SLOW TO ANGER & IT’S ALL ABOUT ME

The Kingdom of Me. It’s all about me. Didn’t you know that? It’s not about you … not about us … just about me. Your role? Well, obviously, to satisfy my desires!

• Proverbs 19:11 (ESV): “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

• James 1:19 (CSB): “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

• Ephesians 4:26 (NIV): “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

• PHILIPPIANS 2:4 (NKJV): “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

AVOID SENSELESS ARGUMENTS

THE KINGDOM OF ME. It’s all about me. Didn’t you know that? It’s not about you … not about us … just about me. Your role? Well, to satisfy my needs, to make me happy.

You say: What a terribly egocentric, anti-social, narcissistic mindset. No thought for anyone else, just yourself.

I agree with you. My statement of personal interest is everything selfish you said it is.

However, now that I’m a born-again Christian, the Holy Spirit works within me to change all of that, to make certain I don’t consider myself “more highly than I ought” (see Rom. 12:3) and that I should consider others needs “more important” than my own (see Phil. 2:3).

But what about those who aren’t born-again Christians? According to the Bible, most of the people we encounter are not born-again Christians, as Jesus defined the term “born again” (see John 3).

IT’S ALL ABOUT ME

YOU ASK, “HOW DOES this ‘all about me’ stuff impact your meditation topic, avoiding arguments? What’s the connection?”

Great question!

I’ve been meditating and praying a lot in recent weeks about the connection because — this is just what I think happens — arguments erupt when two or more people interact in such a way that each one requires — no, insists on — winning his or her point.

It doesn’t necessarily start off that way. An argument can materialize out of a simple conversation, or maybe an innocent question, or even an off-hand remark that means nothing to the speaker but is dynamite to the listener.

The Bible tells us to avoid such tiffs. In addition to our four text sources above, here are some other gems:

• Proverbs 20:3 (NKJV): “[It is] honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.”

• Proverbs 21:23 (ESV): “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

• James 3:6a (NIV): “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”

• Proverbs 15:1 (CSB): “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”

TRIPPING OVER PRIDE

THE WAY IT SEEMS to go is that our pride gets in the way of our conversation. Someone’s comment does not square with our reality, so we want to ensure that our perspective — which we insist is objectively based — prevails.

For Christians, the most important topics focus on faith issues, whether it’s abortion or same-sex marriage or euthanasia — or a host of other topics — we often believe we are “witnessing” for our faith when we make our point, but before too long, we restate it, then we dig in our heels, then raise our voice, then make bold judgmental comments.

***

The late Dr. Everett L. Cattell, former president of Malone College in Canton, Ohio, had this to say about arguing as it relates to Christian witness:

“Witnessing is not arguing. I used to get a thrill of self-statisfaction when, with fellow university students, I found I could hold my own arguing an evangelical faith. But nobody got converted by it. Whenever I find myself arguing religion with any one now, I know I am failing. In witnessing, there is no argument. It is sharing, and if the thing you share is not real, it is false witnessing.”

CATTELL, SPIRIT OF HOLINESS, P. 19)

Instead of demanding recognition of your point, no matter how valid you believe it to be, perhaps sprinkle your speech with salt.

The Bible tells us in Colossians 4:6 (ESV): “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

KINGDOM OF SELF

LET’S FINISH WITH a word of advice from Pastor and Author Paul David Tripp, who speaks of “The Kingdom of Self” and it’s fight with God’s Kingdom.

Tripp gives us five questions to ask in self-examination to highlight how sin tarnishes our motives, words, and actions from the high-minded ideal we hold to the way it gets played out.

  • 1. SELF-FOCUS: Before making a decision, do you think, “What’s in it for me?” or do you freely sacrifice for the good of another without expecting a return?
  • 2. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS: Are you more concerned with, and on the lookout for, the sin, weakness, and moral failure of others than you are your own?
  • 3. SELF-SATISFACTION: Do you regularly feel discontent, always looking for something new to satisfy you, instead of being satisfied with a God-honoring life?
  • 4. SELF-RELIANCE: Do you avoid living in intrusive and intentional relationships, where others admit their need for grace and seek the help of biblical community?
  • 5. SELF-RULE: Which law gets the most attention and the quickest response in your life and relationships, the Word of God or your own desires?

POSTSCRIPT

PAUL DAVID TRIPP points out that Jesus showed anger when someone violated God’s laws, but men and women show anger when someone violates their laws. This is especially true, he said, for married couples, who constantly navigate the petit irritations of close living.

In his book Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs asks us to imagine that Jesus is standing behind the person we’re disputing with, saying, “I created this person in My image. Whatever you say to him (or her), you’re saying to Me.”

Well, that would shut us up fast! At least it would encourage us to tone down our rhetoric, maybe cause us to lead with our ears over our tongues.

Here’s the apostle Paul’s exhortation to his disciple Timothy in his ministry:

Remind them of these things, and solemnly exhort them in the presence of God not to dispute about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the listeners.”

