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Anger: A Feast Fit for a King

  • 23 June 2017
  • Keith Reed

feastThe last time I heard a preacher speak on the topic of anger may have been the last time I made a confession about being angry. I’m not claiming my life has been free of anger since then nor am I pointing my finger at the pastors I’ve been listening to. I’m simply saying it’s been a long time. Long enough to wonder what it means to be angry. Long enough to admit that I rarely consider if my actions are prompted by anger.   

I know what frustration feels like. I’ve experienced the dreariness of disappointment and the misguidance of envy. But what about anger? What does that look and feel like?  

Throughout the Bible, anger is often paired with fire. Anger burns within someone and at times against someone. It is often ignited when needs or desires are threatened or when a person feels they have been treated unjustly. Anger can be sparked in an instant and it carries the potential for collateral damage.  

Some people claim anger is the culprit for their destructive actions, but this is a scapegoat that does not lead to a lasting solution. Furthermore, anger can be a catalyst for helpful change if it is applied constructively and with self-control. Wishing for anger to go away is not only unlikely, it could be unhelpful.  

Instances of anger spill off the pages of the Bible, and it is God Himself who is often described as angry. This tells us that anger is not sin. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral—it is neither positive or negative. The key is how a person chooses to respond to their feelings. The distinction between feelings and actions is the interpretative key to understanding and applying Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin” (cf. Ps 4:4). Our response makes all the difference.   

I believe one way we can resist lashing out in anger is to recognize how anger works. We are invited to indulge ourselves with little regard for others. We are coaxed to react in the moment with little consideration for the context. We are tempted to take the fire that is within us and spread it all around.  

Years ago, I came across a compelling image for anger that has stuck with me ever since. Most preachers don’t disclose the satisfaction that sinful behaviour promises to deliver, but Frederick Buechner isn’t like most preachers. His stories capture the candid experiences of a man who may have failed to control himself more often than some would care to admit. He is true to his subject because he is true to himself. If we do the same, I believe we'll see that anger often works the same way in our lives.  

Ways to Serve New Immigrants in Your Community

  • 13 June 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Immigrant familyNot everyone can sponsor a refugee family. However, there are many ways that we can serve new immigrants who are living in our communities. My family had the amazing privilege of living in close community with new immigrants for seven months. New Hope Community Services had purchased an apartment building in Surrey, British Columbia for housing refugees and helping them settle into life in Canada. They were looking for host families to move in and do life with these newcomers (you can read about our experiences as a host family by reading a past blog called Do Something). 

As we interacted with new immigrants, I learned new ways to serve them. Here are some ideas for how you can serve new immigrants, even if you aren’t acting as their official sponsor: 

Develop Your Cultural Skill Set

The first way of serving immigrants is to develop your own cultural skill set so that you are in a better position to serve them. How do we do this?

  • Expect cultural differences – Some cultures are task-based while others are more relational. Some are individualistic while others are collectivistic (emphasizing the significance of groups). Some cultures tend to plan their time while others view time as flexible. The first step to developing your cultural skill set is to expect these kinds of cultural differences and to recognize that one cultural perspective is not necessarily better than another. 
  • Adapt to those around you – As you encounter cultural differences, discern which of your values at play in the situation are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. Be flexible with those that are negotiable. 
  • Dialogue about cultural differences – Be open with your immigrant friends about the differences you observe. Listen to the reasons why they do what they do. Carefully and sensitively communicate the reasons for your cultural preferences. As you do so, you will build mutual understanding and respect.

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Why Pharisees Can't Count

  • 5 June 2017
  • Keith Reed

Pharisees"Joe had curly hair. But he didn’t know how much hair he had because he couldn’t count that high. In fact, he couldn’t count at all." [1]

Joe is a fictional character in an imaginative children’s book called Sideways Stories from Wayside School. In the third chapter, we learn that Joe isn’t allowed to go to recess because he can’t count correctly. When his teacher, Mrs. Jewls, asks him to count five pencils, Joe says, "Four, six, one, nine, five. There are five pencils, Mrs. Jewls." Even though his answer is correct, Mrs. Jewls tells Joe that he is wrong: "You got the right answer, but you counted the wrong way."

Joe’s counting problem is an example of why the process in which we do things is important. His teacher understood that his answer was lucky—even a broken clock is right two times a day—so the way he counted had to change. His method wasn’t sufficient or sustainable.

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that arriving at the right answer validates the way that I got there. But when we place too much weight on the "right" thing, we can discount the process which is often as important as the result. When I’m truthful with myself, I discover that some of my honourable deeds are prompted by a heart that is less-than-honourable. An act of generosity is sparked by my hope that I’ll be recognized; a gesture of service is motivated by my desire to please someone; a decision to sacrifice my agenda is fueled by the possibility that I will get my way the next time.

When my noble actions are prompted by selfish motives, I live like a Pharisee. I might arrive at the "right" answer, but I’m counting the wrong way.

Timothy Keller suggests the main barrier between Pharisees and God is not their sins, but their damnable good works [2]. He explains this further by stating:

To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent of the very root of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness—the sin of seeking to be our own Saviour and Lord.  

The call to repent is at the foundation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. When we refuse to acknowledge our wrongdoings—even if they lead to acts of righteousness—we cease to be disciples and start counting like Pharisees.