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Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics VI–A Sword, Not Peace

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics VI–A Sword, Not Peace.”

See also:

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We call Jesus the “Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9: 6) but He said that He brings a sword (Matthew 10: 34).  How can we reconcile these two? Because of Jesus, division will occur, even in families. Christ requires us to make a choice of following Him or not. ” . . . and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10: 38 ESV) No other choice is more important in our lives.  The disciple must place Christ above all things and all others, even at the expense of peace.

Christ’s call is urgent and requires an immediate response.  He tells a man who wished to bury his father before becoming a disciple, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”  (Matthew 8: 22 ESV)  The fisherman at the sea and Matthew, the tax collector, follow Jesus immediately upon their call. “Immediately they (James and John, the sons of Zebedee) left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4: 22 ESV) Jesus said to Matthew, ” ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.”(Matthew 9: 9b ESV)

So in the battle in which Jesus is engaged, and in which we are to participate (See Gregory Boyd, God at War regarding Jesus’ conflict and eventual victory over cosmic and human enemies), we must take up our cross. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16: 24 ESV)  We bear our own cross of suffering, knowing that the cross of Christ, that only He bears and can bear, is our shield and defense and our weapon against evil (See the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers). Our commitment to Christ involves a willingness to die in the cause of the kingdom.  “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 25 ESV)

The account of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels is one of conflict from beginning to the end.  If we would be disciples, we must be willing to face the conflict that arises from our confession of Jesus’ name. Each disciple must bear his/her cross of suffering as he/she serves Jesus Christ in the battle.  Those who would eliminate war and battle language in our hymns are gutting the meaning of the ministry of Jesus and of our discipleship.  We are soldiers in full panoply (Romans 13: 12) in the cause of Christ, in the battle of light against darkness.  We are soldiers who avoid violence!  Our weapons are those of the Holy Spirit (See Luther’s battle hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).

We are peacemakers, but we do not make peace with darkness and evil.  We do not give up our faith for those who oppose it, even in the family.  We make peace where we can but not at the sacrifice of our following of Christ.  The church is an instrument of God’s peace in the world.  It is important that the church manifests peace in its own life as example to the world.  The Church must also be always prepared for battle, and fight the way Jesus fought.

External peace is not achieved until God through Christ wins the day against the foe.  Complete and utter peace is an eschatological gift; that is, it is established in all its fulness with the full coming of the kingdom.  Let us pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” as we engage in the battle.

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;

Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;

Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Oh, may Thy soldieer, faithful, true, and bold,

Fight as the saints so nobly fought of old

And win with them the victor’s crown of gold!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Th (Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 677)

Let us extend the peace of God as soldiers of the Lord.

 

Michael G. Tavella

Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397

November 11, 2019

Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics XII–The Tree is Known by Its Fruit

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics XII–“The Tree is Known by Its Fruit”.”

See also:

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In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells His disciples that the tree is known by its fruit.  The Sermon on the Mount in which this text is found emphasizes the importance of doing good works, even toward the enemy.  Programmatic to the Sermon is the text: “. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 16 ESV)  These works of the disciple serve as a witness to the light who is Jesus Christ.  Christ commands certain actions  among them being: do not retaliate against violence with counter-violence; love your enemy;  and “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (ESV)

Christ condemns lip service when he says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7: 21 ESV)  Jesus condemns the religious leaders of the time when He says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” (Matthew 23: 2-3 ESV) Moses’ seat was a chair of honor and authority for interpreters of the Law.

Healthy trees bear good fruit, says the Lord.  No diseased tree can do this. The disciple is true from inside all the way out, from internal condition to good works.

