Whipping up Conflict

Below is an excerpt from my latest Inspire a Fire post:

“If anyone ever asks you, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Remind them that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.”

I stumbled across this quote online, along with a picture of Jesus driving vendors from the temple. A more technical person might refer to this as a meme – one of those images that float through cyberspace being reconstituted and shared in various formats. Memes become popular because they present a familiar idea with a new, often edgy, twist.

Like this one.

There are some days when I would like to flip over tables and chase people – if not with a whip, than at least with something to get them on the other side of a door that I could slam. Something tells me, though, that this desire is somehow different than what Jesus would do, even if He did once chase people with whips.

When we ask ourselves what Jesus would do, the answer is usually the exact opposite of the scene we encounter when Jesus drove the money changers and merchants from the temple. We often picture Jesus as meek and mild. Indeed, He gently drew children to Him. He went to the cross silently like a lamb led to slaughter. And yet, we should not confuse these actions with passivity or timidity.

To understand how Jesus handled conflict, we need to look deeper than his surface actions… Read more.

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The Other Christian

Along one of my favorite hiking trails there is a bench that overlooks a little pond.  Sometimes there are swans there.  I’ve yet to determine whether they are naturally migrating swans or if they were deposited here, but I often like to pause on my hike and sit to watch them.  This past weekend as I approached my bench, I noticed something different: the graffiti artists had been out.  Not just with ink, but with a knife.  There were the ubiquitous carved initials and secret codes and then one that made me angrier than all the others combined.  Someone had carved into the seat the Christian fish symbol with a tiny cross in the middle.

Now I suppose a non-Christian could have done this, but my assumption is that it was a Christian.  Someone who tried his/her hand at evangelizing through destruction of property.  That’s just great.

I stewed about this for the rest of my hike.  This is precisely the kind of nonsense that leads folks to sagely quote Ghandi: I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

The Bible is pretty clear about how Christians should act: with love, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).  We should be taking care of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:26-31).  We should be thankful for the gifts He has bestowed (Psalm 107). We should not be partaking in idiotic gestures like carving fish symbols into public property.

And we should not be publicly calling our Christian brothers and sisters idiots.

That last part, in case you were wondering, was written for me.  Because here’s another thing the Bible is pretty clear about: we should examine our own heart before we examine someone else’s. “First take the log out of your own eye,” Jesus told his followers. “and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of  your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). 

How often am I that Christian that someone is watching, thinking, wow, she certainly doesn’t act Christian?  Maybe I don’t deface property, but there are plenty of times when I’m preoccupied, self-absorbed, angry, selfish, frustrated… shall I go on?

First take the log out of your own eye, Jesus said.

I get easily frustrated when I see Christians acting “so unlike your Christ.”  But as I was trudging back to my car, it suddenly occurred to me: other Christians are not the benchmark of Christianity anymore than I am.  We are unlike our Christ.  This should not make us run from Christianity.  It should make us run to it.  In fact, the entire foundation of Christianity rests upon the recognition that we are fallen human beings.  We sin.  We do idiotic things.  We are unlike our Christ.  And this is exactly why we need Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit, Paul wrote, is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).  The fruit of the Spirit.  These are not things we accomplish on our own.  These are things that Christ accomplishes within us.

The foundation of Christianity is not other Christians; it is Christ Himself. We do not come to Christianity because we want to be like other Christians; we come to Christianity so that we may become like Christ.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8b-9).

Have you observed an un-Christlike Christian lately?  Rather than getting angry, take a moment to look in the mirror.  If you’re anything like me, it will be a humbling experience.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1). 

Anger Management

Philippians 4:8 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  Someday I am going to write an eloquent post elucidating my reasons why.

But not today.

Today, I am irrationally angry.  I have no idea why, but I find when I stop to consider it that I can come up with a whole host of reasons.  And this makes me even angrier.

Have you ever done this?  Have you ever felt a sudden surge of anger and tried to figure out why and then gotten angrier and angrier as you began listing all the things that make you angry?  Or had a day when you’re feeling rather blue, and asked yourself why, and found yourself feeling sadder and sadder as you pondered all the possible reasons you could be feeling sad?

Okay, maybe it’s just me.  But as I was working myself into a fire-spitting fury for no definitive reason that I could deduce, I suddenly remembered Philippians 4:8:  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So I decided to think about fuzzy clean socks.

I’ll admit it, this didn’t help much.  So I tried actually putting on fuzzy clean socks.  This did help.  So did eating dinner.  But you know what helped even more?  Writing this post.  Because it got me thinking not about my own thinking, but about Biblical thinking.  And even thinking about Biblical thinking got me thinking more Biblically.

It’s easy to let emotions dictate our thoughts, but this is not what the Bible commands.  The Bible does not tell us to think about whatever we feel like thinking about.  We are to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  We are to direct our thoughts towards things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  This means we do not let our emotions dictate our thoughts; rather, our thoughts are to dictate our emotions.

It’s amazing what thinking about these good things can do for one’s attitude.  Such thoughts are so powerful that apparently even if you can’t come up with something good to think about, just thinking about good thinking can help.  If nothing else, it apparently distracted me enough that I’ve forgotten how angry I was.

Try it next time your emotions start heading in a non-Biblical direction.  Don’t think about what you feel, think about what you think.  Then, take your thoughts captive.

If that fails, try the fuzzy socks.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8