the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren't they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you? (James 4:1)
If we hope to master our anger we must first overcome its source: selfishness. Indeed, if we put self-centeredness to death we root out the source of every sin.
Scripture assumes self-love on the part of every human being and so takes as its focus the need to think of others before ourselves. For instance, the apostle Paul exhorted the church in Philippi to [l]et nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). This is an echo of his admonition to the Roman church saying, through the grace given to me, [I say] to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:3, 10).
If there is one thing consistent in the teaching of the world it is the idea that everyone of us must cultivate strong self-esteem. This view is sacrosanct to most Americans and any suggestion we should think less of ourselves is met with incredulity. It is interesting that our nation was founded by people who believed they were worthless apart from Jesus Christ and yet they understood that every human being has intrinsic value as the image of God. Now days people are taught they are extra special simply because “me” is the measure of everything even while the life of another is considered of little value unless it somehow enhances the experience of “Me.” Thus the unborn and the age are killed and neglected in the culture of “Me First.”
We live in an angry nation simply because we live in a self-centered nation. Christians who have bought into the self-esteem gospel continue to struggle with anger and other besetting sins because they refuse to die to themselves and live unto Christ. They refuse to think of others more highly than themselves. They refuse to act in a way that considers the welfare of another more important than their own personal peace and comfort. Nonetheless, this is the essence of Christ's teaching on the godly life (Matthew 7:12). To do unto others as you would have them do unto you is to wisely consider what course of action will most benefit the other person. Certainly, an angry outburst over a personal offense is not doing for another what most benefits. This is not to say we should neglect correction when correction is in order. Recall, that is part of doing for others what we would have done for ourselves (Leviticus 19:17). However, even correction of the most severe kind must be administered without anger.
I challenge you to think carefully about the root of anger in your own life. I enjoin you to [h]ave the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8). Strive to root out self-centeredness. Embrace the transforming power of God's word and his Spirit. Labor to curb your anger by learning to think as Jesus thinks.