Now this condition of a healthy tree bearing good fruit is not a human achievement but comes as a result of divine action in the forgiveness of sins. The disciple is the one Jesus saves for good works. From the inside out the disciple conforms to the will of God.  When the follower fails, he repents and is forgiven.  Christ’s final words to the disciples indicates this thought. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20 ESV)  In Baptism forgiveness of sins is granted to the person who will then follow Jesus’ commands. The dynamic of repentance continues throughout life and is granted, for example, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26: 27 ESV)

The disciple expresses in life the unity of internal condition and outward behavior in conformity to the Lord’s commands, and the unity of word and action in all that he does.

Witness involves doing the will of God. It requires a unity of words and deeds.  It comes from the heart to public awareness for the conversion of those who do not believe.

Michael G. Tavella

December 10, 2019

Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics V–Doing the Will of the Father as Peacemakers

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics V–Doing the Will of the Father as Peacemakers.”

See also:

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The “ethics of the kingdom” are found in the Sermon on the Mount (a title coined by Saint Augustine of Hippo) in Matthew 5-7.  The Sermon is a manual that disciples are called to follow as they tread the pilgrim’s path in this world.

How do the commands of Jesus apply to apologetics and witness?  Among the Beatitudes that introduce the Sermon the one that applies to the defense of the faith most imnmediately is “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  All of the beatitudes apply to every disciple including the call to be peacemakers.  The Greek word for peacemakers in our text is found only here in the New Testament.

Disciples are to be peacemakers.  The body of the Sermon tells us more about how we are to conduct ourselves as peacemakers. After the beatitudes Jesus explains with metaphors who the disciple is.  The disciple is the one who is salt and light.  “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5: 14a ESV)  and “. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 16 ESV) As light we provide witness to and defense of the faith in peace as Jesus calls us to do.

The emphasis in the Sermon is how a disciple is commanded to act.  In what are called the antitheses, “You have heard that it was said to those of old” . . . “But I say to you . . .” (Matthew 5: 21-22 ESV), Jesus broadens the meaning of the commands against murder and adultery.  One commits murder when angry with a brother or sister.  One commits adultery when looking improperly at a woman.  Jesus doesn’t make the commandments easier to follow but harder.

The disciple is not to retaliate against one who is evil.  Instead, “Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5: 39 ESV)  This non-retaliation is characteristic of disciples.  The disciple engaged in a defense of the faith should stand firm in his witness, but never use violence.  He is to be a peacemaker.

Jesus teaches, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 5: 43-45a ESV) The enemy is not easy to love, yet we are called to do it. In the beatitudes Jesus says that the persecuted disciple is blessed by God. The disciple may be persecuted but does not persecute anyone, even the enemy. The disciple is a peacemaker.

Anger, violence, and hatred have no place in our defense of the faith and our witness.  We fail at times to follow the Lord in these matters.  But, God’s “property is always to have mercy.” (Book of Common Prayer, 1928, Prayer of Humble Access)  God in Christ shows mercy to us when we fail.  Out of His mercy we are to be faithful to Him.  We are to be peacemakers.

A strong emphasis in the Gospel of Matthew is the command to do the will of the Father.  Others are to see our good works so that they may glorify God. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)  Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7: 21 ESV)  The disciple responds, “Thy will be done.”  Thy will be done by me and through me. In Matthew 12: 50 in response to the man who told Him that His family was waiting to speak with Him, Jesus says, ” . . . whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother.” (ESV) His will is that we are to be peacemakers.

We apologists and witnesses have clear guidelines from the Gospel on how to conduct ourselves in conversations with those who do not believe. The central thing here is to do the will of the Father, who before anything we do according to His will, has shown His mercy to us.  His will in part is that we are to be peacemakers.

Michael G. Tavella

November 4, 2019

Templeton Project: Discipleship and Apologetics IV–Family Conflict

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship and Apologetics IV–Family Conflict.”

