Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 8


Is not Easily Angered.

We have read so far that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking…” Now we add “it is not easily angered.” It’s no surprise that the description of love as “not easily angered” falls close on the heels of “not self-seeking.” Anger is a close relative of the self-seeking behaviours.

From toddlerhood each of us develops extensive and creative systems for our own self-defense; its first expression is inevitably in the angry use of the word “No!” wielded with great authority from lips little more than novices in their own mother tongue. We learn early to defend our own self-determined plans and before long become masters at the task.

Self-defense—and by this I do not mean primarily physical protection of one’s self—is necessary when there is no one outside of ourselves to whom we can entrust the job of protection. If I see myself as the primary person responsible for guarding and fortifying the value of me (my ideas, my hopes and my dreams), I must practice self-defense. I must build certain walls and barriers to protect my vulnerabilities from being discovered, and my plans from being hindered. And in some cases, when my defense warning system is deployed, a weapon must be wielded to ensure self-protection—I give vent to unmitigated anger.

“For many,” observes C.S. Lewis, “the great obstacle to (love) lies … in our fear—fear of insecurity.” We may not consciously admit it to ourselves, but we are afraid for our very lives and we’re scrabbling to cover that fear with bluster.

The Biblical directives toward restraining anger are not external and superficial fixes. They are not commands to control our rage on the outside, while we continue to seethe and smolder or shake and shiver within. They get to the root of the problem, to our inner need to solve the problem of our insecurity. Let’s be ruthlessly honest: none of us is capable of loving like this chapter in I Corinthians suggests. We are rightfully insecure to recognize how little capable of loving (not to mention living rightly) we truly are.

Jesus once explained to a couple of disconsolate travelers that Scripture is not a list of dos and don’ts. It is not quick fixes or fake smiles. Scripture is all about Himself, Jesus—it’s a picture of Him coming into our sad human condition and offering us something we can never create for ourselves. He is the great Rock and Shield who alone can defend and protect our inner selves. He gave the Emmaus Road travelers example after example, and the revelation opened their eyes and ears.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” they asked each other afterward in awe. This was not the burning of anger but the warmth and energy of Christ’s loving Spirit entering into their hearts and minds and souls. This was the great ‘ah hah’ moment; they finally understood that Christ was moving through history to ensure He would—in God’s perfect timing—die for all humanity to rescue us all from our great insecurity, and then rise to lead us to everlasting life.

Jesus is perfect love. He initiates loving us, and if we receive His overtures, we find ourselves dropping our guard and finding true inner rest. The events or persons or situations that used to anger us now fall more and more under the influence and authority of Jesus, our Protector.

So once more we find Jesus to be relevant to life. No more hiding behind ramparts, shooting angry darts at others and causing chaos all round. When we come to Jesus for love, we gradually learn to recklessly love others without defending ourselves. No need for anger. Anger never worked anyways.

(Photo Credit: By Darren Shilson from St Stephen, UK, United Kingdom (Pendennis Castle B+W Uploaded by oxyman) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)


Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 16


Disintegrating the Big Lie

Adolf Hitler and his Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels are credited with exploring and defining the “Big Lie”—a propaganda tool for harnessing public support of Nazi Germany’s war effort. The Big Lie said, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” By the time World War II ended sixty million people—3% of the 1940 world population—had died as a direct result of that tool. But don’t be deceived into thinking that was the first or even the last time the Big Lie has been used.

“Be careful,” Jesus warned His disciples. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). This wasn’t about bread. It wasn’t about diet, culture or even religion. It was a warning about deceptive power; it was a caution about a sham, a strategy as old as earth itself of misleading hapless individuals into bondage. Jesus used the term yeast as a metaphor for the Big Lie, to help people like us understand what we are up against—something that spreads insidiously and overtakes everything it touches.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were Jewish sects that sought to rule the people through a well-developed religion-masked dictatorship. They used their form of the Big Lie to build lives of power for themselves at the expense of others.

There are other forms of the Lie: life is a Clockwork Universe set in motion by a benevolent force (Deism); life is defined by the visible and the reasonable (Naturalism); life is realizing oneself as the centre of the universe (New Age spirituality); and life is not about truth but about finding meaning (Postmodernism).

The Big Lie is what destroys the paradise of communion between each of us and our Creator by telling us we can be fulfilled without Him. The Big Lie is what keeps each of us in a bondage that wrecks our relationships, hinders our peace of mind, corrupts good intentions, and cripples our ability to be in right relationship with God.

But Jesus had come to earth for one express purpose: to disintegrate the Big Lie. Taking His disciples aside Jesus asked them two questions: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and “Who do you say I am?” To the first question they gave a list of responses they had heard people surmising Jesus’ identity to be—essentially a good man, even a prophet, a charismatic leader with a charismatic message. To the second question came one bold response from the plucky but sometimes impetuous disciple Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In other words, You are God in the flesh; You are the One promised who would destroy the Big Lie and its attending curse upon humanity.

“Blessed are you (!)” Jesus rejoices upon hearing Peter’s answer. The timeless truth of Peter’s confession—a truth more solid than any weapon—sent a fatal blow to the foundations of the Big Lie. “(T)his was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” explained Jesus “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:17,18).

Truth—solid, unflinching, rational, God-indwelling truth—is the ultimate victor. The Big Lie is on the way out. Its days are numbered. It has been measured by the One who knows the beginning from the end, and it has been found wanting. Jesus, God incarnate, the way, the truth and the life created us for so much more than lies.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”—this is what the Big Lie does to us; let’s not be deceived. Lies can mask themselves to appear as we want them to, but they ultimately only destroy us. “I have come,” continues Jesus, “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). That is the purpose of truth, to give us more life than we could conceivably imagine.

Today, we are faced with this day’s challenge: to remain under the deadly influence of the Big Lie in all its chameleon-like expressions, or to listen to God revealing the rock of Truth to us through His Word, the Bible, and through the invincible life of Jesus Christ. To experience truth’s life-transforming power is to be changed by it.

…or is it just easier to believe the Big Lie?…