His-Story

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Archive for the tag “Love”

Defeating Anger in the Home

When husbands and wives are embroiled in anger, I suggest that they follow that anger and see where it leads them. This journey may lead to some eye-opening destinations. Men, we might find ourselves angry at our wives because we feel the need to have power and respect. We need significance and when our wives don’t give it to us – anger! Wives might be angry at their husbands because they need love and when they feel their husbands aren’t delivering – anger. Just a word about the difference between husbands and wives (generally) Husbands express anger by being aggressive. They raise their voices, maybe throw things and, at the height of sinfulness, abuse their wives – either verbally or physically. Wives express anger by being passive/aggressive. They find out what their husband’s goals are for the weekend and they sabotage them. They might be late for an engagement or have a headache (guess what I’m thinking of with that thought?); either way, marriage is filled with anger when something other than God is on the throne of importance.

The love of Jesus found in the cross, when he laid down his life for us, can take away the source of anger. A good friend of mine told me of a time when he was angry at his wife. She just offended him, let him down, and interrupted his plans. But instead of erupting in anger, he disciplined himself to reflect on how his fitfulness offended Jesus, how he let Jesus down, how he interrupted Jesus’ plans. When he followed his anger – it took him to himself. His anger towards his wife was disarmed and they were able to have a conversation about the circumstance and come together in harmony and love. He laid down his life for his wife because he realized how much Jesus loved him when he laid down his life for him.

Parents and children are frequently embroiled in anger. Now, I want to remind us that there is a place for righteous anger, and it is often appropriate in parent/child relationships. (See Eph 4:26-27.) I would suggest that a guideline to remember is be angry at what God is angry about. Candy Ljghtner founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) because she was angry that a drunk driver killed her daughter. She was angry, but she did not react – she responded in a healthy way. But if parents react in a destructive way – outbursts or abuse – this is sinful anger and it is never appropriate. I would suggest that if a home is frequently filled with anger, parents would be wise to follow their anger. I suspect it will often lead them to their own sinfulness. They get angry because the misbehavior of a teenager tramples on their reputation, they are offended because they are not being respected and they are personally offended by their children’s behavior. Obedience and respect are very important, but not because parents are so wonderful and worthy, but because this is the way God has set up the home in order for children to learn to love God and get along in society. Parents, we need to reflect on how Jesus laid down his life for us, and then lay down our lives for our children.

A word to teenagers (as I write this I wonder how many teens might ever read it, but here goes anyway.) If teens would follow their anger, I suspect that it will lead them to a desire for freedom and independence. Teens are often angry at their parents because they want their own way with no restraints, and when they travel their own path they want no consequences. Life for teenagers is so unfair and they are angry about that!! But if they would realize that Jesus lived a life of obedience to his Father in heaven, and in so doing he laid his life down for them, they will learn an example of how to live when there is (perceived) injustice.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pe 2:21-23 ESV)

For all of us, but especially teens, if we entrust ourselves to God, he will judge justly and we will learn real quickly if our cries for justice are godly or sinful.

So, when there is anger in the home, follow it to its source. If it leads to anything that we are valuing more than God, it is a sinful anger. Consider that Jesus laid down his life for you. Then, parents, lay down your lives for your children and, children, lay down your lives for your parents.

Anger & Fairness

I have been posting some thoughts on how to deal with anger when it raises its ugly head in our lives. The general principle is that when we find ourselves angry, follow it back to its source and see if our anger is defending or protecting or avenging something that is more important than God and his Gospel. If we find that we are angry about what God cares about, our anger might be “righteous” but only if we express it in a constructive way that glorifies God. If we find that we are angry about anything else, we are in danger of expressing it in a sinful way, thus falling to sinful anger. Therefore, we must, as God encouraged Cain to do, master it before it masters us (see Genesis 4:6-7. I had a conversation with a good friend (I’ll call her Sue but that is not her real name) this week that might help unpack this principle.

