Welcome to Friday’s Podcast. Our reading today is 1 John 3:11-16 and today we’ll focus on verse 15:
‘Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.’
We all experience anger – it’s a perfectly normal human response.
Different people or personality types have different ways of processing anger. For some they can sit and stew silently – passively – like the student I once heard who was so angry with their housemate that each night they would take that person’s toothbrush and run it along the toilet rim. That’s what we call passive aggression – there’s no violence; no shouting but instead a seething hidden anger which can lead people to some pretty weird stuff. But it’s still anger.
Then there’s the explosive type – it’s clear someone is angry! There’s shouting and gesturing and it’s really, really obvious.
But what about when it’s not obvious? What if you’re angry and you just don’t realise? How can you tell?
I think I’ve come to understand if I hear someone talking about somebody and I sense myself tighten up inside – let me unpack this – if someone is talking about somebody I know and they’re being really positive, honouring, I know I have an issue if I can’t enter into the spirit of that conversation in a positive way. If inside I just want to burst into that conversation and say ‘well, yes… but…’ I know if have an issue with that person. If I can’t think about that person in a way that is positive or blessing – I know that there’s an issue that needs resolving.
I’ve come to realise that I experience anger far more than I used to realise – it just has different manifestations and different triggers set it off.
In this part of John’s letter we’re shifting gear. He’s spent a good chunk of time dealing with the Anti-Messiahs who are a real issue for the churches under his care. And how do you know you’re dealing with an anti messiah? It’s hard to tell but John makes clear that you’re looking out for someone who denies certain aspects of Jesus’ reality like he actually came in the flesh. Had a human body. Was born of a virgin. Stuff like that. The Anti Messiahs preached a ‘spiritual’ Jesus – one whom could provide you with knowledge and spiritual insight. But in today’s passage John gets real and he gets down to business with the reality of human existence.
Just how do we relate to each other? It’s a great question. And he tells us in his gospel that one of the main way we communicate anything of Jesus to the people around us – is how do we love each other? Not in an ethereal cliché way but how do we deal with the stuff that blocks us and prevents us loving other people?
John cites a story from Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel. That doesn’t end well because Cain kills his brother, Abel. Why? Because he had anger in his heart. That’s why Jesus tells us straight in Matthew 5:21:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
Unprocessed anger is like murder. Seriously? Jesus is so serious about it that he makes such a striking point. And you know John picks up that point too in his letter. You want to love well – be aware of your anger. Don’t hate people. Deal with it.
So, how do we do this?
Well firstly, let me say this – sometimes really awful things happen to people and so I don’t want to get into cliches here. It can take a long time to get to a place of forgiveness – but that’s the goal – to move into freedom.
Unprocessed anger can destroy relationships. Wreck communities and left unchecked can turn people bitter. It can be really corrosive the soul.
However hard it is to deal with our anger – deal with it we must because Jesus doesn’t make this a tick box exercise. There’s no – if you want to – he’s making the salient point – you know that the awful violence and murder – well guess what it has a starting position in our hearts, or our soul – and it’s called anger. So, don’t ignore it. Don’t leave it. Otherwise it festers and grows and you can end up hating someone. John has something very strong to say about the presence of hate in our hearts – as does Jesus.
So, this is how I’ve learned to approach dealing with deep anger and it might not work for you – and I’m still learning.
Firstly, we confess it. Say sorry. Ask for Jesus’ help.
But to keep walking in freedom and forgiveness we need to walk in the opposite spirit to anger – so we choose blessing.
If someone has hurt you – pray for them. I know, cheesy, right! Even with gritted teeth. Bible says we’re not to give the enemy a foothold in our lives. This is one way not to let that happen. Seriously – stop, sit down and begin to name that person before God. Pray God’s blessing on them. Even, I know it’s hard, thank God for them. I’m serious!
Secondly – in your times with God – talk to Him like he’s in the room and he totally honest with how you feel. Ask him to minister to you – to help you – to bring freedom and love into your heart. Pray blessing upon their lives. It’s amazing how freeing it can be. Hard but freeing.
This is something I’ve come to think about a lot and it’s a quote from the US Pastor Bill Johnson: ‘A culture of honour is celebrating who a person is without stumbling over who they’re not.’
It’s very easy when we talk about people to really focus on what they’re not. Their issues or their mistakes or their weaknesses. But honour – celebrates a person for what they are. Don’t let anger become hatred and bitterness. It’s never a good way to live.
So today – ask the Holy Spirit to route around your heart & soul. Is there stuff that needs processing? Praying through? Are there people you can’t pray for? You tighten up about when you seem them online or someone mentions them? If so, assume the Lord is nudging you.
Father, may we walk in freedom this day! Help us Lord not to give into anger or bitterness.
BIBLE READING: 1 John 3:11-16 (NIV)
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.