I’m sure you’ve been there, we all have, holding back some words for someone who wronged you in church. Bless those who curse you and turn the other cheek run through your mind and then we let them have it.. But God has a way for us to deal that keeps us in love and it will serve us better on Judgment Day, when we give account of our lives to Jesus and will be rewarded accordingly.
HOW DO WE DO IT?
- Mistreatment and opposition are both the context and fruit of a fallen world. Everyone suffers. Everyone is hurt, betrayed, abused, taken advantage of, oppressed. Yet, suffering works only on behalf of the redeemed, the Christians. When a believer responds in meekness to mistreatment, it produces the fruit of wholeheartedness.
Saint Augustine states that the same miseries send some to heaven and others to hell. The test of suffering separates the wheat from the chaff in the Church of God: those who in times of tribulation humble themselves to the will of God are wheat for paradise; those who grow haughty and enraged, and so forsake God, are chaff for hell.
- We must part with the fantasy that I was the “one” wronged. Everyone is mistreated. Everyone right now is either being mistreated or is about to be mistreated or is mistreating someone else. The hard part concerning mistreatment is that we expect suffering from unbelievers outside the church. But in the church a lie moves in and sets up a false expectation, we believe a lie that as we mature we should suffer less mistreatment in the Church. We expect it from unbelievers, so therefore we have grace to forgive unbelievers. Yet, when mistreatment occurs within the community, from believers, we list our entitlements.
- We have had only one entitlement from the very beginning: We offended and rebelled against our most kind and gracious Maker. In fact, when given the opportunity, we killed the Lord of glory, the innocent One whom came from the Father full of grace and truth, and are entitled to one thing: everlasting condemnation.
- Peter asked Jesus concerning the issue of being wronged by your brother. Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matt. 18:21-22)
- Why Does God Use Mistreatment to sanctify us? It exposes the great enemy of our soul – pride manifesting in anger. The crucible of mistreatment places pressures on the human heart that expose the fault lines of fear, anger, and pride underneath the surface. Mistreatment and opposition touches places of pride otherwise unnoticed in our controlled environments.
- This is why marriage can be, if cooperated with, a great sanctifier of the human heart. Your spouse is the cross you will be crucifed on. “When I was single I could control my environment in such a way as to keep my stuff undisturbed in hidden places. In marriage you can run but you cannot hide. Opposition and mistreatment are part of the unspoken vows. I thought I was holy when single, but I found out quickly there is a difference between being holy and being undisturbed” -Allen Hood
- Thus, the defense mechanism of the fractured soul – anger – rushes to guard us from the realization that our fallenness is true. We would rather be proud and angry, clinging to our deluded solidarity than to admit to our inconsistent patterns, fractured pieces, and our humble need for grace to receive forgiveness and to forgive. Anger, as the defense mechanism of pride, is the escort into the murderous heart.
The Relationship Between Meekness and Anger
Meekness is the primary positive virtue of the kingdom and the one to be most sought out. Meekness is associated with gentleness and humility and is the restraint of one’s power for a higher redemptive cause. This is not to be confused with weakness or a laid back personality trait. Meekness is the cultivation of a spirit of Servanthood even in the face of adversity and mistreatment, in which Jesus is the ultimate example. Meekness is the cross in the face of mistreatment and will be highly rewarded in the Millennial Kingdom.
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Mt. 5:5)
- To be meek, Meditate long and often upon the meekness of Christ and the reward system of the Father.
The Beholding Principle: Whatever we behold about God’s heart is what we become in ours. The revelation of Jesus’ meekness produces a longing in us to be like Him.
(If we are) all…beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory… (2 Cor. 3:18)
- The most humbling thing one can do is to look upon how Jesus responded to suffering and mistreatment. His whole life was ordered around the attribute of meekness. It was His greatest pursuit. From the moment He was born the Father was contemplating His own humility in the person of His Son. Love would be openly displayed as Jesus went lower and lower. Anyone who truly looks upon the man Christ Jesus and His meekness will be left staring at the great mystery. How can One so strong be so tender as He stoops so low?
- Looking upon Jesus meekness is the great sanctifier to areas of pride and anger in the human heart. It produces holy tears of longing to be like Him that cleanse the soul from the trauma of violence and invites the grace of God unto humility.
- Looking upon the Spirit we see the Holy Spirit functions as the support ministry within the Godhead. He is fully God yet chooses to work behind the scenes without desire to be recognized. He is happy in humility. The Father and Son fully value Him because they have the same nature.
- 13 He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak…14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (Jn. 16:13-14)
- Practice covering the weaknesses and infirmities of others. Hope all things and believe all things. See people in this light: How will they look ten years from now if they fully participated with the grace of God in every area of their life?
- Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins. (Prov. 10:12) He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Prov. 17:9) The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression. (Prov. 19:11) And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
- 1.Practice the discipline of letting your spouse win the argument, especially when you are convinced that you are right. 2 Practice silence in the face of opposition. Pray and bless those who persecute you (Mt. 5:44-45). 3. Let kind and gracious words frequently be on your lips.
- Understand the fallen state of the one/ones opposing you and leave room for the forgiveness of God. Get on their team. Find the smallest percentage of where they are right and repent of that, without pointing out their faults. They are caught in the same predicament that you are. They will sin against someone and be sinned against just like you. This leads us to enter into the greatest community building tools imaginable – longsuffering and prayer.
- Beware of being wise in your own opinion. The great enemy of humility is a profound insight into the situation. Paul calls it a wise opinion.
Use the Pain to Escort You into Communion with God
– Mistreatment causes our hearts to encounter God. In the midst of trial none of our human props give us relief. Relief can only be found in the encountering God and the finding of His grace.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; (1 Peter 2:21-23)
A. We must recognize that the opinions and/or actions of others do not keep us from fulfilling God’s will in our lives. We alone can disqualify ourselves from fulfilling God’s will in our lives. The defilement of someone else’s spirit does not have to translate to defilement of our spirits.
B. Human nature continually seeks to dial down what anger really is, while dialing up our right to entertain it. We do not take anger seriously enough – it is a cancer that, if we are not attentive to deal with it – can invade every area of our heart. Hindered prayers and relationships, increased demonic activity, joyless worship – all the fruit of subtle, pervasive, unchecked anger.
C. The Normative Christian life is one of liberty received, yet freely surrendered in the meekness of self-restraint for the sake of love. The premiere reward of meekness: it’s the magnet that attracts His presence. I restrain my speech and my strength for more of Him. If we are like Him He can draw nearer. Profound humility and authentic meekness without the fear of man is one of the foremost issues on the agenda of the Spirit in this hour. Such holiness perfected in the fear of the Lord is always one of the premiere issues on the agenda of the Spirit of God, in every season.
D. The professional athlete who has a prize in mind must be disciplined, self-controlled, temperate, restrained, & measured in all things. How much more must I, who fights for love & for a greater prize, live measured – restrained in meekness – to lay hold of what is before me?
PART 2 The spirit of murder: Escalating Anger
- We need faith teaching to equip us to experience grace to walk in the 8 Beatitudes. The promise of being blessed includes living with a vibrant heart by the Spirit’s activity in us.
- Jesus identifies six temptations (Mt. 5:21-48) that poison and war against our hearts (1 Pet. 2:11). The first issue He addressed was anger, perhaps because it is common and starts so early in us. The parable of the four soils shows that different issues of life can choke the Word in us, making it boring and unable to take root in us, and therefore we do not produce fruit.
Jesus was not raising the standard of the Old Testament moral law but was explaining its original intention in God’s heart. God always intended that the sixth commandment meant not letting the spirit of murder have any place in our life. God’s people thought that murder was the ultimate expression that occurred when someone purposefully took a human life in anger. Jesus was not teaching against a war of defense from aggression, nor against protecting ourselves from attack.
- Jesus taught that the spirit of murder operates on many levels and grows through many stages. We must not take anger lightly because it a like a spiritual cancer that continues to grow if not resisted. We were all born with sinful weakness related to anger that must be resisted. Angry emotions are the first stage of the expression of the spirit of murder, which grows into bitterness expressed in angry words and then escalates into vindictive actions.
15Looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled… (Heb. 12:15)
- Whoever hates or harbors bitterness towards a brother is operating in a spirit of murder. Satan is a murderer who subtly seeks to draw us into greater expressions of murder (Jn. 8:44). He wants our sinful weakness related to anger to escalate into a stronghold of wickedness, but he needs our cooperation. He wants to poison our spirit and then imprison our spirit.
15Whoever hates [harbors bitterness against] his brother is a murderer… (1 Jn. 3:15)
- Jesus was graciously revealing how dangerous anger is. He emphasized that the only way to freedom is to deal quickly and fully with anger in each stage of detection (Mt. 5:22-26).
Overcoming Anger: 4 principles
- Principle #1: Whoever is angry is in danger of judgment in the courts of God and man (v. 22a). Why? Because the nature of anger is to grow powerfully in us, leading to very dangerous results.
22But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother…shall be in danger of the judgment. (Mt. 5:22a)
- Anger is often caused by people blocking our goals (for honor, comfort, money, etc.).
1Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war… (Jas 4:1-2)
- “The measure of your anger is the measure of your unperceived pride.”
- Judgment on anger has many levels depending on the degree to which it is expressed. There is a strong relationship between what we think, say, and do and how our emotions develop and what happens in the spirit realm. What we say and do gives legal access to angelic or demonic powers to be more active in our life.
