“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”(Jas.1:19-20) James is writing to Christians and encouraging them not to get angry all the time over every little thing. We Christians should be focused on living the righteous life that God desires and anger will not help us do that. It’s certainly not a sin to get angry. In fact, there are things that should make us angry. The point James is making is be “slow to anger”. In other words, don’t rush to become angry over everything that doesn’t go your way. It would be great if this wasn’t an issue in the church. But I’m afraid that even Christians rush to anger over seemingly insignificant matters from time to time. There is no need to get angry because someone disagrees with you. Maybe through study, discussion and time you will come to an agreement on the topic or maybe you won’t. Either way, there is no reason to get offended and angry because someone disagrees with you. Truth is if we get angry every time someone disagrees with us we’ll be angry all the time. Let’s be “slow to anger” and strive daily to live “the righteous life that God desires.”
Recently a preacher friend of mine asked me if I’ve ever offended anyone by my preaching. My response was, “yes, many times over the years”. Then he asked me how many times did I intentionally offend others. I responded, “zero”. I explained that I never meant to offend anyone in my preaching. I have never prepared one single sermon with the intent to offend someone. He agreed and confirmed that he too had offended others but never was the intent there. Then he made a very telling statement when he said, “I wish the church would give me the benefit of the doubt”. That conversation reminds me of a particular verse that Paul penned to the Ephesians. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”(Eph.4:2) If we will practice Paul’s words we will give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt. We will patiently bear with our brothers and sisters understanding that whatever they said or did probably wasn’t meant to offend anyone. How many of you start your day with the intent to offend someone before the day ends? Ridiculous, right? Then bear with your brothers and sisters in love, giving them the benefit of the doubt that they were not trying to offend you. What do you think; does the church need to improve at this?
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”(Col.3:1) You can learn a lot about someone by just knowing what is closest to their heart. What about you, where is your heart? Is it your family or career that’s closest to your heart? What about your hobbies, surely they occupy a place in your heart. Reality is there are so many things that can take a piece of our heart. The things in your heart are the things that are most important to you. Of all the things that we could turn our hearts to, Paul says, “set your hearts on things above”. The “things above” represent the spiritual and eternal things. It’s so easy to focus on the physical things that we can see, but those things will not last. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”(II Cor.4:18) The child of God should focus on the eternal things of God. Let’s fill our hearts with the things that truly matter, the spiritual things above.
It seems there is another fatal shooting somewhere almost daily. Tension is high due to concerns of where the next one will take place. I’m not sure that we’re wondering if another shooting will occur, but when and where it will occur and how many lives will be lost as a result. Of course, violence has been in the world for as long as sin has, but it just seems so magnified today with the media. One could easily describe our world today as being in continual chaos. I’m not overly comfortable with the constant state of chaos in which we live, but I’m hoping and praying that the chaos will lead to trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”(Prov.3:5-6) What a different world we’d live in if everyone would put their trust in the Lord. If all trusted in the Lord and allowed Him to direct their paths the chaos that has become so normal would diminish. When the Lord directs your path it affects how you conduct yourself and especially how you treat others. Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”(Lk.6:31) I’m convinced if everyone treated one another the way they desire to be treated, the violence and chaos would be far less than what we’re used to. Could it be that the solution to our problem today is simply stop trusting in yourself and trust in the Lord?