Sue was taking some material back to our local library and parked her car on the street and walked toward the sidewalk, which was lined with banks of snow, but had a path cleared for people to walk from the street onto the sidewalk. As Sue approached the sidewalk, loaded down with books, she found that a van was parked in front of the path leading to the sidewalk. Because there were snow banks on both sides of the path, the van was blocking the only way she could get to the sidewalk. There was a person sitting in the van, but instead of moving a few feet down the street, she remained stationary, blocking the path. Sue attempted to walk through the snow but  slipped and fell and sprawled out on the wet snow. Pulling herself up, wet and disgusted, she spoke to the person in the van, loudly enough that she could be heard, “You are blocking the path!” The response was, “I’m waiting for someone.” Sue was angry.

As we discussed this incident Sue and I attempted to follow her anger and discover its source. We decided that she was angry because this person did not care about her circumstance and, in fact, Sue was treated unjustly. It was not fair that this driver took advantage of the circumstance by parking where she thought it was most convenient for her, while totally disregarding Sue and her circumstance, which was “obviously” more significant. The driver of the van had the opportunity to move, but chose not to. It just wasn’t fair. Sue was angry. But was she angry about what God cares about or was she angry about something that, at that moment, was more important than God? I suggested to Sue that God is ultimately concerned about her personal growth in holiness and that it is possible that he orchestrated this experience in her life to teach her about how to deal with injustice in life, circumstances when life is not fair. To be angry in this circumstance was to put her own convenience above God’s desire to teach her a valuable lesson.

Now let’s reflect on 1 John 3:16. I suggest that because Jesus laid down his life for us, we can lay down our anger. When we are confronted with anger, look to the cross. Sue and I talked about how in the cross Jesus was confronted with injustice and that it might be helpful to examine how he dealt with it. We opened our Bibles to 1 Peter 2:20-25.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  (1Pe 2:21-25 ESV)

Here is “the” example of how to deal with life when it isn’t fair. Instead of anger, Jesus entrusted himself to God, who judges justly. This experience presented Sue with the opportunity to follow his example. Instead of defending her own personal significance (obviously she deserved the right to walk on the path that would enable her to get to the sidewalk) she had the opportunity to submit to God’s lesson in humility and entrust herself to him. Later she commented to me, “I have been made more aware of how people who suffer real injustice are confronted with anger.” Now she is motivated to lay her life down for them, which she can do through prayer, getting involved in benevolence, joining a ministry that reaches out to victims, or many other constructive responses to injustice.

The solution to anger when life treats us unfairly is to consider that Jesus, who was treated much more unfairly than any of us will ever be treated, laid down his life for us. We can then lay our lives down for others. Instead of responding in anger, anger is defused and we are free from its chains. Because he laid down his life for us, we can lay down our anger.

Laying Down Our Lives for One Another

This week in my series of messages on Breaking Free From the Seven Deadly Sins I talked about breaking free from anger. I suggested that the way to overcome anger is to follow it to its source, and if that quest leads us to anything that we put before God, our anger is a sinful anger. For example, if we are angry at a driver who makes a bonehead move on the highway, and we trace our anger back to the belief that we are so important that that driver should have more respect for my presence on the road – I am putting “me” at the center of the universe and am angry that that driver doesn’t affirm my awesome majesty. I find myself defending my majesty by being angry. That’s sinful anger. I confess to you that most of the time, I trace my anger back to “me” and when I confess my own arrogance, my anger vanishes.

The best way to arrive at the ability to process anger this way is to consider the cross, where Jesus laid down his life for us.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1Jo 3:16 ESV)

Because he laid down his life for us, we have the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. We are declared righteous in his sight through being united with him in his death (see my past posts on Romans 6). Because he laid down his life for us, we should be totally broken. What an incredible love; and it is a love that we do not deserve. Further, not only did Jesus lay down his life for us, he also rose from the dead and now lives in us. We have the abundant provision of meaning, significance, joy and peace. Anger comes when we expect people and circumstances to give us what only God can give us. Beloved – he has given us all things (Romans 8:32). So when we receive what God provided for us, a gift made available because Jesus laid down his life for us, there is nothing for us to be angry about.

