As a believer in Jesus Christ, and a minister of the Gospel, I was ashamed, but I take comfort in being corrected for succumbing to the demands Satan put on my sinful flesh. Instead of running to the Bible for answers, I ran to the fight. I fed on the anger brought by provocation, attack and retaliation. The Word of God has rebuked me, and I was convicted. I stand corrected and forgiven, and I pray my experience with inform another who might be in a place similar to where I was as 2014 & 2015 fed the demons of hate that live in my sinful flesh.
In the wake of the Garland Mohamed Cartoon shooting, the storm of demands for defending free speech, and for illegalizing so-called “hate speech”, the wisdom of God was usurped by the selfishness of humanity. People who espouse “love thy enemy” were anything but loving. People who insist their religion is a religion of peace brought war. Muslims asserted a false-righteousness, insisting that their ideology was superior to the Western ideals of freedom of religion. To temporal, freedom-loving people, the audacity of Islam was intolerable and deserved to be crushed. Indeed, Islam needed to be discredited, crushed and clubbed back into the 7th Century hole it crawled out of. My flesh demanded justice.
The anger of my flesh was also provoked by the escalating oppression that I perceived was coming from the LGBT community, who insisted that their own concept of marriage deserved equality to traditional marriage. Any novice Christian knows that homosexuality is an activity that the Bible identifies as sinful. Moreover, the concept of actually creating an institution that mocks God and nature seemed to be a deliberate provocation masquerading as “equal rights”.
The icing on the cake, was indeed found on the icing of the cake upon which Christian bakers were being forced to write an affirmation of sinful lifestyles. Many Christians were so offended and insulted that they ran to their lawmakers to seek legislative relief. Other Christians posted hateful things on social media. I myself posted things on social media that put my weakness in succumbing to the flesh on display for the world to see. Well done, minister for the cause of Christ.
I had rallied my best arguments, and posted what I believed to be a level-headed schooling of Biblical principals on a well-known, extremist left forum website. There is no doubt that my intentions were to encourage honest and fair-minded debate when citing the Bible in the discussion of hotly contested political concerns of the present day. Underneath my intentions, though, was a knowledge that my posting quite likely would provoke an angry response, even though my writing was carefully worded and measured to set a tone for reasoned debate.
The people who would read the posting weren’t interested in affirming any truth they might find in the Bible; the Bible was their prima facie evidence of the hatefulness of Christians who disagreed with their positions on Gay Marriage and Abortion. What ever I had thought my intentions were, the results were predictable and 77 posts appeared in histrionic rage toward my posting. I had the audacity of someone asserting that the Bible was a truthful document and it corrected the wrongness of their behavior was completely over the top. My account was shut down within 6-hours with no explanation. I really didn’t need an explanation.
In the United States, we enjoy great freedoms of speech and religion, guaranteed by the First Amendment. We enjoy such freedom that political opponents are often overwhelmed by that freedom when it is exercised by one with which we might disagree. In retaliation, one side provokes the other in an attempt to command recognition of the legitimacy of their point of view. This sets off what I call “The Anger Triangle”; a vicious cycle of provokation-attack-retaliation that only one persona profits from. That persona is one of the many faces of Satan. Taken into their own hands, with our own plans, Christians unwittingly begin working for the other team.
Acquiring a Christian perspective on the aforementioned vicious cycle is extremely difficult when one is engaged in the “heat of battle” brought on by the Anger Triangle. This faulty mindset is identified, and preached against throughout the Bible. The Apostle Paul writes to one struggling church,
Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT) 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
It is within the nature of the flesh to ignore God until such time as He parks a revelation upon us that we cannot ignore. If we can ignore it, it is unlikely a revelation He has sent for us, but for another. He reveals to the believer and unbeliever, to the individual and to the corporate body of the church. The Biblical evidence of how Christ reveals is important to understand so we can know confidently how God revealed in ancient times, and use that knowledge to compare to today. The culture of the Ancient Near East (ANE) shares a some similarity with the mindset of Western society of 2015. As a culture we still demand justice that we administer as we see fit. We seek riches cloaked in a nationalist dream, getting ahead, and keeping Up with the Jones’. We posture ourselves to display and impose much more than must going about our business and letting our actions call for the invitation to witness.
Christ offers great instruction on how we should comport ourselves in love, live as an offering, and wait for an invitation. In the Revelation, Christ offers a discourse to each of seven churches in the ANE. The church in Laodicia was well fed and well-to-do, and they had become lukewarm and complacent. They had softened to receiving the world, and hardened to receiving God. Jesus addresses the church,
Revelation 3:20 (NLT) 20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
The Creator of all, possessing the sovereign power to do as He wills, waits for an invitation. In the mean time, He pours love, provision, and a generous measure of protection from the consequences of our own sinfulness.
