Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ingredient #7 - Self-Control (Love - Part 9)

" not provoked..."
I Corinthians 13:5

Are any of these your emoticon of choice?  Hopefully not but I don't think we'd admit to it anyways...

Today we are going to talk about anger and self control.  I choose the ingredient "self-control" because God's Word teaches that we have a choice when it comes to anger.  Ephesians 4:26 tells us, "Be angry and yet do not sin, and don't let the sun go down on your anger."  Anger, in and of itself, is not sinful - it's a God-given warning signal that something is wrong and needs a response.  The question is, are you going to respond sinfully or righteously?

Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Corinth that love is not provoked - true love, when faced with an offense, chooses to control its anger and not go off on that person. Jesus exampled this many times, when He was accosted, interrupted and basically stalked by the demoniacs, lepers and the needy in general, His response was not anger but instead it was kind, compassionate forgiveness that they received.  Even on the cross, He prayed to the Father to forgive the soldiers of their offense of killing Him, because they were blinded to what they were doing.  

Now, Jesus did display anger during His ministry here on earth.  He boldly went after the dead hearts of the Pharisees over and over again - and yet, if you read His words, they were spoken from a broken heart. Jesus sorrowed over the lostness of the leadership - His anger was seen when His Father was disparaged and truth was distorted. Even turning over the tables in the temple was a cleansing of His Father's house - Jesus was not out of control. He never hit, killed, swore, threatened or mocked His enemies. But He made His point it a big way, from a loving heart that sacrificially gave all He had but wildly defended the holiness of His Father.

So where does anger come into play in our lives?  Do you know an angry person?  Go ahead, think about your friends and relatives.  I know there's one on your list - you know, that person who has a chip on her shoulder, never feels she is respected, constantly complains and criticizes, blows up at the smallest offense - overreacts and her anger is constantly boiling just under the surface. And no one likes to be around her - you try to make your escape shortly after the conversation begins because she is such a downer to be around.  

True love is not provoked - push its buttons and grace pours out. Ephesians 4 goes on to instruct us to put away all "...bitterness, wrath, slander, anger and malice..." These reactive responses are not Christ-like but rather self-focussed.  When I am stepped on, when someone mistreats me, when I am hurt or offended, I spew bitterness and hatred back at them.  I talk to everyone I see about my hurt and I continue to play it over and over in my mind, until I blow again.  Is that the person you want to be?

Instead, God wants you to choose to respond in kindness, being tender-hearted (compassionate) and forgiving to those who have hurt you (Ephesians 4:32). Why?  Because the end of that verse says this:  "...just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."  There it is - that constant reminder of our forgiveness in Christ is all the motivation we need to be Christ-like.

Why is it so hard to have self-control and not lose our temper with those whom we love?  It seems like those around us can give us a hard time and hurt us and lie to and about us, and we handle it much better than when someone we love does the same.  God tells us that true love is not provoked to anger - it chooses to be understanding, patient, kind, forgiving...loving.

No list of examples today - hopefully as time goes by, you are seeing your own application of His Word in your life.

Read this out loud before you move on to your day and think through what true love looks like in your life:

Love is patient, love is kind and it not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not easily provoked...

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