Every notice how angry Christians are? I honestly think it is the direct result of the system of religious obligation that has co-opted so much of the life of Christ for believers. I remember how angry it made me—angry at God for not doing what I thought he should do, angry at other believers for not working as hard as I was and angry at the world for their sin which seemed to make them so happy. Even now in my work with BridgeBuilders it is almost invariably true that the angriest people in the room are those representing the Christian agenda. We’re right, by God, and we’re going to make you see it our way.
Even those who spill out of that system seem to carry their anger for while, especially when somebody challenges their lack of Sunday morning attendance, or some other nonsense. I was reminded of that with some of the responses I saw to Just What Is the Church? Blog that I wrote about a recent Christianity Today article telling us we all need to get back inside the institution, even if it is painful and doesn’t work. Sure he’s got a crazy perspective, but he doesn’t merit our anger or frustration.
I remember almost a decade ago visiting my parents at a time when close friends were spreading lies about me. I was so angry I had to get away and spend some time in the mountains praying. I dropped my stuff off at their house and was headed out for a long walk when my Dad stopped me. “Let me read you something I read this morning, that might be helpful to you.” He read from Luke 7 in The Message:
I’ve got to tell you that I wasn’t impressed right away. How could I be glad that other people were molesting my reputation? Somehow in those next few hours of prayer, however, God began to make that real to me. My life in him is not victimized by anyone else’s negative, even angry, attacks on me. I could live free of that realizing that his life sorting itself out in me will threaten others at times and make me the focus of their anger. As I began to see that I was merely taking the brunt of anger the really felt toward God, not only was I able to view them with more compassion, I began to understand my own anger as well.
One of the things I enjoy so much about this journey is how Father has disarmed so much of my anger and even when I run into people who are absolutely angry at me and the life I live, it doesn’t ruin my day or threaten my life in him. Jesus told us exactly how his grace in us would respond to people like that further down in Luke 7:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you wan the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are done; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people’ you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life’ you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not giving, is the way. Generosity begets generosity…”
There is no way we can choose to live like this in our own efforts, so don’t make this a new set of rules to follow. They will kill you. But we can choose to let Father work his love in us so that we find ourselves increasingly living in this freedom. Ask him! He’s really good at this!