See also:

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In His instructions to the apostles before He sends them out on mission, Jesus warns them that “Brother will deliver brother over to death and the father his child,, and children  will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my namesake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10: 21-22 ESV)  Apparently, death is administered by the government and the synagogue. (See Matthew 10: 17 ESV)

The discussion last time was about endurance.  This time it is about the conflict that arises from peoples’ profession of Jesus Christ as Son of God.  Not only enemy, stranger, and acquaintance but also family members can bear the rod of persecution.  Families in the great time of persecution in the first Chrsitian centuries, as well as now, have had the experience of contempt and persecution from those close to them. American Christians are not imprisoned or executed for their faith.  But, the pressures in our society toward Christians are growing.

Some Christians in our country have experienced reviling from others. Secularists and atheists have attempted to limit the guarantees of the First Amendment, protecting the “free exercise of religion.”  Close family members have discouraged church attendance and have been sharp in their criticism of active church membership among their Christian kin.

In the United States Christians are not being killed for their faith, as was the case at the time of Matthew. But it could happen.  We must keep alert to these developments and continue a gentle and respectful defense of the faith and witness to Christ.  We can also send correspondance to our representatives in Washington and the state capital.

What should we do in our families if a member or members have a deep problem with our faith?  First, keep partaking of the Word and Sacrament.  Remain active in church life. Do not become discouraged in your faithfulness. Gently witness to those who despise Christ and His church.  Bear under the pressure with prayer, especially for increased faith and strength.  There may be other issues in the family.  Be a constructive force in working these out.

The family is the primary arena of our witness.  We must not be overbearing in this work, but neither should we be timid.  We are Christ’s disciples, no matter what context we find ourselves in, including not always the safe ground of the family.

Michael G. Tavella

October 30, 2019

Eve of the Festival of the Reformation

Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics III–Endurance

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics III–Endurance.”

See also:

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In the English Standard Version two Greek words are translated, endure. Matthew 13, where the Greek word used means temporary, contains among other parables the story of the sower.  Jesus tells the parable and then to the disciples gives an interpretation of it.  The seed sown on rocky ground receives the Word with joy but does not endure when persecution and tribulation come because of it.  These people “fall away,” that is, they will not hold to the faith in adverse circumstance. In Matthew Jesus warns the disciples that persecution will come and that they will witness before hostile religious and governmental officials.

In both Matthew 10: 22 and 24: 13 Jesus says that those who endure (the Greek participle is used in both cases) will be saved.  The first text is found in the mission discourse where Jesus forecasts persecution.  After He tells the disciples that families will be divided with family members turning over other members to death because of their faith for which they will be hated, Jesus says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10: 22b ESV)  At the end of time when Jesus returns, He will bring faithful disciples into His kingdom.  In Matthew 24: 13, the eschatological (pertaining to the last things) discourse, Jesus says the very same thing.

What is endurance in Matthew and the New Testament?  The word is used to signify the disciples’ ability to continue on in faithfulness until the end of their lives or until the end of the age when Jesus returns.  To endure is to hold up under persecution by continuing to witness and provide a defense for the Gospel.

But, what does this have to do with modern American society? We live in a free land where the first part of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to exercise freely our religion.  It protects not only freedom of worship, that some would claim as its meaning, but freedom of religion in all aspects of life.  Statutes and court decisions clarify the meaning of free exercise.

Threats of limiting freedom of religion have come from the political community.  These are signs of the possibility of persecution in the future, even in America.  The secular element in our society has become more aggressive.  It is a good habit for Christians to keep abreast of the news of developments pertaining to the expression of our religion in society.  It helps to apprise us of what we are up against  and what action to take.  The Church and its teaching are a threat to secularists who have extreme political goals. We must not take our freedom for granted.

A Christian is one who has the ability to endure no matter what the circumstances.  It takes a lot of prayer and discipline (a word that comes from the same root as disciple).  Most especially, we must remember that the Lord will sustain us in any adversity.

Michael G. Tavella

October 15, 2019

Teresa of Avila, 1582, Teacher and Renewer of the Church

Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics II–Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics II–Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves.”