- The spirit of murder is unbiased and operates to the degree we open the door to it. We can honor social etiquette in public but harbor angry thoughts in private and be in danger.
- Principle #2: Whoever speaks or acts with anger (without repenting) is in danger because the consequences related to it will surely escalate (v. 22b). It results in strongholds of anger (murder) being developed in them, in others being wounded by them, in relationships being broken, in negative circumstances increasing, and in the hardness of heart that leads to eternal judgment.
22And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mt. 5:22b)
- Raca or fool: These were insulting words spoken in anger to a person. Calling someone “raca” was like calling someone an imbecile, an idiot, or stupid.
- Who are we to speak words of contempt and imply that we are a reliable judge of people’s heart, abilities, or value to God? Who are we to exalt ourselves above others?
- When we speak and act with anger and insults, we open the door for anger to grow in us. The spirit of murder operates in us to the full capacity of its “legal right” when we open the door to it.
- When our words and actions are godly, then our emotions will follow and angels will be more active in our life. When our words and actions are ungodly (angry and immoral), then our emotions will follow and demons will be more active in our life.
- Principle #3: We must act in the opposite spirit of anger (murder) with urgency (v. 23-24). When we act in the opposite spirit, it begins to heal us of the poison that resides in our heart.
23Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Mt. 5:23-24)
- Therefore: Jesus connected the offense in our brother (v. 23) to the angry words that we spoke to the brother that He described in verse 22. We must seek to treat our brother in the same way Jesus treats us. He calls us to be peacemakers with meekness and mercy.
- Leave your gift: Our gifts to Jesus are an expression of our love for Him. He does not receive them if we ignore the offense we caused a brother by our angry words or actions. Jesus requires immediate action without any delay. On the way to offer our gift, He wants us to leave it until we make things right with others. This starts by confessing our anger.
- First: We cannot present our heart to God as a gift in worship if we speak in anger to His children. Our union with Jesus in worship is deeply connected to our honor of others. Our worship is hindered by how we treat our brother. We must love the people God loves.
- It is impossible to be God’s child without being a brother or sister to His other children, for whom Jesus died. Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection mean He has become inseparable from those He redeemed. The effect of Jesus’ death for us is that He has made us one with Himself. We cannot offer ourselves in union with Him if we are angry against those who belong to Him. Humbling ourselves to make peace with our brother or sister is an essential part of our love and surrender to Jesus and of our spiritual life.
- The fellowship of the Trinity has a human expression in our relationship with our brother. Fellowship is making visible on earth the life of the Trinity that comes to us through Jesus. This glorious human community is rooted in God and His merciful character.
- Principle #4: We pay the full debt for the anger we refuse to repent of. We are liberated only by repentance and by appropriating God’s grace to replace the anger that held us in bondage.
25Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you are thrown into prison. 26Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Mt. 5:25-26)
- Jesus gave an illustration from a common occurrence in society. He told of a man who was thrown into prison for not paying his debts to his creditors. At that time, when a man was guilty of not paying his debts, he was handed over to the court officer, who sought to get money for the creditor. If he was unable to collect it, he took the man who defaulted on his payment and threw him in prison until the debtor was fully paid. We are to see the main point in this parable without seeking for a symbolic meaning for each detail.
- Assuredly: Jesus was illustrating the point that we will surely stay in bondage until we resist anger. We are in debt to love people because we have freely received God’s love. As debtors of His love, we must resist anger or we will feel its power, even as believers.
8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another… (Rom. 13:8, NIV)
- Prison: Any who continue in anger will surely experience emotional bondage, etc.
- Agree quickly: We must come to terms quickly with our anger and settle out of court. In other words, we pay our debt of love by asking our brother to forgive us before things escalate. The idea is to immediately resolve the bitterness instead of letting it escalate. The consequences of bitterness and anger will not just go away until we deal with them.
- Adversary: Our anger is our enemy; it has the power to imprison us if we yield to it.
- By no means get out: The way out of the spiritual and emotional debt of our anger is to repent of it and put things right with the people that we expressed our anger to. This only works because of the grace of God in forgiving us and empowering us to walk in freedom as we humble ourselves and accept His forgiveness and transforming power. Jesus made provision for us to be freely forgiven of our anger, but He requires us to repent of anger in order to enjoy liberty in our heart. Only when we stand before God will we see how much opportunity to grow in grace we lost as a result of our anger.
- Paid the last cent: Jesus said that they would not get out of prison until they paid the last cent. We do this by repenting of anger in every area of our life that the Holy Spirit highlights. All will pay the penalty for their unrepented anger. We pay for it in our emotions, relationships, and circumstances. Therefore, it is important to understand and determine to live by this spiritual principle before a severe penalty occurs.