A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,

but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 15: 18

 

There exist a great number of expressions that deal with the effect that anger has on highly charged or emotion filled situations. A couple of my favorites are “Pouring fuel on a fire” and David Bowie’s moody crooning, “Putting out fire with gasoline.” The point is clear, for anger does very little to resolve or to settle a difficult situation, and it usually has the exact opposite effect. Anger takes a disagreement and turns it into a war or into a win-lose engagement wherein, in fact, no one wins. This is emphatically true when the people involved are followers of Christ and in situations wherein the anger is being expressed between us in the body of Christ. In these situations, those Satanic forces that relentlessly seek to divide the church and to separate Christ’s people from each other are the only winners.

 

For those of us who gravitate toward anger as a response to many of the situations that we encounter in life, God desires for us to learn control over these emotional times through submission to Him. This is also true for those of us who seem to find that anger is necessary for us to fully enter into hard discussions and challenging situations. In general, there is very little place for anger in human interaction. God does exhibit anger in many situations, but He does not command people to model this aspect of His nature and character in the way that we prosecute life. The anger that God expresses is always tempered with grace and is always turned out with redemptive purpose. People are not so good at achieving this sort of balance, for when we engage anger, it tends to take over and to control all that we think, say, and do. It becomes who we are so that grace and redemption become rare commodities in our immediate world.

 

Since God does not set out impossible challenges for us and He directs us to set aside anger, there must be an answer to this powerful drive that is so deeply imbedded in many of us. The simple answer is Christ and the operative aspect of that answer is submission to Him. However, we all know that this is not so simple to accomplish and to remain true to when life comes our way. So, I think that a fundamental understanding that is also required in all of this revolves around the way that we see, comprehend, and understand other people. That is that we see others as valuable, beloved God image-bearers, who Christ loves regardless of all that they might do or say. Thus, there is no place for anger in our interactions with other people. We can be angered by situations and by actions, but we are not to allow that anger to pour out of us and onto others. Even when we are in confrontational situations, Christ’s people are to be peace-makers, and in doing this, we bring the Spirit of Christ to the forefront as we recede behind His redemptive grace.

Turn away from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34: 14

 

There may not be a more relentless force in our world than evil; for, it never sleeps and it never stops. The news from all corners of the world is saturated with its impact; there is death and pain, torture and hatred, control and slavery. Sadly, most of these acts are done with some form of reasoned out and seemingly noble stated purpose. The same kind of destructive force is at work in our own neighborhood, and sometimes it is even in our own homes. For example, consider the impact of angry words and of superior attitudes or consider how much harm is done by looking at other people with our own self-focused eyes rather than looking through the eyes of God. At these times we think that we are being strong and in control; instead, we are being incredibly weak, and we are dangerously close to being in Satan’s control.

 

You see, the peace that God seeks to have with us is not characterized by weakness; rather, it is marked by strength. This is a strength that comes from Christ within, and it is the true strength that empowers us to live in fearless abandonment of human power and worldly control. The Lord wants us to engage a dialogue with Him that becomes our ongoing discourse with our world. He wants us to operate every day from a perspective that is established on a solid foundation of wisdom and understanding; for, this is the state of living that we embrace when we look closely at Christ, engage with the truth of God’s Word, and when we listen to His truth as His Spirit speaks to our hearts. The Lord desires for us to live in peace with Him and with others.

 

We can look at the situations and the relationships that make up our lives and seek peace in all of them. We won’t always be able to accomplish this all of the time, for there will be people who will not go along with God’s will just as there are situations that defy the Lord’s desire and intent for how we should live. Our responsibility in all of this is to follow Christ’s example and to be peace makers. For there is one force that is active in our world that is more relentless than evil and that force is God’s love. He calls upon each of us who know Him to follow Christ’s example as we give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work in our hearts to replace the evil that we are by nature inclined to do with the good that flows out of Christ’s love and strength. We are to use every ounce of our energy in a continuous drive to bring true and lasting peace to others through touching them with the love that comes from Christ alone.

 

Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

John 20: 21

 

The presence of the living Christ in our world can be highly disturbing. He asks for a lot, and He isn’t really willing to compromise on the things that He wants from people, ether. So, it almost seems like a paradox that these were the first words He said to His disciples after He left the tomb and appeared among them. Now Christ was certainly wishing for them to be at ease and to realize and understand that the person who stood among them was the same Jesus that they had known and loved and who had loved them over the last few years, but I think that Christ had much more in mind than just that reassurance. He wanted them to embrace the fact that they were called to continue His work of bringing the reconciling love and grace of God to and into the world; so, the disciples were to go out and to bring the essential message of peace between people and God and, thus, between people and our world.

 

Jesus knew and He wants us to understand that bringing peace is hard work, and it is a relentless process, for there is an enormous amount of energy in our world that is dedicated to creating turmoil, separation, and animosity. Also, our own natures tend toward the troubled, self-protective, and fearful sides of behavior. Still, Christ wants His deep-seated peace to rule our hearts and minds so that we will interact with others with the clear headed inner calm of Christ. When we do this we can make a difference in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities, and that difference will be a tangible expression of Christ’s love.

 

With this eternal peace well settled on us, we can speak the hard truths of God’s Word and still be heard as compassionate, and when we interact with others, the peace in our hearts will help to filter out our human defenses and it will allow a true dialogue to begin. The peace of Christ is something to accept and it is something to seek. You see, we humans just don’t naturally settle in peaceful places. Yet, in response to our tendency Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” True peace is not something that is created by treaties, by force, or by governments. True peace is the result of individual people who choose to believe Christ and who are willing to set aside their human responses and thinking in order to allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity to send us into our world as committed peace makers.