See also:

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We are called to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  What does this mean?  First, let’s look at the context.  Jesus is commissioning His disciples to go out and announce the kingdom of heaven.  He warns them that he is sending them out as sheep among wolves; therefore, they need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10: 16)  Persecution of the disciples and the church  loom as a present and future reality.  To be wise and innocent is a mode of being disciples in the world as we witness to the Gospel in dangerous times.

In our defense of the faith and witness we need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” as we face opposition, danger, and persecution.  The disciples are warned that they will meet danger before Jews and Gentiles, that is, all people.  Before those in authority they will bear witness to the Gospel.  In these situations they are not to be concerned with what they will say, because the Spirit will speak through them.

To be wise and innocent is a strategy of witness for disciples.  This same strategy is to be acknowledged and used today.  Though we may not come before tribunals like the early Christians that faced the Roman authorities and the leaders of the synagogue, we may have opportunities to make public witness  in other contexts.  If we are so privileged we must be like doves and serpents.  The serpent is a symbol of wisdom (and also of cunning and craftiness as in the Garden of Eden), the dove of innocence.  These characteristics mean that the disciple is not deceitful, but straightforward and wise, not foolish, in his witness.  The disciple shows respect and gentleness to others.  The disciple does not depend on himself, but on God for an effective and true witness.  He is humble, lacking the pride and boasting so common in the world.  He is like Paul before the authorities in the Book of Acts.

Disciples are not intent on showing off their skills in public or disdaining those who not only differ from them, but also persecute them.  They are intent on serving the Lord by fulfilling the commission at the end of Matthew to go and make disciples of all nations.  They are adverse to making a name for themselves as is far too common in our world today. Rather, they wish to hold up the Name of the Lord so that others may praise HIm and become disciples.

Disciples do not live in isolation.  We are anchored in a community that has a commitment to making disciples for Jesus.  The life of discipleship is one of engagement with others and solitude, but never isolation.  We draw strength from our Lord in community as we hear the Word and receive the Sacrament of the Altar in worship.  In no other way can we draw the strength necessary for witness and the defense of the Gospel.  To be a Christian means to bear the Spirit who leads us to a powerful witness and defense for the sake of unbelievers.

Michael G. Tavella

October 5, 2019

Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics I

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics I.”

See also:

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We begin an extensive series on discipleship in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew with civil speech, apologetics, and witness uppermost in our consideration.  Several passages will be carefully examined and broad conclusions with respect to our theme will be made.

Let us then look at the very end of this Gospel.  It is here that the risen Jesus gives a directive on the disciples’ task:  “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make diciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28: 16-20 ESV)

Mountains are typically places of revelation.  The transfiguration took place on a mountain, as did the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus taught the laws by which the disciples were to live as members of the Kingdom of Heaven.  When the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus some of them doubted and others worshiped Him.  The theme of doubt at the resurrection appearances is found also in Luke and John.  Already earlier in Matthew Jesus addresses the doubt of the disciples whom he calls men of little faith.

In Matthew 14 Peter wishes to step out of the boat and come to Jesus who stands upon the waters of the sea.  Because of his fear Peter sinks into the water and calls out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus reaches out His hand and pulls Peter into the boat, saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 31b ESV)  The response of the disciples in the boat was worship with their declaration, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  (Matthew 14: 33 ESV)

Earlier in the Gospel the disciples in a boat on the SEa of Galilee are fearful during a storm at sea, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” (Matthew 8: 25B ESV)  Jesus rebukes them, saying, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”  (Matthew 8: 26a ESV)  Then He calmed both winds and sea.  Matthew presents the theme of doubt and faith in HIs Gospel.

On the mountain Jesus gives instructions to the disciples, commissioning them for a worldwide task:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20 ESV)  Jesus’ teaching is emphasized in Matthew, as iat is here.  Five blocks of instruction are found in the Gospel.