Now, here is a principle that governs our spiritual growth. God does not simply tell us what not to do. He always – always – instructs us to replace sinful behavior with godly behavior. The context of 1 John 3:16 is anger and hate (see vs. 11-12). Notice that John tells us that instead of anger and hate, we should love. In Vs. 16 he says we should love others like Jesus loved us – lay down our lives for one another. But does that mean we should sacrifice our lives – like one who pushes someone away from an oncoming train and dies in the process? Well, maybe. But generally, this is referring to something else. This is referring to giving preference to others and in the process sacrificing our own agenda, denying our own majesty! When we get angry at someone, it is usually because our own significance has been trampled on. Denying our proclivity to defend our own majesty and reaching out in love to others puts the nail in the coffin of anger. Let’s turn to a very familiar passage of Scripture and reflect on how loving others requires laying down our lives for others.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Co 13:4-7 ESV)

Laying down our lives for others is never an obligation, going through the motions. A love like that cannot please God (Heb 11:6) and further, it will be vulnerable to anger. Whenever our loves encounters disappointment, is rejected, is not returned – all of which will happen – we might defend our majesty and get angry. Laying down our lives for each other must be motivated by the love Jesus laid down for us.

I have three practical applications based on 1 John 3:16. They will follow later this week.

Song Of Solomon

cupid1As I write this post I am reflecting on the American holiday of Valentine’s Day. Once a year (hopefully there are many more occasions than just one), couples celebrate romance by giving each other flowers, chocolates, quiet and reflective dates over dinner, and other intimate experiences that I will leave to our imaginations. But it is very interesting to note that when it comes to love and intimacy, the Bible leaves much less to the imagination. We can thank Solomon for that!! Read more…

The Cross: Expressing The Holy Love of God

Read Exodus 34:6-7

God and man are fundamentally different.  How’s that for a profound statement.  Here is what I mean.  Humanity is infected by sin in every aspect of our being.  The major expression of that sin is self centeredness, the human attribute that largely contributed to the fall.  However, the person who is a Christ follower, whose heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh, who has partaken of the divine nature, who has been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, also has the nature of Jesus living within (Gal 2:20).  Consequently, as a behavior of discipleship, a Christian can, and should on a daily basis, deny himself. (Luke 9:23).  Instead of being self centered we are to be Christ centered.  We can deny self.  Not so with God.  God cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13) So what does this have to do with the cross?

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)

Here we have a dual expression of God’s attributes.  God is compassionate, gracious, loving, and forgiving, yet he punishes the guilty.   Doesn’t it seem proper that if the nature of God is rightly expressed in those “loving” attributes that he would just overlook sin and let the guilty off the hook.  Not for a moment.  For God is at the same time holy, and he cannot deny himself.  Sin offends God, it provokes God, and in response he burns with righteous anger and is obligated to pour out his wrath against sin.

In the cross of Christ there is a collision of the holiness and love of God.  And after the smoke clears, the holy love of God is satisfied.  Listen to several statements that have been suggested over the years:

“In the cross of Christ, God’s justice and love are simultaneously revealed” – G.C. Berkouwer

God, “in a marvelous and divine way loved us even when he hated us.” – John Calvin

“The wrath of God is the love of God.” – Emil Brunner

God is both the “Judge who must punish evil-doers and the Lover who must find a way to forgive them.” – John Stott

If you read my most recent post that outlined the nature of Jesus being both God and man, you will remember that I suggested that it was God in Christ who died on the cross.  As such, the cross is the perfect expression of God’s holiness and his love in that God poured out his wrath on himself in order to satisfy himself, and he did it in order to express his love for us.

On Good Friday, when you have occasion to reflect on the cross, marvel at the wonderful truth that in the cross of Jesus, God expresses his holy love.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand-
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land…
O safe and happy shelter!
O refuge tried and sweet!
O trysting-place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet!

Much of the material in this post is a summary from The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott

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