Thursday, 17 April 2014
Lent: Righteous Anger and Jealousy
There is a time to be angry. Anger is not always a negative thing. God Himself has anger and jealousy in Him, and we are created in His image.
But where is the line between anger and jealousy shift from righteousness to sinful behaviour?
It's a difficult question, and one that I often have to ask myself as I go through my daily walk.
I have - as my wife and oldest friends could tell you - a nasty temper. I can get angry at small things. But recent years have taught me that it's not always a bad thing.
A few nights ago a careless owner allowed their two large and untrained dogs to escape in our road. We live in a cul-de-sac which is quiet and - mostly - friendly. Everyone thinks they know everyone else, and there's an air of friendliness (mostly) all the time. The children play safely in the road and people walk their dogs - mostly small mixed breeds - around the place.
The arrival of the two unleashed and untrained large dogs shattered the stillness of the evening and changed a family's life. A small dog had wandered out to see what was going on with the two strangers. A fight ensued between the dogs, resulting in the small local dog dying in my arms from the injuries it had received.
Everyone went into shock. There was blood everywhere from the attack. My instinct was to immediately catch and kill the two killer dogs. Once a dog has a taste for blood it will attack again generally. Often once they have a taste for the kill, they can't be trusted around other dogs again.
What has this got to do with Anger and Jealousy?
My anger burned with a fierce heat towards the dogs, and the owner who had so carelessly allowed them to roam the streets freely and let this killing happen. I felt justified in the "righteous" nature of it.
Then I met the owner.
The dogs were big, powerful animals. She had been begging her partner to get rid of them because she couldn't control them. She had opened her front door to greet someone and they had charged past her, knocking her over in the process. Her devastation at what had happened was so evident that she moved me. And my "righteous" anger evaporated - towards her anyway. Yes, because of what happened I still believe the dogs should be put to sleep. But I was filled with compassion for this lady who had been worried from the day they got them that something like this might happen.
My dogs are a similar size to the two who were involved. I love them, but if they were to attack a small dog like that even though I would be devastated to do so, I would feel I had no choice but to euthanise them. Once a dog has the taste of the hunt, it is virtually impossible to remove it. I'd never be able to trust them with other dogs or with children. They rough and tumble with each other, but they all weigh over 60lbs - even the one with 3 legs! Add a 9lb dog to that mix and it won't last long.
I realised my anger was self-righteous, not Godly. My own sense of "justice" was offended.
Moving to jealousy now.
My wife has been in hospital recently. Actually, the three people I'm closest to have all been in hospital in the last 2 months. It's been a bit stressful. (To the point I'm considering checking in myself for a few days to recover!)
I visited her every day, and found I was jealous of the number of visitors other people got. She had me. That's it. Nobody else "bothered" to come. Now I put "bothered" in inverted commas for a reason. I know full well why no-one else came. Her mum is still recovering from her stay in hospital. So is mine. Her brother has been seriously ill and is still recovering. Everyone had not only a legitimate reason, but a reason that would have made both me and her very upset if they had come to visit! But I was still jealous.
Other people "appeared" more loved than she did. Visitors, chocolates, lattes, flowers all brought by well-wishers. She had me, a bearded biker with a mop of hair and no cash this week to buy more than a pack of wine gums. I felt inadequate, accused and jealous of the designer clothes and quoiffed hair that visited the first night. So I put on cologne and tried to keep my hair under control - not easy under a crash-helmet (yes, I am actually a biker). My best golf-shirt instead of a normal T-shirt and a smarter pair of jeans.
I still felt bad.
I felt like I wasn't enough. The accuser got under my skin.
Until she began to tell me the comments other people had made. I'm not going to repeat them, because it's not relevant. Suffice to say I realised my jealousy was a result of my pride.
But God has a "righteous" jealousy we can access as well. God is jealous towards Israel repatedly when they wander off to other false gods. He looks out for them and us with a ferocity we cannot match.
There was another patient who was "admired" by a male patient. Her husband came to visit and she held close to him, as I did with my wife. More importantly, he held close to her. He guarded her. He made it known that this lady was his wife and she was under his protection - back off. That is the jealousy God guards His children with. That is righteous jealousy.
It doesn't come from self, but from a desire for the best for others - to protect them from undue and undesired influence and attention. God's kind of behaviour towards us. Because at the same time as protecting, it still allows freedom of association for the individual in the relationship. Friendships are not hindered, but inappropriate behaviour is demonstrated to be just that.
My wife has regular contact with her ex-boyfriend. I have semi-regular contact with one of mine. There is no harm in that. We don't have a problem because boundaries are clear and the exes both respect them. The friendships we have are clean and our marriage is not negatively impacted by them. In fact I encourage her to have contact with him - he's a colleague with knowledge she needs to do her job well. There's no threat and no jealousy - but if the line were crossed we know where I would step in. And there is a Holiness in that.
Holiness is they key to staying on the right side of anger and jealousy.
I wish I could say I'm sorted in that area, but anyone who cuts me off in traffic will testify that I'm not completely Holy in my attitudes. I admit it. I'm overly aggressive and it's something I need to work on more. And more. And more.
Paul writes that we shouldn't let the sun go down on our anger in a couple of places. There's two ways to look at that. Firstly, we need to never stop being angry at the things God is angry about. Genuine injustice against His people, His children. We need to be angry about it. That kind of anger inspires Godly action to free prisoners persecuted for being Christians in places where false gods such as Islam rule. I was recently advised if I travel to certain places not to carry a Bible or Christian literature with me as I can be arrested at the airport. I find it interesting that some of these places are places where there have been a relatively high number of views of this blog. There is a hunger for God's Truth that I will not back down from.
The second concept is that we must not allow ungodly anger to fester in us. Deal with it straight away. Don't "sleep on it", but get before God and get it out of our systems. The longer it's there, the bigger it gets. Like a cancer it eats away and the bigger it becomes, the harder it is to get out. My dad died of a brain tumour, which if it had been caught earlier they may have been able to remove completely. My mum had cancer recently - caught so early it took two operations to find the tumour, but as a result she's cancer free! Such a difference.
Deal with unholiness swiftly and decisively.
But make sure it's Godly.