21 August 2010

atmosphere of evil

I suppose it seems like it’s in today’s America (and today’s church) that people more readily give way to anger than before. At one level, I know that that isn’t true. It’s not like we’re actually fighting a civil war. Still, terms like the “culture wars” either describe, or add to, collective paranoia.

I’m divulging my own perspective here, but when seemingly innocuous statements and actions result in a crescendo of outrage, I wonder if we all aren’t on a diet of crazy pills. In a previous post, I included an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin asks, “Doesn’t it seem like everybody just shouts at each other nowadays?”

Someone who knew a little bit about anger was Heinrich Schlier, who passed away in 1978. During the Nazi era, he belonged to the Confessing Church, a Christian movement that opposed Hitler’s regime. In his book, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament, he comments on the apostle Paul’s quote in Ephesians 4:26-27: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” (Please overlook the gender-exclusive language.)

“This may appear exaggerated, for what has a man’s anger to do with the devil?” Good question, especially for a scholarly German theologian. I think his answer is the result of both study and experience. “When a man gives way to anger he makes a place within himself for the devil, and he gives the devil and his ruinous power a foothold in the world. Through his anger the man helps, as it were, to intensify the atmosphere of evil.” (61)

Atmosphere of evil. That’s a good description of an environment in which we spew whatever ill-conceived thought that enters our heads—and then foster conditions for more of the same.

“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20)

14 August 2010

a Friday and a 13

A few months ago, I commented on paraskevidekatriaphobia, that is, fear of Friday the 13th. I neglected to say whether or not I am one who is afflicted with this fear. I am not. And that’s a good thing, because yesterday we moved into our new abode.

I also do not suffer from a related disorder: triskaidekaphobia, which is fear of the number 13. That also is a good thing, because there are thirteen steps between the first and second floors of our house.

08 August 2010

unconditionally witness

“Good news becomes bad news when it is announced without peace and joy. Anyone who proclaims the forgiving and healing love of Jesus with a bitter heart is a false witness.” That’s from today’s Daily Meditation from the Henri Nouwen Society.

Even if someone has their facts straight, that still doesn’t mean that they’re right! It’s possible to say, “Jesus loves you,” and make it sound like he hates your guts: probably because the one saying those words actually does. If we speak the truth without love, that’s saying more about us than anything else. We are bearing false witness to an idol.

“We are called to witness, always with our lives and sometimes with our words, to the great things God has done for us. But this witness must come from a heart that is willing to give without getting anything in return.” If that’s not our source, then we are in the way.

“The more we trust in God’s unconditional love for us, the more able we will be to proclaim the love of Jesus without any inner or outer conditions.” We won’t feel like Jesus needs us to defend him—or to add provisos to his love.