I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Romans 12:1-2
Brian McLaren wrote an article in 2018 entiltled, “Anger, Contemplation, and Action”. In it he wrote, “Anger does its work. It prompts us to action, for better or worse. With time and practice, we can let the reflexive reactions of fight/flight/freeze, mirroring, and judging pass by like unwanted items on a conveyor belt. Also, with practice, we can make space for creative actions to be prompted by our anger … actions that are in tune with the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22) … actions that overcome evil with good and bring healing instead of hate….[anger] is a gift that can be abused—or wisely used. Yes, it’s a temptation, but it’s also a resource and an opportunity, as unavoidable and necessary as pain. It’s part of the gift of being human and being alive.“
We Christians are not handling anger well these days. I think in large part it is because we have lost focus on the central aspects of our faith. If we study diligently the words and actions of Jesus, we see a way of dealing with a hostile world that does not descend into anger, fear, and animosity. When we read Paul in Romans 12, he says, “do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, acceptable, and perfect.”
Many American Christians take Paul’s saying to be applied to moral behavior – what is right and what is wrong and take a stand. We are justified to use our anger in any way we choose if the ends demand it. But Paul IS speaking to a church that is intersecting with a pagan world and he is calling them not to pull away or resist what is outside. He doesn’t want us to turn inward in order to discover some ‘pure, unsullied faithful world within’. It isn’t about removing ourselves or purifying ourselves so much as being renewed in the midst of! How we engage in an ever changing, ever threatening world is important.
How do we deal with disagreements? How do we deal with frustration? How do we deal with being wronged? How do we deal with our anger? Are we renewing our minds in Christ to be good, acceptable, perfect examples…do we, “let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honor…rejoice in hope, patient in affliction, persevere in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality”? (Paul’s words in Romans 12:9-13)
The world will change – that is a certainty. And it won’t always change in ways that are good (Paul also said in Romans 1 that the human heart is dark and that applies to those inside and outside the church). Christians are not called to remove ourselves from the world, but to renew our minds in the midst of the world we live in that our behavior reflects Christ. It’s time for all of us to engage in self-examination as disciples and ask ourselves, “How can we elevate conversations in a way that don’t mimic the ways of the world around us? How can we allow our minds to be renewed so that the way we disagree brings as much pleasure to Christ as where we end up in the disagreement?”
Very timely to a conversation I had an hour ago with a new friend. Trusting in “instructions” to learn how to persevere and be patient and longsuffering.
Thank you, John. Very timely. I have heard it said and found in my experience to be very true that “being right is not all it is cracked up to be especially when it destroys our relationships and faith.”