Tag Archives: anger

Some Thoughts on Church Discipline…

Okay, I know I’m a bit late.  The Driscoll hysteria has passed.  But I was asked in a final exam for one of my seminary classes about the concept of Church Discipline.  And having been on the pointy end of that stick myself in the last year or so, I thought I might share my two cents here as well.

There are many varying views of the subject, and, in my opinion, there are many abuses of the idea going around in the contemporary church.  Let us begin with the words most commonly used to describe how we ought to carry out discipline in the church.  Those words are the words of Jesus in Matthew 18.  Jesus says,

“If your brother or sister sins,go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

So, what we see here is that Jesus tells us a sort of hierarchy for how to carry out Church Discipline.  We first go individually.  Then we take one or two others.  Then we tell it to the church.  Then we treat them as the pagan or the tax collector.  In contemporary church circles – specifically that of the neo-reformed movement exemplified by Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill in Seattle – this has come to mean that we ought to call people out harshly.  If that doesn’t work, we send in the church’s elders in to beat them up a bit tag-team style.  If that doesn’t work we kick them out of the church and tell anyone who is a member that they ought not talk to them anymore.

Instead of this scenario, I think we ought to approach this subject by taking these verses in their context.  Prior to Jesus speaking these words he had been talking about who will be first in the Kingdom.  He says that children will be first.  He says that whoever wants to be first in the Kingdom ought to become like a child.  And he then continues to say that anyone who causes one of these children to stumble, it would be better for that one if they had never been born.  Then he further gives a parable that illustrates God’s love for those children.  He shows God pursuing the lost child like a shepherd pursues the one lost sheep while leaving behind the 99 to do so.

Then he gives the statement of “church discipline” as a way of preventing abuse by religious leaders.  He lays out a way of dealing with those who “offend” by doing it in a loving and kind way.  After laying out the loving way to deal with “one who sins against you” Peter – apparently looking for a loophole – asks, “how many times do I have to forgive one who sins against me?”  And Jesus answers by telling the parable of the unmerciful servant.  In this parable a servant of the King is forgiven an unpayable debt.  The servant then goes out and demands payment by one of his fellow servants for a minor debt.  The unmerciful servant is then punished because he would not forgive little when he had been forgiven much.

So, the idea of Church Discipline, in this light, consists of lovingly and privately calling out the offense.  Then taking a few people as witnesses if that doesn’t work.  If that doesn’t work, we then involve the church community.  If that doesn’t work we treat them as tax collectors and pagans.  However, this doesn’t mean we kick them out and avoid all contact.  Instead we treat them the way Jesus treated tax collectors and pagans.  We leave the 99 and pursue the 1 who is astray.  We love them and love them and love them no matter what.  We have dinner at their house.  We ask them to change their ways.  But we also never stop inviting them into community.  In no way do we shun them until they get on board with our way.  It is not our job to convict of sin.  That is the job of the Spirit.  It is our job to show love and forgiveness.  And if we must call out sin, then we do so in a loving and forgiving and understanding way.

So, instead of kicking people out who disagree or offend, we love them back into the group.  One of the greatest offenses that Christianity has committed against a dying and lost world is that we have systematically removed ourselves from society by segregating ourselves, and by kicking out anyone who doesn’t fit the mold.  If we follow the model of Jesus then we will draw people to us.  Without compromising Truth, we can at the same time not compromise Love.  Our witness to the world consists in our being the type of Christians who the watching world will see and say, “Wow…look at how they love…I need some of that!”  Instead I’m afraid that they know us by who and what we oppose.  When Jesus ascended into heaven he left us one final legacy.  He said that the world would know we are his and that he was sent by God if we love one another.  At one time the Roman historian Tertullian said, “See how these Christians love one another!”  When you ask someone today what they think of when they think of Christians, that is not the first answer you will get!

So, the challenge I issue today to you and to myself is to make an intentional effort to love someone you disagree with.  Find someone who has harmed you and make an effort to forgive them.  Make every effort to reconcile with them.  And even if you can’t, make every effort to let go of the hate.  Make every effort to be the sort of person who others will look at and say, “Wow!  Look how that person loves!”

