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Monday, June 8, 2015

What Moves You? Compassion, or Wrath?

By Niki Turner

Something is moving us.

You can keep singing "I shall not be, I shall not be moved..." all you like, but you're still being moved. The question is what's moving you.

Jesus, throughout the New Testament, is recorded as being "moved with compassion" when he spoke, when he prayed, when he acted.

He was moved with compassion when he saw the sick, the poor, the forsaken, and He acted on their behalf... Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, restoring the lost.

And yet, today I see (and I count myself in this group, with shame) many of my Christian brethren moved not with compassion, but by wrath.

"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." James 1:19-20

We live in a time that doesn't permit us, without a conscious effort, to be swift to hear and slow to speak and slow to wrath. The Internet is instantaneous. As a result, there's a lot of wrath swirling around out there, both in the secular realm (where we should expect it) AND in the Christian realm (where we should know better.) It's been particularly bad in the last few months, and we haven't even entered into campaign season!

Most of the time we define wrath as a kind of vindictive anger (which isn't incorrect), but the Strong's Bible Concordance also defines wrath as "excitement of mind." In other words, one definition of wrath is simply being all stirred up in your head. That's the word James used--orge--where we get our word for "orgy." All this mental/emotional/spiritual input is like an orgy. Ew.

Just try reading James 1:19-20 like this, "...be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to excitement of mind; for the excitement of man's mind does not produce the righteousness of God."

Step back and look at everything going on in the media (Christian, conservative, liberal, or otherwise) and examine it from that perspective. Is what we're being fed simply causing excitement of mind, or is it moving us with compassion? The New Testament word used for compassion means "to be moved from the bowels." The Jews believed the bowels were the seat of emotion and feeling.

It makes for an interesting word picture. Being stirred up in the mind, mentally excited, produces a picture of someone with a lot of opinions. Conversely, a person who is "moved from the bowels" gets up and takes action. Ever been in the car with someone "moved from the bowels"? You  pull over. Ever been in the car with someone who's all stirred up in the head? You keep driving and tell them to shut up. Or argue with them for a few hours. Do you see the difference? Compassion DEMANDS action. Wrath is just a tempest in a teapot.

So here's our litmus test: Is what we're seeing and sharing stirring us up so we're like toddlers bouncing off the walls, unable to contain our personal opinions? And then getting us in strife with each other, and keeping us stirred up so that no one is accomplishing anything productive? OR, does what we're seeing and hearing and sharing propelling us to ACT in love and mercy and with the kindness and goodness of God?

Or, to put it more simply...
"Finally, my brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things."
Wait, you say, I'm expressing my opinion, that's my right!
No. Your right, and mine, as Christians, is to walk in love, whether we approve or disapprove, agree or disagree. Walking in love is, according to Jesus, the greatest commandment.
But, some have asked, aren't we called to judge? (Why do we even have to ask that? Are there really people out there who are so confident of their own righteousness and holiness before the Almighty God that they believe they can act as judge and jury for others? That's kind of scary. The folks Jesus was most indignant with, the ones he called "brood of vipers" and "whitewashed tombs" were those kinds of people.) I'm reasonably sure they were convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt their doctrinal stance was correct. Bummer.

Sure, you CAN judge... but I suggest starting with yourself (remember that whole 'beam in the eye' thing?), not with what pops up on our Facebook wall. If we objectively judge ourselves with the same measure we're using to judge and condemn everyone else, whether it's the Duggars or the Kardashians or Caitlyn Jenner, we probably come up short in the righteousness department. 

But that's HARD!!! 
Yeah, I know. That helps me keep my mouth shut and pray, instead of sharing and retweeting and posting everything that floats by. If it's causing (wrath) excitement of mind, it's not producing God's righteousness, if it doesn't pass those tests, then no matter how "righteous" it feels to our flesh/mind, it's not worth sharing. It won't produce anything good.

Something to think about this week.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Niki. Thank you thank you!

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  2. Great article, Niki. I'm a little late to the party, but I'm going to share it on facebook now.

    ReplyDelete