Such an ugly, ugly thing.
It’s one of those sins I’ve wrestled with for the greater part of my life, the hideously familiar member of my family.
So recently, in Beth Moore’s “Jesus the One and Only” that I’ve been studying with a group of ladies here at Misawa, there have been many challenging things that the Lord is unearthing, adding to the already many years He’s dealt with me on issues of anger.
I’m learning so much.
And as we’ve been following Christ through the pages of Luke, I caught a glimpse of something that looked so ugly-familiar that it stopped me in my tracks.
Luke 4 records Christ’s encounter with those in His hometown. He enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and is handed a scroll that he then reads and proclaims it’s being fulfilled in their very hearing, making it painfully clear that He is in fact, the Messiah, Son of God. Powerful stuff.
“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” Luke 4:22
Granted, they weren’t exactly concentrating on the content of the words which He spoke, but they were amazed nonetheless.
When Christ is then questioned about His familial background, He explains at some length that “no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” and that both Elijah and Elisha weren’t involved with the cleansing, provision, and restoration of all.
“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.” Luke 4:28
They were enraged and rose up to drive Jesus out of town and throw Him off a cliff. What?!
In the past this passage has rolled off my back, seeing it as completely random and irrational behavior. But suddenly I was cut to the quick as I saw myself in the very shoes of the crowd.
Like how when amazement or happiness or just plain getting by can swiftly turn to ferocious anger. When the torrent of words comes bursting forth and during a lull in the storm you are downright shocked by the words that have come spilling out. This unchecked anger, leading to irrational and uncontrolled behavior. A peaceful river turned all violent.
You, me, in the shoes of the crowd.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20
I know that my anger does not produce the righteousness of God because I see it’s effects splattered across my family. But often times once the torrent has subsided and I ask my inevitable forgiveness, I wonder if I really do know it to be true.
Do I believe that my anger is more effective than any suggestion of grace that the Lord would ask me to give?
That it’s somehow more timely and powerful than a listening, still, and humble heart before God?
Because really, doesn’t my anger come from a place of not believing God’s ways are best and that my ways, thank you very much, will do just fine? Not believing that the righteousness He wants to birth in me is really all that it’s cracked up to be?
And I know this, don’t I? That anger is faster. Faster and easier than the slow work of sanctification. Because anger is on my terms and in my gripping hands.
But the righteousness of God, well, that involves letting go.
And the letting go happens only in trust and faith. Things that can’t be gripped tight or on my own terms, but instead compels the opening of two hands and the changing of one heart. Trusting that God’s ways are in fact best, and that He alone can clothe us with His righteousness.
“…Be found in him (Christ), not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Philippians 3:9
He will birth it in us. He will do the work.
But will we still long enough to let Him? Will we give Him the space to do the working? Will we even ask Him to begin it in us?
I’ve been wrestling, and will continue to do so. Fighting my flesh that says anger is the best and only way.
And this song that I’ve had in my head a lot lately, a familiar one to most, it reads;
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me.”
And this, this has been my prayer..
Lord, create in me a clean heart. Renew my spirit.
Show me how to let go and trust you to do the work in me that only you can do.
Even with the ugly sin of anger.
Birth in me Lord, your righteousness.
And restore unto me, the joy of my salvation.