Practical Advice Regarding Anger

seeing-redA few years ago, my parents were visiting my wife and I (Ezra was not here yet) here in Picayune, Mississippi. During their stay, I received a phone call informing me that a couple of my youth leaders at the time had given a teenager some alcohol. I was enraged. What a lapse in judgment! How could one of my leaders do such a thing? Though the Bible does not speak against drinking alcohol (it does speak against getting drunk and it also speaks against using our liberty in such a way that weaker Christians stumble), few would argue that it was extremely inappropriate to give alcohol to this teen. She was underage.

In a fit of fury, I picked up my phone to call this leader. At that moment, my older, wiser dad, said, “Can I give you a piece of advice?” this was such a humble and disarming approach and was probably what made me willing to pause and listen.

He proceeded to tell me, “B.J., you are a lot like me. You can get really angry in the moment and say or do things that you will later have to apologize for. Do what I do. When you get this angry, make yourself wait 24 hours before you address the person (he admitted to not always following his own rule and then wishing he had). Then, after 24 hours and some time with the Lord, move forward.”

I followed his advice that day. I have done so since. The other day I joked with my wife that I am not nearly as spiritual as my dad because I have to wait 48 hours to a week. All jokes aside, this “rule” has saved me from impulsive, sinful behavior and a multitude of uncomfortable apologies. What I find is that when I stop, breathe, and take some time to bring the issue to the Lord, one of two things happen:

  1. I end up confronting the person days later, but my heart is in a completely different place. As Paul wrote, I am able to go to that person and actually “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). The interval of time allows enough space for the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart so that I do what is right rather than what I feel. This is crucial. Besides, is not love to be our every motive? If you and I are honest, the initial anger is usually void of any redemptive element.Or,
  2. I end up not confronting the person at all. This actually happens more often than the first option. Sometimes I am to pray for the individual. At other times, I am to forgive and let the issue go. Love does not require me to confront every person in every situation.

If you are in leadership, this rule can be especially beneficial. Think about it. If you address the person in anger, he or she will probably not hear the heart of what you are saying. You may later have to apologize for how you treated her and that will make it easier for her to dismiss what you said though the content of what you said she may actually need to consider.

So enact the 24-hour rule. It may very well be what helps you “be angry and “not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).

One note: I am not yet sure how to square the 24-hour rule with the second half of Ephesians 4:26 that states, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” God knows my heart.


Dylann Roof: Should Pastors and/or Churchmembers Carry Guns?

 The racially motivated murder of nine black people while inside a church building in Charleston, South Carolina is horrendous. My heart is sad. Family members and friends are waking up today without people they love for absolutely no reason. What needless suffering because of one bitter individual.

I wonder if anyone had a gun in that church building? I wonder if someone would have had a gun, including the pastor, would he or she have had the courage to pull the trigger? And if he or she would have, how would America, and more specifically, Christians, have responded?

Let me be clear on one thing. If Dylann Roof would have walked into any church and told everyone, “Recant your faith or be killed,” retaliatory-based aggression of any kind would seem to be absolutely unjustified from a Christian standpoint. Is this not, in some sort of way, why Jim Elliot and his four other men fired guns into the air rather than at members of the Aucas?

In any instance that one is facing any form of persecution for one’s faith, to act out in violence toward that individual/group would fail to reflect Christ in that instance. One is not called to preserve self when put on trial for Christ. Either profess or deny Christ in that instance. After all, in this scenario, your life is being threatened because of your faith.

However, if a person walks up to you, whether that be in private or public, and threatens your life for no reason associated with your faith, is this different? In other words, if someone like Dylann Roof walked into your church but it was not at all apparent that the aggression was faith-related persecution, do you believe that because the threat/persecution is not faith-related, pastors/Christians have the right (in states where law does not prohibit individuals from carrying firearms) to use a firearm in a house of worship to defend him/her and the congregants?

