With language like “loathing”, “victory”, “the fight”, “war”, “campaign” etc. peppering my Inbox, usually about same-sex marriage, but sometimes about euthanasia, climate change and refugee rights, it’s clear much of the Church is gripped by fearful anger.
We don’t seem to believe God’s word, “fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah chapter 41 verse 10) and “human anger does not produce the justice of God” (James chapter 1 verse 20).
We seem to have lost touch with God’s plan and are experiencing the truth of Proverbs chapter 29 verse 18, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint”. Our unruly spirits learn to resubmit to the meek rule of Christ (2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 1). Bowing to his rule will have powerful missional implications.
Losing the Rule
Human beings were designed by God to rule the world (Genesis chapter 1 verse 28), but through disobedience to his commands found themselves ruled over by the destructive powers of Satan, sin and death (Romans chapter 5 verse 12).
This reversal of rule is no impersonal cause-effect but a divine punishment (Romans chapter 6 verse 23). God stripped sinners of his glorious presence, disempowering us of the spiritual authority to reign over evil forces (Romans chapter 3 verse 23).
Our loss of intimacy with God creates an inner space filled with fear and anger at the loss of power to run even our own lives. Losing control to addictions; to work, money, alcohol, porn, TV watching, eating, shopping etc. produces a chronic shame that rules our conscience.
Shame on You
As Adam and Eve, filled with fear and shame hid from the LORD, so many devout Christians are fearfully unnerved by the rapid loss of a respect once afforded to Western Christianity. Social shaming has sent a shock through Christendom.
It should be clear that our condition is like that of the idolatrous Israelites sent into exile under divine judgement; “other lords besides you have ruled over us” (Isa 26:13). Christianity is being progressively pushed to the edges of society. This however is all part of a great plan to heal an unruly Church for the sake of saving a morally anarchical culture.
Here is a scripture for our day; “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs chapter 16 verse 32). The only person who fully fits this description is Jesus.
Without Fear or Anger
When “the rulers of this world...crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 8) they did not realise they were creating space for the revelation of God’s nature. Christ’s silence on trial, free of all anxious self-defence, amazed his interrogators.
The Son of God was empty of insecure aggression. The stillness of Jesus reveals he was the Lamb of God subject only to the perfect rule of his Father (Isaiah chapter 53 verse 7). Unlike us, Jesus never felt like a victim being punished by unjust powers, for he had received authority to lay down his own life and to raise it again (John chapter 10 verse 18).
The Son of God was free from self-interested never fear and anger because he always knew the honouring presence of his Father. This is the call of God on the Church today.
Punished no More
If fear and anger are heart reactions to the incapacitating effects of divine punishment, the gospel liberates us from such concerns. “...as Jesus is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (1 John chapter 4 verses 17-18).
It is not irresistible social forces that are handing a morally blameworthy Church over to social shaming, but the good purposes of the all-ruling Lamb of God (Revelation chapter 1 verse 5). Christ is teaching us that true influence, his kind of rule, comes not through social recognition but by sharing the power of his life, one unperturbed by the cultural criticisms of our day. A Church free of reactive fear and anger testifies that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans chapter 5 verse 1).
In Christ the spiritual fruit of self-control is a sign of a power to rule over oneself that is beyond this world’s comprehension (Galatians chapter 5 verse 23). It is a revelation of how the Lamb will rule over his new creation forever. And who wouldn’t want to accept the invitation to submit to such a Ruler?
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
John’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html