2 TIMOTHY 2:14 (NASB20)

PRAYER

OUR MOST GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL FATHER, we humbly come to You in repentance of our sin, of arrogance and pride, of selfishness and lack of compassion, of judgment and condemnation of others. O Lord, You made us in Your image and yet we flop around in our sin, living a life ruled by distorted vision of Your design. Forgive us, O Lord, and claim us as Your own, washing our sin away by the Lamb’s blood, and giving us the assurance that no one can snatch us from Your hand. In Jesus’ glorious name we pray. AMEN

LIVING A JOY-FILLED LIFE

If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our lives should be testimonies of joy, peace, and gratitude. When, then, do so many of us grumble about our hardships when God is calling us to receive our blessings with joy … and spread the overflow to those around us.

  • Romans 15:13 (CSB): “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 (NKJV): “Rejoice always … in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

BEING A BLESSING TO OTHERS

BY THIS TIME, Danny and Marcy were tearing their hair out … and about ready to tear out each other’s hair!

Call it a day of “First World Problems,” if you want, it was still frustrating, and both of them felt justified in their anger.

“Danny! The garbage disposal isn’t working.” Marcy shouted. “Do something! I need to get rid of these left-overs.”

“Stop annoying me!” Danny responded from a nearby room, where he sat hunched over his computer. “The internet is out, and I can’t complete my project.”

OUR DAILY STRUGGLES

THE EVERYDAY CHALLENGES that dot our lives, testing our resolve to be more patient, to be kinder and more loving, to be considerate of others.

Didn’t we just make that pledge Sunday morning during worship? Weren’t we led to believe that blissful state of being bathed by the Holy Spirit was ours to carry through the week, only to see it leak from our grasp by Monday morning?

How far removed are Danny and Marcy from living out the Gospel as a blessing to those around them, to bear the “Good Fruit” of Christian values, when they can’t get past noon the next day without bickering and quarreling.

While Danny and Marcy are fictional characters, they stand in very nicely for some people I know all too well … like me and just about everyone I know.

HOPE IS AVAILABLE

JESUS TOLD US He is the vine and we’re the branches, and that we must “abide in Him.” Why? “Because,” He said, “without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NKJV)

Every day we fail to live out our faith, every time we “quench” the Holy Spirit, whenever we fail to show the “Fruit of the Spirit,” we are reminded that without the guiding, sustaining light of Jesus Christ, we will fail.

We are living testaments of the apostle Paul’s lament in Romans 7:15 (NASB20), when he complained about doing those things he hates: “for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Yup. Got it. That’s not just Paul. That’s me, too.

JESUS IS THE ANSWER

THERE IS A BETTER WAY, and we know that. Our text source gives us the answer. The God of hope and joy can so fill our hearts with peace that the overflow, the excess, the over abundance that God gifts us can reach everyone around us.

We can’t help it. If our hearts are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, “the peace that passes all understanding,” then even in the worst circumstances of daily living, we should feel God’s presence, and our lives should shine in the darkness.

Paul tells us in Romans 12:12 (ESV): “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Again, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NET): “Constantly pray.”

Just a quick, “Help me, Lord Jesus. I need patience.” “Help me, Lord, to feel the joy of your presence.” “Be with me now, Father God. I need to feel bathed in Your love.”

ASKING A QUICK PRAYER

WITH JUST A TWEAK, Danny and Marcy can rescue their morning.

“Danny! The gar—” Marcy starts, then stops to shoot up a short plea: “O God, my Savior, quiet my soul.” Then, she says, “Danny, Honey, can you check this garbage disposal for me? It’s not working.”

“Not now!” Danny exclaims, cursing under his breath. Then he stops and prays: “Lord, give me patience. I love my wife.” Now, he can say: “I’ll be right in.”

He can leave the Internet problem alone for the moment. With a heart filled with Grace, he’ll prefer helping his wife with her needs. The Internet can wait.

POSTLUDE

THERE’S A NEW SONG in the Contemporary Christian Music field, called “Make Room,” featuring Elyssa Smith & Community Music (©2020, Curb|Word Entertainment). Here is the refrain:

“And I will make room for you. To do whatever You want to. To do whatever you want to. This is where I lay it down. You are all I’m chasing now. This is my surrender. This is my surrender.”

I like this song because, well, the melody is hypnotically peaceful, and the lyrics call me to “lay it down,” and tell me “this is my surrender.”

When I surrender, I live in harmony with the Holy Spirit within me, and that gives Him the room to bless me to overflowing, so that, out of His abundance, I can share my blessing with others, to be a blessing to them.

Without Him, as Jesus constantly reminds me, I can do nothing.

PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father, our creator, our sustainer, our source of anything and everything that is good in our lives, we praise You, we bless You, we adore You. Thank You, Lord of all, for Your love and Your forgiveness and mercy. Help us to shine in the darkness, dear Lord, spilling over in compassion and love, forgiveness and grace so that we can touch the lives around us, to be a blessing to them as You have blessed us. We lift this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. AMEN