Hot Potato!

Remember the game we played when we were kids where we would toss something around trying to get rid of it as soon as possible because it was a “hot potato”? Like the “hot potato,” God wants us to let go of any anger, bitterness and resentment.  Buddha noted, 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.  Long-time advice columnist, Ann Landers once said, Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.  But there is so much unfairness, cruelty and just plain nastiness in the world that it is hard to avoid these feelings.

I grew up with the idea that anger was a “bad” emotion.  It took a long time for me to learn to admit that I was angry.  It took even longer to learn to express it righteously.

I have to chuckle sometimes when I hear someone use the WWJD (What would Jesus do?) acronym to try to tone down someone’s strong feeling of anger.  I want to remind them that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.  Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. (John 2:15)

So getting angry is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s what we do with that anger.  We hear the phrase, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner,” but is that how God views it?  Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. (Ps. 139:21-22).  David is not hesitant to hate those who oppose God.  Yet, we read in Matthew 5:43-44: Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.  How can both these Scriptures be true?

While these are not the only things that God hates, There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. (Proverbs 6:16-19)  Notice that some of these are definitely people–not just what people do.

Yet there is harmony between the passages, and the harmony is this: We love men who are our enemies but we hate men who are God’s enemies. This can be one and the same person. Insofar as a man hates, curses and harms me, I love him and I show this by doing acts of kindness to him. Inasmuch as the same man hates God and opposes him, I hate him and count him my enemy. The trouble often is that we do opposite: we readily hate our personal enemies but go on loving those who hate God.

If only the church today maintained that standard. Why is it that so many, today, can love those that hate God? Is it because they themselves do not love God as they ought to? Who cares, really, about God? Who cares, really, about God’s name? Who cares, really, about God’s commandments? As David did, the child of God hates those who hate the God he loves. He loathes those who loathe the God he adores. He is an enemy to the enemies of the God who is his friend.

But we are not God, and we cannot always know what is in the heart of a person.  So our anger, bitterness, resentment and the need for vengeance has nowhere to go unless we separate ourselves from the love of God and try to take on His job of judgment.  And that, my friend, is a slippery slope of unrighteousness that is hard to climb out of.

So, Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. (Ephesians 4:31)

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry. (Ephesians 4:26)  So

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20)

 

 

 

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