Love is the Word,

Believe,

-a


the gospel of Gordon Ramsay (re-posted)…

In celebration of the return of my favorite show, Kitchen Nightmares, I’ve decided to re-post an entry from a year or so ago.  I hope you enjoy it…

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Chef Gordon Ramsay, if you don’t already know him, is a foul mouthed, temperamental, highly strung television chef.  He is also one of the greatest examples I’ve seen to date of the way the Gospel operates.  If you are of a mind to, you can see the show Kitchen Nightmares here (be warned, you will hear lots of bleeping, and a lot of the words that are pretty rough, but no longer bleeped on television.  If that offends you, don’t click the link).  The episode that made this Gospel parallel clear to me was called “Revisited: Gordon Returns.”  It recaps six restaurants he visited, and shows them a year later.  Watching them all in a row like that really drove home the way Chef Ramsay does his thing.

Basically, the premise of the show is that some restaurant is failing for whatever reason.  Enter Gordon Ramsay.  He comes in, eats whatever they serve him as their specialty, and then proceeds to verbally abuse them at every turn.  He slams the food, he goes into the kitchen and shows them every piece of dirt, filth, lazy short cuts, and non-chefliness (is that a word?  No, worries, we’ll make it a word.) that they might have.  He pushes until he hits the wall.  And the thing is, that wall is always there.  Always.  He has said on several occasions, “Are you angry?  Good, now maybe you can learn something.”

Chef Ramsay understands something that we would do well to understand as well.  When we realize that we are failing, that things are not going the way we want them to, our first course of action is to make excuses.  Like the people on his show with their failing restaurants, we blame others, we blame circumstances, we blame anyone and anything but ourselves.  So many of us keep trying, more and more emphatically, to do the same things we’ve been doing all along.  One restaurant Chef Ramsay visited had a stock pile of absurd signs and posters of specials and give-aways.  Basically doing the same thing, over and over again, even though it was obviously not working.  “Maybe half off soup and sandwich will work since free appetizer with two dinners didn’t.”  It reminds me of an analogy I heard Tony Jones give.  He compared a person to a lawn mower that is running out of gas.  Right before you run out of gas in your lawn mower, the engine revs up to a high pitch, and runs hotter and faster than normal just before it sputters out.  This is a good picture of that “anger wall” that blows up just before we sputter out and become ready to be refueled.

(On a side note…Tony Jones is the director of Emergent Village.  There are a lot of good things and a lot of not-so-good things coming from the Emergent “conversation.”  Click *here* for the interview Tony Jones did on Steve Brown Etc. which is where the above analogy came from.)

Lao Tzu says, “If you continue in the same direction, you might just end up where you are going.”  My dad says it even better, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”  As long as we keep making excuses for ourselves, we are going to continue down the same path.  Chef Ramsay understands that this excuse making is an obstacle to growth.  He also understands that when he hits that anger, resentment, and fear, that he is at the breaking point.  He realizes that he just held up a mirror, chased them around the room with it, beat them over the head with it, and just past the anger point, he has them huddled in the fetal position in the corner, crying uncontrollably, but looking for the first time in that mirror without any masks or pretense.  This is where growth and change happen.  New gardens grow in the dead matter of the old garden.

In Luke 18, the Bible has this to say:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

There is something underlying this story.  The tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast.  This is just my theory, but I think that tax collector probably spent a long time thinking along the same lines as the Pharisee.  The business of tax collecting in that day was usually a pretty dishonest one.  In order to make your living doing something you know is wrong, you have to have a pretty special ability to delude yourself into thinking somehow you are right to do wrong.  But something happened in this man’s life that made it unavoidable for him.  He had to face the ugliness of his own sin.  Something or someone came along that made him understand just how dark and small his heart really was.  That something/someone was ultimately the Holy Spirit working through people and circumstances in his life to show him the reality of his darkness.

Gordon Ramsay is, in many respects, a great example of the way the Spirit works in our lives.  He holds up a mirror.  We glance, and turn away, and superimpose the image we like to see of ourselves in place of the one that is real.  Then the Spirit says, “Your best effort is horrible.  Your food is inedible, your kitchen is filthy, your dry storage is infested with roaches, you are a horrible excuse for a chef.”  And we get angry.  “How dare you come in here and tell me something like that!”  The Spirit says, “Oh really?  So, what you’re doing is working then?  You’re a blinding success?  Then why are you looking for help?”  And eventually we are left with the choice.  We can take a good honest look at the filth in our kitchen.  We can take a good honest look at the pre-packaged, frozen, bought-in junk we are trying to pass off as gourmet righteousness.  Or, we can continue in our delusion, and end up a failure, sunken under our delusions of right-ness.

