by Victor Knowles
Why do the nations rage? Why is so much anger spilling over everywhere? For example, the May 8, 2004, cover of World Magazine shows the face of a pro-abortion woman contorted with rage. This is not a face I would want to see every morning.
The world is filled with rage. Look at the faces in the Middle East. See the anger in the streets of Iraq, on Capitol Hill, on the faces of opponents on cable-TV talk shows. Anger seethes and bubbles like a witches' cauldron, like a volcano ready to erupt with hot lava.
The last place in the world we need anger is the church. Yet it happens. Time and time again the writers of the New Testament had to tell Christians—those who had taken the name of the holy Christ to wear as their own—to get rid of rage, anger and malice.
Anger, it seems, does not always wash downstream after baptism. It pools and collects and breeds ugly reptiles of the mind.
Paul told the Ephesians, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Eph. 4:31 esv). Why would anyone want to have such horrible bat-like things hanging in the closet of their heart, anyway?
Same problem in the church in Colossae. "But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth" (Col. 3:8). Anger has such "nice" roommates, eh? Evict them from your heart lest they eviscerate you.
What about Corinth? Paul feared that when he visited them he would find such things as "quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder" (2 Cor. 12:20). We expect such sins in the world. It is a hard pill to swallow when we discover them in the church—in our own lives. Jesus rebuked the raging sea. He rebukes the rage in you and me.
Look at what Paul lists as "works of the flesh" in his letter to the Galatians: "enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy..." (Gal. 5:20-21). And he puts them right in there with "sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these." Oh, beautiful! It's enough to make you want to throw up.
Throwing up is not the answer. The answer is throwing off, putting away, getting rid of these sordid sins of the spirit. The key is another kind of spirit, the Holy Spirit, for Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22,23). Those who live by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.
Take Stephen for example. Here was a man who was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, full of grace and power (Acts 6:3,8). In the power of the Spirit he preached to a hostile audience And the Sanhedrin noticed something amazing. They "saw that his face was like the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15).
What does the face of an angel look like? It looks like a Christian who is full of the Holy Spirit! Contrast Stephen's face with the faces of those who opposed his message. "At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him" (Acts 7:37 niv). Now there's a pretty picture! Grown men stopping their ears, screaming in rage, rushing the speaker, dragging him out of the city, and stoning him to death. Real pretty. Yeah. I want to go there next Sunday. Right.
I can't write this without thinking of an incident early in my childhood. A church meeting had been called. The minister, my father, was being verbally abused by some of the members. Nasty things were being said. Finally, my mother stood up. Her face was like that of an angel. She said in a quiet voice, "Why can't Christians just be Christian?"
My mother died when she was only 62. I am convinced that her death was hastened by the unbelievable (maybe even abominable) behavior of some who said they were Christians but acted like devils. To her dying day she could never understand how some Christians could think and speak and act as they do. Why can't Christians just be Christian?
Friends, it's time—it's past time—that we do what the Spirit-inspired writers told all of us to do two thousand years ago: get rid of all anger, wrath, malice, bitterness, and rage. Get rid of it like you would a splitting sack of rotting garbage. The fruit of the Spirit is love and peace and patience and kindness and self-control. Live by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit and your heart will be pretty and pure—and your face may just look like the face of an angel.
Victor Knowles is executive director of Peace on Earth Ministries (POEM), Joplin, Missouri.
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