Giants in the Land: Hot Under the Collar

3 Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments 5 and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.  - 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
In his letter to the church, James, the brother of Jesus, made a very relevant statement about anger. He wrote, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
We exist in a time where anger drives much of the thought and action of our lives. Instead of listening and slowness of reacting, we are quick to anger. We are even quicker to believe that our anger is connected to our closeness to (and our opponent’s distance from) God’s righteousness. Into this milieu, James says clearly, “your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
This simple decoupling of our anger from righteousness leaves many of us rudderless. Much of our politics and opinion and even relationship is informed by our anger. The apostle Paul offers us an alternative way of understanding anger in his second letter to the church in Corinth.
He begins by admitting that we are human. In terms of anger this allows for the presence of anger in our lives. Anger is not a sin. It is human.
But he quickly reminds us that we do not make our choices “according to human standards.” We are not alone to make sense of ourselves and our world simply based upon our anger responses. Instead, the Presence of God offers us the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit into each moment of our lives. When anger floods or smolders, we are able to take those impulses captive. The power of God enables us to tear down the strongholds of argument, opinion, defensiveness, self-protection, and ego that are at the root of our anger.
We do this slowing down and holding these things in the light of the knowledge of God. We are invited to anchor our thoughts to truths such as:

  • God is for us;
  • God loves us;
  • we are eternally valuable in his sight (and so is everybody else, even our opponent);
  • and God’s ultimate concern is healing and wholeness.

When we do this, two things happen. One, we are empowered to respond in love that considers the true cause of our anger. Two, the deep places of our pain and insecurity are healed in the surety of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, our anger is very intimate to us. For many of us, our anger has been the place of our refuge, protection, and self-care. The habit of anger is our stronghold. This morning, we ask you to gently step into the depths of us. Help us to slowly yield to you the ground we formerly entrusted to anger. Root us in the truth of your love for us, your love for others, and your love for the world. We ask that you grant us a small step to practice this unmasking of our anger today. As we entrust this intimacy to you, reveal to us the ways that you tear down strongholds, take thoughts captive, and ultimately make us whole. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Keenan Barber