On Kitchen Nightmares, the people who change, and stick with it, are invariably successful.  The ones who do not, invariably fail.  One striking similarity I see in all the people who opt not to change (and really, in the initial resistance that everyone shows) is their fear that Chef Ramsay is trying to change their “self-ness” that they have put into their restaurant.  Each and every time the fear goes something like this, “I have built this on my dream.  There is so much of me in this.  I worked so hard on this.  I don’t want someone coming in here and changing what I have planned for this place.”  This is so much like our resistance to change into what the Spirit has for us.  We are so afraid that we will be turned into something different that we truly are.  Like we’ll be turned into one of the pod-people from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.  But in our lives, as in Kitchen Nightmares, if we listen to the suggestions and changes that are being offered, they will always be something that is in keeping with who we are right now.  Chef Ramsay doesn’t ask a vegetarian restaurant to become a steak house.  He doesn’t try to turn and Indian restaurant into an Irish Pub.  He shows a place what they are truly good at and will enjoy, not what they think they want to be good at and enjoy.  The Spirit is the same.  We are shown what we are good at, we are shown the skills that God has given us.

When we hit that wall, break through, and see ourselves as we truly are, we learn two things.  Those two things are, as my friend Scott Stewart says, “The bad news of the Gospel, and the Good news of the Gospel.”  The bad news is that we are far worse than we can see.  The good news is that we are more loved than we could ever imagine.  The great news is that in the good news of the Gospel, we are loved and given talents, and affinities that, if we listen to the Spirit and use them according to the plan, will give us more of a true “self” than anything we could do in the horrible “freedom” that we demand when we want to be “ourselves” without God.

I pray, for myself as much as anyone, that we can take a look at the brutal, cold facts of our filthy-rag righteousness.  And that from that honest knowledge, that we can begin to grow and change.  I pray that we can let go of these ideas of our “self” that we hold so closely, and embrace the Truth of who we really are.

C.S. Lewis says in just a  few sentences more than I’ve said in this nearly 1500 word article:

“We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.” – C.S. Lewis


James 1:19-21 – The Gospel of Bob and Fred…

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” – James 1:19-21

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha

“One-half of the ills of life come because men are unwilling to sit down quietly for thirty minutes to think through all the possible consequences of their acts.” – Blaise Pascal

“When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.” – Mark Twain

As the saying goes, “God gave you two ears and one mouth because you are supposed to listen twice as much as you speak.”  These three verses, probably more than anything I’ve ever read, ring true and frustrate me at the same time.  The default of my heart is anger.  But when I sit down and really look at it, what is that anger?  It is nothing more, and nothing less than my inflamed ego.  There is a time and a place for righteous anger.  There is a time when the only correct course of action is to pick up a cat-of-nine-tails and start turning over tables.  But 99.999% of the time our anger is nothing like righteous anger.  We get angry because so-and-so gets such-and-such and they don’t deserve it.  We get angry because someone says something out of the way to us, or about us and got away with it.  We get angry because we didn’t get our way.  In other words, we get angry because we are jealous.  We get jealous because of our pride.  And our pride is the basis of every other sin that we might commit.

Robert Anton Wilson said, “Most people live in a myth and grow violently angry if anyone dares tell them the truth about themselves.”  This is what we need to understand.  James tells us that our anger stands in the way of the righteousness that God has for us.  Our anger keeps us from, as Bob Wilson so aptly pointed out, hearing the truth about ourselves.  More often than not, our anger flares up in the presence of anything that tries to pull off our mask and expose the self we want so desperately to hide.

There is an interesting thing that James adds at the end of these verses.  After telling us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, he tells us to get rid of moral filth that is so prevalent.  This idea is a “therefore” to the idea of being slow to anger, etc.  In other words, he is telling us that the way we can accomplish the first part, is in doing the second.  We are to get rid of moral filth in our lives, be humble in accepting the Word of God, and this will be the way that we are able to do the first part.  You want to know how to tell when a person knows what they are doing is wrong?  Watch for the things that make them angry.  Tell an alcoholic that they need to watch their drinking.  Tell a legalist that they need to be more loving.  Tell a “free-spirit” that they need some boundaries.  You will find out pretty quickly when a person isn’t so sure that what they are doing is right.