The disciples are to baptize and teach among the nations.  Jesus went to Israel; they are to go to the nations.  It is clear in the Gospel that this worldwide preaching and teaching is to occur later after Jesus’ resurrection.  During Jesus’ ministry before the resurrection the disciples were sent only to Israel (Matthew 10: 5-6 ESV)  The mission to he nations is reserved for the Church.

The mission among the nations will present some special challenges.  In the teaching about the end Jesus says to the disciples, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24: 9 ESV)  And a little later Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24: 13 ESV)  Jesus warns in one of His discourses, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. Both Jews and Gentiles will persecute followers of Jesus. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”(Mathew 10: 16-20).

More the next time.  In the meantime think of what it means to be wise a serpent and innocent as a dove.

Michael G. Tavella

September 27, 2019

Saint Vincent de Paul

Templeton Project: Nurturing Christian Disciples

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Nurturing Christian Disciples.”

See also:

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Templeton Project: Discipleship and Apologetics

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship and Apologetics.”

See also:

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Beginning with the next article we will engage in a series on Christian discipleship.  Nancy Ischinger will begin this series with an article, “Nurturing Christian Disciples.”  Following this piece will begin a series on “Discipleship in Matthew and Christian Apologetics and Witness.”  Discipleship will be viewed from the perspective of our main theme and concern about civil conversation with atheists and unbelievers.

Michael G. Tavella

September 23, 2019

Templeton Project: Of Anger

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Of Anger.”

See also:

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Anger is a dangerous emotion that can lead to harmful speech and actions. It is also destructive to the heart and soul of a human being. It can be as petty as a reaction to our not getting our way or as seemingly noble as a response to injustice.  Either way, anger is never an appropriate emotion in any situation.  Justice is better served by love of one’s enemies (See Mohandas K. Gandhi on satyagraha)  This stance may seem incredible to you, for anger is a natural human response to frustrating and outrageous behaviors of other people.  It seems an appropriate response to evil. Some would say it is a healthy response to certain situations.  This therapeutic view became popular in the 1960’s and has clung to “The Culture of Self-expression.”  Other ways to resolve anger of the heart need to be sought.

Several classical Greek and Roman writers were critical of anger and placed limits on its expression. In the New Testament anger is frowned upon.  Jesus directly addresses the subject in the Sermon on the Mount.  He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5: 21-22 ESV) Brother refers only to disciples, to those in the Christian community; but, a Christian also should not be angry with those beyond the Church. Another text will indicate this point. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5: 38-39 ESV)

In Ephesians Paul writes, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4: 26 ESV)  The apostle places clear limits on the expression of anger. A little later he writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.” ( Ephesians 4: 29 ESV)  And then he says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgives you” (Ephesians 4: 31-32 ESV) The limits seem to abide no exceptions. Paul is instructing the Christian Church in proper behavior among brothers and sisters in Christ; but, the restraint of anger also counts as the appropriate behavior among those outside of the Christian community.

In the Book of James we find a critique of the misuses of the tongue.  “. . . the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (James 3: 6 ESV)  The tongue ” . . . is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3: 8b-9 ESV)  Anger and the misuse of the tongue go together.

One may say that God expresses anger, why can’t I?  Paul refers to the wrath of God (Romans 1).  Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. The wrath of God is not a human emotion, but a reference to God’s judgment against sin. In the scene in the Temple no particular emotion is ascribed to Jesus.  One could say that anger is not mentioned, but Jesus expresses it in His actions. Again, His anger is an expression of the judgment of God against sin that the Son of God is certainly authorized to pronounce by word and action.  We are not so authorized.

It is clear that in the New Testament anger is condemned. Hear also words from the Old Testament:  “A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.” (Proverbs 6: 12-15 ESV)

With this wise advice from the Scriptures we conclude by saying that anger and its expression in speech and action are to be avoided and certainly in the case of our witness to and apology of the Christian faith.  No provocation justifies anger, though we weak and sinful human beings are tempted to harbor it and express it. Lord Jesus, have mercy!

Michael G. Tavella

September 18, 2019

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