Let me be clear, this will be one of the hotly debated moral issues within Chrisitanity over the next few months and years. Sadly to say, it is of the utmost relevance.

Follow Up: Would I Attend the Wedding of a Gay Family Member or Friend?

IMG_0632-5Three months ago I asked this question. One of my friends, Kevin Burr, stated that he would and then for his reasons, cited several passages in the Bible that centered around “love.” Kevin did what every sincere disciple of Jesus Christ ought to do, that is, filter your decisions through what you believe God had declared in Scripture. Whether you agree or disagree, this is on the only commendable approach for a genuine Christian.

After thinking about this question, I realized that I took the professor-approach. I never actually answered the question personally. Before I state my view, let me say upfront that my position is not necessarily the right position. Now, I hold the view I do because I believe it is the responsible view to hold, but I am willing to admit that Jesus could tell me I am wrong. This is where we as Christians need humility. There is room for disagreement on these type of issues so long as we are all searching God’s heart and Word with a sincere desire to both know and obey what is revealed. If we happen to end up on opposite sides of the fence, surely we can still respect the fact that each one of us approached the issue with the same desire…to honor God as best we know how.

With no further ado, here is my personal stance: I would not attend the wedding of a gay family member or friend. I hope you will hear my heart on this sensitive issue.

My first thought was, “Shouldn’t I go because God commands me to love people, and by going, I am loving that individual at a very exciting moment in his/her life?” This argument from my standpoint possesses a strong, intuitive appeal. However, it is not strong enough to persuade me. Here is why. Ultimately, when I attend a wedding, I am not celebrating an individual nor am I celebrating the right for each individual to make personal choices. When I personally attend a wedding, I believe that I am implicitly declaring by my presence, “This is union is good, worth celebrating, and am in support of marriage. Congratulations and I wish you the best!” But how can I do that? How can I celebrate a union that is condemned in Scripture? How can I pretend that the sin is not that big of a big deal because of my love for that person? Birthdays are meant to celebrate the person. Weddings, on the other hand, are to confirm and celebrate a union. Though love is paramount and the expression of it commanded, this by no means precludes moral discernment and the fact that our behavior is a moral endorsement of that which grieves God’s heart.

So, what would I do? The week before, I would call my gay friend and ask him/her to coffee. I would explain my heart. It would be a very difficult conversation for both of us. For days leading up to this conversation I would be in prayer that God would help that person see my heart and as a friend, respect my convictions. I would pray against the enemy distorting my words in order to hurt that person. No doubt, my decision will still hurt that person, but so does their decision to enter a cursed union hurt me. So because I love the person, I would want to explain my pending action in detail, but because a wedding celebrates more than just a person, I would not attend.

This is my stance.

I have presupposed in this article that the gay lifestyle is a sin. Below is a quick glance (extremely quick) of the clarity with which the Bible declares homosexuality to be sin.

Before answering, I believe with all my heart that people should have the right to be with the person they desire to be with (this is not necessarily an endorsement of gay marriage per se) just like I believe a person should have the political freedom to choose any religion they see fit (or no religion).

Though hotly debated over the past couple of decades, the Bible is really clear that the gay lifestyle is a sin. Paul wrote in Romans 1:24-27, Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

The gay lifestyle is presented here not just as sin, but as one of the darkest expressions of sin when depravity runs wild. Though sin is sin and all sin requires the blood of Christ (in this regard, we are all alike, and this in turn contains the call for us to love gays just as God loves us), it does appear that on the darkness continuum, gayness is toward the end of the spectrum. In addition, a close examination of 1 Corinthians 6:9 in the original Greek also puts to rest any debate about the moral status of homosexuality from a Christian standpoint. And the argument that Sodom and Gomorrah was condemned for a lack of hospitality rather than homosexuality commits the following error: This moral assessment rests on a needless either/or distinction. Even if a lack of hospitality was part of the reason these two cities were judged, this does not imply that homosexuality was not part of the equation. From God’s perspective, it could easily have been a case of both/and.