I’ll take it one step further.  In general, the thing that a person thinks is “the worst” sin, is the thing that that person struggles with the most.  And it comes back, once again, to the pride of Lucifer that we all share.  A person who thinks that being a drunk is the worst thing you can do is typically someone who has fought very hard to overcome drunkenness.  That person is then putting their pride in their ability to stop drinking, and thinks “I did it, why can’t you?”  A person who struggles with lust may think that infidelity is the worst thing you can do.  A person who struggles with anger may think that violence is the worst thing to do.  The list could go on forever.  The point is that James’ advice here is twofold.  We are to get rid of our moral filth.  That’s the part that our friends I’ve listed above have done.  But the second part is that we are then to “humbly” accept the Word of God which can save us.  And there is the kicker.  Once we realize that any ability that we have to overcome this moral filth does not come from us, but from God’s Word planted in us, then we see things in a new light.  When we realize that we, like these poor saps we are so angry with, are completely helpless to do anything about our sinful selves, then we become a lot more eager to forgive them.  When we realize that we are no better than they are, then we give them the benefit of the doubt.  Jesus puts it in positive terms when He tells us to love our neighbor as our self.

One of the most devastating, and humbling experiences that a person can have is to realize that you are exactly the thing that makes you the most angry.  It is so easy for us to look at the Swaggarts and Bakkers of the world and say, “you fought so hard against this thing in public, but look at your private life.”  But if we are honest with ourselves, we are absolutely no different.  Robert Anton Wilson again stumbled on something close to the truth when he said, “You are precicely as big as what you love and precicly as small as what you allow to annoy you.”  The downfall of these men, and the downfall of us all comes when we try to correct our own actions by just trying harder.  We think there must be some program, some method, some path that we can, on our own efforts, do to overcome.  But the fact is that we are totally and completely ill equiped to do this on our own.

In the end, like every other issue, it comes back to the two things that Jesus Himself told us to do.  This “word planted in you” that James refers to is that of Jesus, The Word Himself.  We are told to love God with all that we have and all that we are.  And we are told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  This means that we humbly listen to what God tells us.  And what God tells us is that we need His help.  It also means that we are to love our neighbors by giving them the same forgiveness and the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves.  Even when we beat up on ourselves, and wallow in our “wrongness,”  we are really doing so out of some sense of pride in our ability to admit that we are so wrong.

The beauty and the freedom of the Gospel is that we don’t have to change other people.  When Jesus told Peter vaguely how he would die, Peter’s first response was, “What about John.”  Jesus, in the Grace and Truth way that only He could pull off said simply, “What is that to you?  You must follow me.”  Let that play in your mind the next time you are angry.  The next time you think, “So-and-so just said blah-blah-blah to me!”  Think, “what is that to me?  I must follow Jesus.”  The next time you wonder, “why did so-and-so get away with doing whatever-it-is?”  Remember, “What is that to me?  I must follow Jesus.”  And the next time you are faced with the choice to do the whatever-it-is that tempts you.  Remember, “What is that to me?  I must follow Jesus.”

“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.” – Fred Rogers


now…what did you learn from your bloody knuckles?

So, my right hand hurts….bad.

I’ve been working two jobs full-time for roughly 3 weeks now. I did it for a little over a year when I was 24 or 25 years old. I am not 25 years old anymore. What I have learned is that as long as I am well rested, well fed, and things are pretty well going my way, I can be a pretty decent person. I can fulfill my list of things I have set up for myself that in my mind make me an okay sort of a guy (I try to deny the existence of such a list, but deep down, I know its there. You probably have one too if you look hard enough). But going on 3 to 4 hours of sleep at night, not eating right, and not seeing my wife and son (at least not seeing them awake) took its toll on me pretty quickly.

I have been angry, quick tempered, grumpy with my wife on the few occasions that we have had to sit down and talk, and just an all around jerk to be around. There are a few people around me who have said that I wasn’t as bad on the outside as I felt on the inside. But I suspect they were just being nice. Even if they were telling the truth, my insides have been boiling. Basically I have become myself in the 8th grade!

