a phone call, and haivng a bad hair day. And then let's say that through tears we hear, "But I knew you were sad so I wanted to make you soft flowers but the stems won't stick."

Now clearly that would be a punch in the gut unless we have a heart of stone. Now the God option can start with, "What are you doing?" in a nice, pleasant, loving, non-sarcastic tone. If this is where it ends up, all is well, the mess now looks beautiful, and no feelings were hurt.

Of course this is a made up example. But how many times do we respond with human anger on a whim, when if we'd found out enough information first, we could have avoided the fallout and all the mom-guilt completely? 

Okay, so now you're thinking I'm naive and kids never do something just because without thinking. No. But, if we handle it the same way, and find that out and then calmly explain what their actions have caused......late arrivals, delayed activities, additional work that prevents something they wanted, it will have a greater impact that screaming and creating an atmosphere of fear.

Granted this is a pretty fluffy example but I think we can still get the point. Human anger will never result in the righteousness God desires. Simply put, human anger is all about us. Godly anger on the other hand is all about wanting the best for another person and loving them to it. 

We need to remember that we won't always get this right. There will be days when knee-jerk reactions happen because something else is so heavily upon us that survival mode is all we know. But that's when we can trust that the grace of God flowing from our target will come back at us with godly anger instead of human anger; because no matter what, grace is always greater.

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