“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18 NIV).
Have you noticed a change in people in recent years? I sure have. I think it has been accelerated by COVID-19 and sadly will probably get worse before it gets better. We have become meaner, more aggressive, more entitled, less patient, less appreciative, less respectful, and less forgiving. How can this be in a country in which approximately ¾ of the adult population identifies as Christian? Aren’t Christians called to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” as instructed in Micah 6:8? Similarly, Romans 12:17-18 gives further instruction to Christians on how to interact with others. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Each day Christians are revealing the nature of their heart and the strength of their witness by the words of their mouth. Jesus drew this connection when He said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45). Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way. “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Am I the only Christian that sometimes says things that I later regret?
Our words and actions (or inactions) are the outward manifestation of our relationship with God. The Bible uses the term “fruit” to represent this outward appearance of our inner spirit. We know others by their fruits just as they know us by ours (Matthew 7:15-20).
As I think of fruits in this context, my mind is drawn to the parable of the cursing of the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22. Cursing the fig tree was Jesus’s way of saying that the whole nation had become spiritually barren before the Lord just as the tree was barren of fruit. The people had knowledge of religion, but it was not a part of their heart. No good fruit.
I think many Christians today have a pretty good idea about the divinity of Jesus and a fair appreciation for His sacrifice and ministry. However, many Christians are not yielding good fruit as evidenced by the negative attributes listed in the first paragraph.
Why do so many Christians show these negative attributes when Jesus came to give them joy? What is causing all of this anger and other negative emotions? The short answer is fear, which is manifested as anger. I think its noteworthy that Scripture encourages us 365 times (one for each day) to not be fearful or afraid.
As we drill deeper to see what is behind the anger, we will find a primal cry deeply rooted in a suffering that is longing to be soothed. These negative emotions are the only means some people know to beg for attention and care. Their anger has been birthed by paralyzing fears, unfulfilled desires, raw wounds that are fresh even though years have passed, and dreams that have been stifled. Their harsh actions. loud words, and demand for control indicate a false bravado which is being driven by a deep cry – I am afraid. I am not heard. I am not satisfied. I am hurt. I want to be affirmed.
As Christians we know we are called to trust God but in practice we often trust ourselves. We want to give control to God but, we want to control our life and those close to us because we, and only we, know best. We often trust God, or a spouse, to make decisions but only if they make the decision that we want.
The right next step here is to stop and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal negative emotions and other sins that are separating you from God. Then, repent and turn from the sin. As men we can model this by being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
It is important to realize that this requires daily prayer and a small accountability group. A life lived in the Spirit is joy, but one lived in the flesh is death. Choose life.
Prayer: Dear God, We know that apart from you we can do nothing. Yet, so often we go our own way and do what is right in our own eyes. Forgive us for our seasons of bad fruit. Prune us to remove all that is impure and prepare new growth that is pleasing to your Eye. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
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Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for providing us security that cannot be found in this fallen world. Forgive us for our lukewarm faith at times and continue to draw us nearer to you. May everything that we do show that we are true ministers of the Good News. Amen.
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.