I am 30 years old. You would think that I would know better by now. But obviously I don’t. I was so angry at a customer at the day job that I decided it would be a good idea to take it out on an old pallet on the loading dock. It was one of my most shining moments as a human. I haven’t punched inanimate objects in years. Suddenly I was in eighth grade again, punching a wall because Darnell Lyerly said that Heavy Metal was for devil worshipers. It was then that I realized…finally…once again…that I am in desperate need of help. I absolutely cannot be a decent person on my own power.

Of course I have my reasons and excuses. There is the aforementioned insane work schedule. There is the lack of sleep. There is even the fact that the customer was honestly acting like a spoiled child who did not get her way. But it still comes down to me. I allowed my anger to get the best of me. Try as I might to always put on the face of a happy, healthy, and decent person, I failed. Try as I might to force myself into actually being a happy, healthy, and decent person, I failed. I was trying to reach deep down in my insides and find reserves that simply weren’t there, and to call upon those non-existent reserves to hammer my will into submission. All of this is on my own power because, I hate to admit it, I still want to be my own savior. And that is nothing more or less than my denial of God’s sovereignty over the universe and my place in it.

Proverbs 29:11 teaches, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” So, does that mean that we should just take our anger, roll it into a little ball and swallow it? Should we put on some false calmness? Should we pretend to be the zen master when our insides are boiling? Of course not. But neither should we allow our anger to overwhelm our reason. I may well have been justified in my anger toward this customer. But it was foolish for me to let that anger boil over to the point that I lost it on the pallet. The pallet wasn’t doing anything to me. And to be honest, the pallet won the fight. It’s a week and a half later and it still hurts!

There is a righteous anger. There are times that the Holy Spirit inside of you cannot tolerate something. You should be angry when the House of God is turned into a den of thieves. You should be angry when you see children going to be hungry when we have the means to feed them. You should be angry when people are being oppressed. In other words you should be angry because God is inside you, and God is angry. You should not be angry because some lady upset you because her furniture was going to be two days late! If my anger is because someone is being mean to me, or hurt my feelings, or expects more from me than I think I ought to have to give, then it is about me. That is ego. That is a pebble in the vessel.

I don’t have to ball that anger up and swallow it. That is not healthy either. But I have to, once again, return on my knees to God. I have to ask God to show me where I went wrong. I have to ask God to help me see that pesky bit of ego that is still filling up the places in my heart where God wants to be. God wants an empty vessel. Ego is like putting rocks in a vase. God wants to be the water that fills the vase. A vase full of rocks cannot be filled with much water, and it is therefore useless to the one who wants to fill it.

The good news is that we can be grateful for these bits of insight into the dark little caverns of our selves. When you realize that you are acting like a first-rate jerk, it tips you off to the fact that there is another ego-rock you didn’t know about. If you didn’t, from time to time, trip over your ego and fall flat on your face, you might just go on forever dragging those stupid rocks around. Robert Anton Wilson (futurist writer, philosopher, definitely not a Christian, and not for the faint of heart) has what he calls his “cosmic schmuck principle.”

“The Cosmic Schmuck Principle holds that if you don’t wake up, once a month at least, and realize that you have been acting like a Cosmic Schmuck again then you will probably go on acting like a cosmic schmuck forever; but if you do, occasionally, recognize your Cosmic Schmuckiness, then you might begin to become a little less Schmucky…”

Ol’ Bob and I definitely part company when it comes to how, on whose power, and why to become less schumcky, but the principle applies. It is easy to beat up on yourself (or a pallet) when you realize how you’ve been acting. But that is just another form of schmuckiness. Francois Fenelon said, “Our pride is disgusted at our faults and we mistake this disgust for true repentance.” There is a part of me that is angrier at myself for losing it on the pallet than I was at the lady who I allowed to make me that angry to begin with! That part of me is my ego, and it is in the way of what God wants to use me for. The mistake, and the shame at the mistake are both coming from the same prideful heart. Thank God for bruised and bloody knuckles and a bruised and bloody ego that reminds me once again that I need the love and rest of Jesus.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” – Isaiah 66:13