If the Christian has any hope, it is certainly not in following the example of the worldly Anger Triangle. The hope of the Christian lies in confessing their belief in Christ; Christ is Lord – the Lord becomes the shot-caller. He leads because we accepted his invitation to lead. We understand what that invitation entails based on His revelation through His Word. If we align ourselves with the mind of Christ, we can hear and understand His direction as our Lord. This is where we profit by looking at the Mind of Christ and compare it to our mindset as influenced by the Anger Triangle.
Paul offered this instruction to the church at Philippi in how to emulate the mind of Christ:
Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT) 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Christians are called to know God’s will and be obedient. Even when the ultimate wrong is imposed, God allows it to happen for His purposes according to His plan. Particularly when the opponent is wrong, emulating Jesus is right. God does the convicting and judging.
Two wrongs do not make a right. What’s worse are the actions of a people professing a faith that teaches the believer to endure provocation, and then breaking with the teachings of their faith and mimicking the actions of their perceived opponent. A Christian disobeys The Word, who Is God, when they engage in provocation and retaliation. The test of faith is affirmed when a Christian is provoked, and the Christian answers the provocation with love and understanding. On his/her own power, the believer is in their own flesh and they succumb to the weakness of their flesh, which includes defensiveness, anger and retaliation. The spiritual food of the Sermon on the Mount is useful for daily consumption if a believer wants to avoid succumbing to their flesh:
Matthew 5:43-45 (NLT) 43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
This passage occurs right after the the command that if a soldier demands you carry his gear for a mile, carry it for two. The flesh cries out for retaliation and vengeance, but the soul cries out for God. The believer has to make a choice as to whether they will serve the flesh, or serve God.
A violent evil contained in the flesh of the believer struggles with the desire to attack when attacked. It is in the retaliatory act that the Christian risks giving Satan a victory. It may appear to the believer that a thoughtless non-believer has ignorantly provoked a response, but believing what the flesh desires hands a double-victory to Satan. Indeed, the consequences are steep for those who knowingly engage in an act of hate; one deals with believers relating to others, and the other is believers relating to everyone.
1 John 3:14-15 (NLT) 14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
Luke 10:27 (NLT) 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
My posting on the leftist forum website was motivated by anger. Caught up in the Anger Triangle, I allowed myself to emotionally and spiritually become a murderer (vs 15). When I was called to carry my enemy’s gear for twice the imposed distance, I followed my plan of provocation and retaliation. It is moments of reflection like this when I am overwhelmed by the Grace of God in His forgiveness to me. I have to re-learn this lesson far too often.
As a Christian, I find it insulting to be forced to write an affirmation of Gay Marriage on a cake or be forced to participate in a wedding ceremony that violates every concept of marriage we know. Yet, I find no passage in Scripture that commands me to be the enforcer of the Bible upon the lost. My flesh wants to find a verse or two to salve my angry conscience, but there just isn’t one. Yes, I did search.
So what is a Christian supposed to do. My answer works for me, in my convictions, between God and myself. I’ve arrived at a point where I realize I am ultimately only responsible for my own salvation and my own relationship with God. I asked myself, what would a disciple of Christ have done 2000 years ago? Better still, what would Jesus have done? Those were a difficult set of questions to ponder.
The suffocating imposition of Roman and Jewish rule was literally life-threatening 2000 years ago. Believers met in secret and hid in out of the way meeting places. Far beyond tolerating the pagan and empty religiosity of their day, Christians certainly contributed daily to the advancement of Roman emperor worship and the “empty tombs” governance of Pharisees and Sadducees; they contributed with a clear conscience. In perspective, the insult and injury visited upon Christianity in 2015 America is profoundly dwarfed by what the first Christians faced.
We do not have to bow down to the Golden Idols of the LGBT or Muslim community. We just have to love them.It’s been a very long journey, arriving where I am today. God’s grace, strength and Word sustain me when my own flesh cries out to join the fight. By God’s grace, I have to power to not be insulted or take offense. Instead, were a baker, I’d bake the cake and add a “freezer top” for free. Not because of any threat or legal requirement, but because Christ wouldn’t hurt others, I choose not post drawings that would insult another faith.
“What would Jesus do” is a deep and profound journey for me, and I am glad I do not have to do it all at once. I can’t get what I need of it through wearing a bracelet or simply stating a phrase without contemplation. I realize what I’ve written about is my personal journey. It is in the writing that I am able to visualize and collect peace.